“Just take one step at a time.” I can still hear my father’s voice saying those words to me at so many different times in my life. These days, as my life gets more and more complex and the projects get larger, those words take on new meaning.
I used to take that statement only on face value—literally to only worry about taking the next step, and then take the one after that. While that is certainly sage advice, more recently I’m finding a deeper meaning. If I only focus on the step I am taking in the moment, that means I am fully present to what is going on—my thoughts, feelings, motivations, intentions, and everything that is happening around me. It means that I am so much more aware of where I am and what I am doing. And therefore, the quality of my contribution is much greater, because whatever I am doing in that moment has my full attention.
I’m in one of those periods right now where there are so many things on my plate that I wonder how it is all ever going to get done. Pushing back deadlines doesn’t help, because then things just get piled up even more.
This circumstance offers me a choice. I can choose to let all that is on my plate stress me out, or I can choose to take this circumstance as an invitation to just do one thing at a time, just take one step at a time, and to be fully present in what I am doing. With the second choice, there ends up being much less stress, because all I am thinking about is what I am doing right then. And when that task is complete, I can have a short walk with the dogs, and let the few minutes in nature clear the slate and perhaps even bring me inspiration and new insight or clarity about the project I will work on when I return to my office.
I fully acknowledge that many years of meditation and spiritual practice are helping to make that kind of focus and concentration possible. And I also fully acknowledge that I’m not always 100% successful. Sometimes not even 75% successful! But it is what I strive for. And I know that the way you learn how to do this is just to commit to it and practice it every day. Practicing it when things are not so crazy helps build your technique so that it is there to serve you when suddenly your plate is piled high.
I do my best to not add any more things to any particular day’s “to do” list than I believe I can realistically accomplish. Sometimes my “realism” is very optimistic! So I still end up having to shuffle things around, prioritize what is most important, and, at times, postpone some projects or tasks. What in the end does actually get accomplished shows me what is actually most important to me. And sometimes that is a wake-up call all on its own!
One step at a time. I know that I’m doing pretty well with this when I can’t tell you what’s on the docket to be accomplished tomorrow. At any given moment, I can usually list the projects that are in the works, but while I am focused on the project of the moment, I can’t tell you when I will be working on what for the rest of the week. When I realize that I am consciously aware of which projects I will be working on tomorrow while I’m trying to get my current task done, then I’m probably not really focused on where I am right now. I know that all of the projects need to keep moving forward, and I ensure that as I lay out the week’s schedule and assign projects to days. But once that is done, my job is to focus only on the task at hand, the client I am currently serving, or the teleclass or workshop I am teaching at the moment, and trust that time has been allocated for everything and it will indeed all get done.
If you are trying to take multiple steps at one time, I invite you to consider my father’s wise words: Just one step at a time. Consider the deeper meaning, and try giving 100% of your energy to the project of the moment and just see what happens. For me, it’s a life saver.