I was a big fan of Sesame Street when I was little; I still am. It’s uncanny how often a snippet from 45-years ago will cross my memory or be relevant to a conversation I’m having. For instance, do you remember this song, “How Do You Get From Here to There?”
There’s a great lesson in this song, in addition to how cute it is (minus the airplane guy who looks a bit too much like if Hitler had been part of the beatnik era).
The lesson is actually profoundly simple and so, so valuable.
First, determine where you want to go, and then second, choose how you’re going to get there.
In other words, take the first step. Regardless the goal, literally the only thing any of us can do is take a step in that direction.
That could be physically moving your body toward the goal, or it could be working backwards from the end of the goal and breaking it down into manageable steps you can then start to accomplish. Either way, nobody gets from “here to there” without taking that first step. Nobody.
Want a more satisfying job?
The first step is not to storm into your boss’ office and declare that you quit. The first step is to update your resume.
Want to find a life partner?
Probably don’t purchase a wedding dress and reserve a venue. Get your online profile in tip top shape; tell your friends you’re looking and to join you in the look. Write affirming note to yourself and post them all around your house: You are beautiful. You deserve someone amazing. You are worthy of love. Say yes to opportunities that will put you in new environments with new people.
Want to stop drinking?
Please don’t spontaneously declare you’re going cold turkey, at least not without careful planning and a watchful eye. Maybe put down the drink you’re holding in your hand right now and try to go 30 minutes until you pick it up again. Then see if you can go 30 more. If you make it the first 30 minutes (heck, if you make it 10) but not the second, celebrate that you slowed yourself down and were ok.
Get clear about what you actually want, where you want to go, and be as specific as you possibly can. The smaller the step, the more likely you are to accomplish it.
My friend Julie is a retired internist. When she talked to patients who desperately needed to lose weight, she’d tell them to walk to the end of their driveway and back.
Think about that. We’re talking maybe as few as 50 or 100 steps. Total. How in the world is that going to change anything?
Well, 100 steps is better than no steps.
And you know how this goes because who among us hasn’t read at least one of the If You Give a Mouse/Moose/Pig a… books?
If you walk to the end of your driveway and back for a week, next week, on your way back to your door, instead of walking past the sidewalk, you’ll turn left and walk halfway around the block or more. And then you’ll go down the street three or more blocks. And if you do that for awhile, the next thing you know, you’ll be signed up for a local 5k run/walkathon for a nonprofit you support, and you’ll have lost the weight.
And it all started because instead of dismissing walking to the end of your driveway and back as stupid and unlikely to create any change, you said, “OK.” And you took the first step.
I suppose the literal first step matters: a smart resume means you’re prepared for an unexpected opportunity. Having a dating profile you feel good about says you’re serious about finding someone. Putting the drink down for a set time proves you have more control over yourself than you might believe you do.
But, actually, the most important element to that first step is simply deciding to take it.
Nearly every spin class Dr Marry and I go to starts with the instructor saying, “You’ve already done the hardest thing: you got out of bed and made your way here.”
Deciding to take the first step is by far the most challenging moment of the journey because our brains are wired to avoid change. Change can bring trauma, shame, fear, vulnerability, disappointment, failure. Far better to stay safe and sound where you are than risk something going wrong.
But the converse of trauma is healing; of shame is praise; of fear is trust; of vulnerability is security; of disappointment is relief; and of failure is success.
Staying put might keep you from having a negative experience, but it most certainly will keep you from experiencing something joyful, positive and rewarding, too.
It turns out that the lessons of our childhood can carry significance long into our adulthood if we’re willing to look at them through our grown up lens. When I was little, I thought this song was about going places by walking, taking the bus or getting on an airplane. Turns out, it was about something much more important: choosing the steps we will take for the journey we call life.
So what’s it gonna be? What’s the problem that’s weighing you down, holding you up, keeping you small? What’s the first step you need to take to move toward it or away from where you currently are?
Define your goal and then make a literal list of steps. If you’re a deadline person, add end dates as well. Get a friend or family member to agree to be, as my friend Amy says, your accountabilibuddy. Give them a copy of your list and ask them to help keep you on track by checking in and talking through your hits and misses.
Build in little treats to celebrate your successes. Crossed off your fifth step? Take yourself out for a fancy coffee or eat an incredible piece of chocolate. Got past step 10? Buy yourself a movie or book you love. Use whatever incentives will keep you moving forward. Celebrate the wins and be so, so gentle on yourself if you slip up. There’s no shame in falling down; it just means you’re trying. Get up and keep on going.
“Simply use your feet and walk,
but be sure to walk with care.
And that is how you get from here to there.”
And if you want more inspiration figuring out what it is you even want to be taking that first step toward, download my free (re)Discover Your Spark guide to get started.