Recently I saw a Facebook post where the poster shared her frustration about her need to embark on making some big changes, but found her goals were too overwhelming. The finish line seemed so far in the future, why even start, she pondered. Whether we desire to clean the house, lose weight, or change careers, the prospect of tackling a large nut can feel discouraging and hopeless.
Having reinvented my career a few times, I know how daunting a major life change can be. In fact, anyone who has ever tried to write knows the paralyzing terror that can be instilled by the blank page staring back at you daring to be transformed into that article, book, or college essay due tomorrow.
Recently, a long recovery from extensive surgery left me with an unfamiliar mountain to scale, and a pit in my stomach as I identified with the discouragement of the FB poster.
The same bodes true for many of the New Year’s Resolutions that were enthusiastically set at midnight last week over champagne and the sounds of Ryan Seacrest, often to be abandoned by sometime next week.
It brought to mind the popular comedy from the early 90’s What About Bob?
The movie features the relationship between Bob (Bill Murray), a challenging, anxiety ridden patient, and his egotistical therapist Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss). In the initial session, Dr. Marvin gives Bob a copy of his brand new book called Baby Steps.
The conversation ensues:
Marvin: It means setting small, reasonable goals for yourself. One day at a time, one tiny step at a time—do-able, accomplishable goals.
Bob: Baby steps.
Marvin: When you leave this office, don’t think about everything you have to do to get out of the building, just deal with getting out of the room. When you reach the hall, just deal with the hall. And so forth. Baby steps.
I decided to apply the wisdom of Dreyfuss’ character to my current situation. Rather than despair about missing my daily Jazzercise classes and temporarily abandoning my yoga practice, I would focus on taking a ten minute walk every day (actually I started with just a walk to the mail box and back, literally baby steps). When I’d mastered that, I’d repeat it a few times a day. Soon I was logging thirty minutes of exercise a day.
Baby steps. Just like Bill Murray.