I’m a pretty idealistic person. I usually have lots of dreams and hopes for my life but often struggle to know how to get from here to that distant imagined outcome down the road. I’ve experienced this in all areas of life – in my career, my relationships, my hobbies, etc. All too often the gap between a dream and the reality of the current situation seems too vast and instead of venturing down the road in the direction of my dreams, I end up paralyzed and doing nothing.
As I’ve reflected on this tendency I think it is caused by fear of the unknown. It can be really scary to step out not knowing how a given situation will turn out. What will people think if I take this risk? What if I get embarrassed? What if I make the wrong decision? The what if’s can go on forever.
Recently I heard some excellent advice for what to do when we find ourselves in these situations. It comes from one of my favorite blogger/pod casters, Michael Hyatt. I’ve heard similar advice in the past but I really like the way he frames it. Michael says when we feel stuck and don’t know what to do we just need to take the next best step.
It’s simple yet profound advice. While we may not be able to see all of the steps to our long-term goal, most of us can probably identify at least one action that would move us in the right direction. Even if we’re not entirely sure what the next best step is, doing something is almost always better than doing nothing.
It is really tempting in these situations to think that our next step should be really big or drastic because we want to move far down the road. That line of thinking is often what keeps us stuck because those types of moves can be pretty intimidating. Instead the next best step is often really small. Say you’re goal is to start your own business. It might be tempting to think your first step should something drastic like quitting your current job. In reality your next best step could be something really simple like checking a book out from the library on entrepreneurship.
I’ve heard for people that are severely depressed (one of the most profound experiences of being stuck I can think of) it is often a very small movement like cleaning the bathroom, or going out to coffee with a friend that can get them going in the right direction and begin their journey to recovery.
Don’t get me wrong, while this is really simple advice, I fully recognize that even the smallest steps can be really difficult and take great faith. It can be really scary to step out without knowing all of the following steps. When we feel really stuck and have been for a while, even one step can seem really difficult. I’ve been there and understand how challenging it can be. The good news is the first step is often the most difficult.
The key to the power of this advice is forward momentum. Even the smallest steps tend to build on themselves. Each successive one gets a little easier and before we know it we’re doing things and going places we never thought we could. Also, while our temptation is often to wait until we see the whole picture to start; forward momentum usually reveals the picture. As Michael said in a recent blog post, “People don’t want to commit until they have clarity, but clarity comes with movement.” We have to keep moving.
Like most subjects I’ve posted about, this is a lesson I’m still learning. I’m starting to believe this is how God wants us to live because it forces us to rely on him. It wouldn’t take any faith if we had the whole picture ahead of time. I think God honors our faith by meeting us in these small yet frightening steps. He strengthens us and reveals his plan along the way as we walk together in faith with him.
If you’re feeling stuck I hope you can find the courage to just take one small positive step forward today. It could be the beginning of a life-changing journey.