Steps

A picture of steps

While out for a run recently, I noticed that I always keep my eyes focused downward, only looking about 5 to 10 feet in front of me.

After giving it some thought, I realized that it is because if I look all the way down the road, where I’m trying to end up, I will get discouraged when I see how great the distance is from here to there, and how slowly that distant point seems to be approaching. But if I only look 5 to 10 feet in front of me, my brain stays focused on the much-more-manageable steps from here to 10 feet in front of me.

In The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Kimmy has a great line:

I learned a long time ago that a person can stand just about anything for 10 seconds, then you just start on a new 10 seconds. All you’ve got to do is take it 10 seconds at a time.
Kimmy Schmidt

While the exact context of the scene is humorous and a bit ridiculous, there is wisdom here: You don’t need to worry about all the steps at once, from here until the very end. You just need to focus on how to take the next few steps.

Don’t misunderstand—you absolutely need to have a vision of the destination, an aim that keeps you always pointed in the right direction. But if you try to account for every single step at once you will become overwhelmed.

This is true of any pursuit in life. It is good to aim so audaciously high that our goals are beyond our current understanding and capability. We want to aim so high that we will accomplish our original goal along the way. But when your aim is that might higher than your current standing, you will have unknowns—areas where the exact steps to take are unclear.

This is where we must go small. As Gary Keller puts it:

We must focus simply on the highest priority, the next step on the staircase to our end goal. We don’t have to know right now how to get from here to there—in fact, if it seems attainable and doable from where you currently stand, you’re not aiming high enough.
Gary Keller, The ONE Thing

It’s intimidating, but no matter how lofty and unattainable as your goals may be, you can always figure out what the immedate next step is. And that’s all you have to do. Take one step at a time, knock down one domino at a time, and eventually the rest will fall.