Stop looking up

Stop looking up.

On the face of it, this could seem like really terrible and negative advice. What kind of pep talk tells you to look down at your feet?

But that’s not what I mean. Dream big and aim high, definitely. But don’t stare at the end destination when you’re doing the actual work. Glance, for motivation and inspiration, yes. Fixate – no.

To put it into an analogy (one of my absolute favourite things to do): say your dream or goal is at the top of a mountain. You’re standing at the bottom. If you stand there, looking up at the very peak, probably so high you can barely make it out through the wisps of clouds blurring that final tip, your brain is going to be thinking about how far away it is. How many steps your body is going to have to take to get there. How hard and how long and how dangerous that trek is going to be.

And while your brain is focused on that, it’s probably not going to be directing your feet to start walking – to actually start climbing. So you’ll stand at the bottom of the mountain, looking up at your finish line, possibly forever.

But you know what? One step is not that bad. For most people, it’s not even hard. Try it – take one step for me (seriously, do it – stand up and step once, right now). Your brain probably barely needs to think about it. That second of motion hopefully didn’t feel hard or long or dangerous at all.

And that’s all you’ve got to do to get to the top of that mountain. Just take one step, after another, until there aren’t any more to take.

You’re going to tell me it’s not that simple, but it is. I’m guilty of getting trapped in the frozen stress of seeing a project or accomplishment in its entirety and feeling overwhelmed. So much has to be done, or it seems so complicated and impossible I don’t even know where to start. But most of the time (99.999999% of the time), if I just get stuck in, it never seems that bad.

It’s not always easy, sure – you’re still gonna have to actually work hard – but I often find myself wondering what I was worried about. Usually, you just need to take one step, which we’ve already established isn’t hard, and then that leads you to another, which leads you to another, and then another and another, and you’re finding your way, making it happen. Getting to the top of that mountain.

My point is, if I stay staring at the end goal and everything required to get there, it seems insurmountable. But if I just focus on one step, and one at a time, I eventually get there, without even really noticing I’m heading up a mountain. Gravity is weird like that.

And not everything has a map, so you just have to get started and see what route unearths itself. You never know, there might even be unseen shortcuts.

But you’ll never find out unless you stop looking up and get moving, step by individual step.

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