Thursday, January 15, 2015

Life Coaching Lesson #4: Just One Step At A Time

Maria Teresa De Donato, PhD, Life Strategist

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” stated Lao-Tzu sometime between the 5th and the 4th century B.C. Though one might think at first that's like stating the obvious, the reality of the matter is that for so many among us sometimes it appears that moving just one step forward in one direction or the other is hard when not even impossible to accomplish. How so?

I am not a sportive person. I have been, however, always quite agile and active one way or the other all my life. Though I am not particularly interested in gym – I like fresh air and enjoying a beautiful landscape much more than exercising indoor – I always preferred to walk, hike and swim whenever possible. Every time I happen to be around mountains, for instance, I take the opportunity, either on my own or with friends, to go up to the top. This happened to me many times on the Alps.

One day I was with a friend. I knew she was not accustomed to the mountains nor very inclined to do any form of exercise either. However, since she was really appreciating the breathtaking alpine landscape, I suggested we take a walk and see how far up we might go. We didn't walk but a mile or so including no more than 500 meters (0.31 miles) of an uphill road in the woods for as soon as she saw the upward slope of the lane she came up with all sorts of justifications - “rational and logical explanations” in her view – in order not to proceed any further.

Although since start I had been aware that we would have not, in fact, reached the top of the mountain that day, but most likely stopped much sooner, it was quite evident to me that it was my friend's mental blockage which was preventing her to move ahead and make any progress. My attitude was a positive one: I suggested to just forget all about reaching the top and not focus on the evident upward slope which appeared to our very eyes, but rather to concentrate on the fact that all that was required of us was to move one step forward at a time and that when she would feel tired we would stop for a few minutes and see whether to continue or to turn around and start descending.

In my view, however, my friend, to the contrary, gave up before starting: she convinced herself, by keeping repeating it, that it was too much for her – and we weren't but only ten minutes into the woods compared to the two hours and forty minutes normally expected to reach the top – that the upward slope was excessive, that she would have probably fallen down or gotten sick and whatever still left in between.

In our everyday life the attitude my friend proved to have in that circumstance is more frequent than one might imagine though. How many among us are stuck in a situation, in a depressing and, maybe, underpaid job, or in a frustrating, unloving, mentally, emotionally and, maybe, even physically abusive relationship where we feel trapped, do not know what to do next and how, and what direction eventually we should take? Sometimes it is not a matter of lack of possibilities but rather of lack of positive, constructive thinking and consequent audacity, of fear of the unknown, of what might happen if we try, of fear of possible failure.

Possibilities are all around us and all that is required from us is to start moving, one step at a time, doing something new, something different we have never tried before. Failures and obstacles we may encounter on our path are there for a reason: to make us grow, to refine and strengthen ourselves, our beliefs, our ability and determination to get closer to our final goal or to point at a new direction we should take in our life.

Too many times we might be presented with two or more opportunities at once. We get confused, feel not at ease and wonder which way we should go. We feel insecure about what choice to make. The reality is, though, that one direction might be as valid as the other one and that the Universe, Life, God or however we want to call It/Her/Him is just offering us more than one possibility to choose from. It is really up to us which way to go. We just need to get started.

Fear is, unfortunately, the most common element in people's life. Fear keeps us prisoners of ourselves. Fear of failure is what prevents most of us from reaching our full potential. However, once we accept the possibility that we can fail, that a failure does not determine who we really are, and we do not allow it to interfere or even compromise our self-esteem, we will start taking control over our lives.

Write it down where you are and where you want to be in the future, in the next three or six months, in a year, ten years and make a list of things you can do to reach that goal. Move one step forward at a time but be consistent. And should life at a certain point indicate you that you need to change direction do not get frustrated or discouraged. You won't have “lost” anything. The time, money and energy you will have invested so far will have made you who you are and all that you will have learned will serve you – one way or the other – to accomplish whatever you have in mind.

Things happen for a reason and all the knowledge and experience you will have acquired will serve their purpose and remain with you all your life. Even if you in the meanwhile have changed direction and started walking a different path everything you will have treasured so far will prove to be useful at a certain point in time and maybe even when less expected.

Let's get started then and remember: Move just one step at a time. Ignore the “upward slope” and focus on your very next step. Nothing else is required of you.

Please feel free to read also my previous Coaching articles at

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