Change. How to take that first little step.
By Hana Manthorpe, Mindset Coach & founder of The Mental Movement
“You don’t have to take a giant leap to cross over the raging river and get to the peaceful bank on the other side. You just have to work out how to build a bridge.”
Anyone who has voluntarily pursued any kind of significant change in life has probably noticed, with the beauty of hindsight, that the anticipation of the first step you take into the unknown feels ridiculously scary.
It warrants much pondering, sleepless nights, endless conversations with friends and a few grey hairs, which just add to the trauma of the whole situation.
However, once we’ve taken that very first step and change is underway, we suddenly become quite blasé about it all and, rather than continuing to obsess over all the if’s, but’s and maybe’s, we develop some kind of magical power to cope with all the uncertainty and just roll with the punches.
It’s occurred to me that, as modern day humans, we seem to have two pretty amazing abilities on this subject:
1) to worry endlessly about changes which are yet to happen and over which we may have little control
2) to cope remarkably well when we’re actually face to face with the reality of being up to our eyeballs in it.
Many of us, occasionally or regularly, either expend far too much precious energy on worrying about the unknowns that come with change, OR let those concerns get the better of us and inhibit us from changing anything, no matter how unhappy the current situation might make us.
Having experienced this myself, most notably taking 6 months (or the best part of 5 years, depending on which way you look at it) to decide to leave the corporate world, and now having worked with many clients who feel “stuck” in various aspects of their lives, I thought I’d pull together some of my thoughts about positively approaching change in the hope that it might help someone out there take that first little leap forwards.
How to take that first little leap…
Go small on the overhaul
The things that tend to occupy a lot of our brain time, the things we think we really want or the things we’d ideally like to change, tend to be pretty big. They loom large in our heads, they overwhelm us with their options and implications and spin round and round in the washing machines of our minds until we haven’t got a clue what to do next.
But, often, it isn’t the really big change that we actually need. It can actually be quite easy to totally change how we feel about a situation by making some quite small tweaks and by choosing to adopt a slightly different mindset or lens through which to view the situation.
The very best thing you can do is work on breaking down any change into small moves and from there down into the very tiniest parts which can, relatively easily, be turned into actions and hence quite quickly give you the sense that you’re moving forwards.
So, what can we do to help ourselves break down these seemingly monolithic changes
Like I’ve already said, significant change is unlikely to happen overnight in one fell swoop. There are going to be a number of stages, and within those stages a number of steps, and within those steps a number of actions, that you’re going to have to work through in order to get there.
Let’s imagine, arbitrarily, that there are 100 steps that you’re going to have to take to achieve this big change.
Do you need to know, right now, what step 67 needs to be?
Nope, you only really need to know that pretty soon after you’ve done step 66 and shortly before you tackle step 68.
Here’s a suggestion for how you can approach the 100 steps scenario:
· Break it down to 3–6 chunks and label each of those chunks — there should be a chronological flow across the sections so you can be confident things will get done in the right order
· Within chunk #1, decide what the 6 most impactful actions are that you can take right now
· Kick off one of those actions each day for the next week
· On the 7th day take stock, consider where you’ve got to, revisit chunk #1 and determine what the next 6 most impactful actions are that you can get on with over the next week and, if relevant, may be start to ponder what chunk #2 needs to look like
(Remember, don’t let yourself get distracted by that horrible step 67 ahead of it’s time. Trust that you’ll work out what to do with it when you get there.)
Turn on your headlights
Here’s a great metaphor from one of my clients looking to move forward with his business:
I feel like I’m driving a really nice car, that I’m taking it on quite a long journey — the weather conditions and visibility aren’t very good right now and I don’t actually know the destination that I’m ultimately headed for. I know that that in itself could be a valid reason to not even start the car and get on the road but, instead, I want to turn on the headlights so that I can at least clearly see the bit of road right in front of me.
He had faith that as he went on the journey each bit of the road would appear, he’d be able to work out which turns to take and, although he might end up taking a bit of a scenic route, that he’d get to the right destination in the end.
You only need to have complete clarity about the next few steps you’re going to take towards something new and the rest will work itself out as and when it needs to.
“You cannot do everything but you can do something. So don’t let what you can’t do, get in the way of what you can.”
Despite the fact that this post is all about change, it’s also important to remember that life doesn’t always need to be moving. It’s really nice to stand still sometimes, to enjoy what we have, what’s going on right now and everything just the way it is.
But change is nonetheless inevitable. Sometimes it will happen to us. Sometimes we’ll want to go after it, so that we can grow, rebalance or move to find more fulfilment and contentment in our lives.
So, since we’re going to have to face it anyway, why not embrace it for all the opportunities and new experiences it brings. Why not try to work with it and minimise the amount of energy that we expend on worrying about what is yet to come.
And the best way that we can do that is by taking that first little leap.
Hana & The Mental Movement
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