February 19, 2016 by  Ashley Guberman

Image of how small steps compoundAt some point in our lives, we’ve all had dreams of what was possible – for our relationships, our careers, our families, our fitness, our business, or any other major area of our lives.  Some of us have been fortunate enough to act upon those dreams and even to bring them to fruition.  Yet for many, those dreams remain just that – dreams.  Far too many dreams go largely unfulfilled.

One thing standing in the way of achieving more of our dreams is a failure to understand the value of small steps and persistence.

Let’s assume that the size of our dreams ranges anywhere from “trivial” to bordering on the “impossible,” whatever that means for us.

Unfortunately, as the size of our dreams grow, so too does the size of our doubts, fears, inner criticisms, rational beliefs about unintended consequences, and all manner of other “sour-grapes” thinking.

The net effect of these two thoughts tends to cancel each other out, such that on the whole, we do darn close to nothing toward making many of our dreams come true.  Worse is that sometimes we do take action, but shortly thereafter, especially if it looks like the tasks to fulfill our dream are larger than we imagined, the voice of fear and doubt gets all the stronger and rapidly returns us back to our comfort-zone where we fail to act.

One of the misconceptions we have about what it takes to achieve our dreams is that the larger the dreams, the more effort it is going to take to achieve them.  Regardless of whether that is true or not, part of that misconception is that the effort required is actually demanded now, all at once, non-stop, and without fail.  And once we falter on any of those arbitrary, self-imposed constraints, the voice of fear get all the larger, almost calling out “There!  See?  I told you so!  Why bother.”

One principle of Kaizen is that we need only take small steps, and then continue taking them over time.  This is the notion that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step.  Well, yes it does.  But unless one continues taking the next step after that, over and over, then that gap to the destination is not going to get any smaller.  On the other hand, so long as one keeps the destination in mind throughout the journey of forward progress (and even backwards progress on occasions, such as when we make a wrong turn), then the destination will indeed be reached.

The primary obstacle to overcome is thus not the size of our dreams, but whatever it is that keeps us from taking those next steps, over and over again.  The challenge is less about initiating action, and more about what it takes to maintain it.  The real challenge is to shift the point at which we stop making forward progress, such that we don’t stop until after we reach our goal.  And when we stop before there anyway, that we start back up again before we lose momentum (commitment) towards our dream.

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  • Ashley, I love your website and resources – it is very hard though to find out your name. I recommend you be even more visible in a whole lot of ways on this fabulous endeavor.
    Warmest regards,
    Karen Buckley, another one who finds it more comfortable to be behind the scenes providing value.

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