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February 3, 2015

Just Take the First Step

I love setting goals. I love how goals motivate us to ditch bad habits and make better choices. I love how they encourage us to make bold plans and to act on our dreams. And probably one of the biggest...

I love setting goals.

I love how goals motivate us to ditch bad habits and make better choices. I love how they encourage us to make bold plans and to act on our dreams.

And probably one of the biggest benefits of specific and measurable goals is that they hold us accountable to make better choices, do the work required, and take real steps toward achieving the results we want.

There’s only one problem with all of these plans and steps and accountability.

Sometimes, I just don’t feel like following through.

Maybe it’s raining or my back hurts or I’m tired. I can come up with 1,000 excuses on any given day, but the bottom line is this: I just don’t want to.

I want the end result, of course—a clean house, a bigger savings account and a slimmer body. But some days, I just don’t feel like doing the work required to get there.

So recently I’ve tried something new that helps me follow through on my plans even when I don’t feel like it.

I just take the first step.

Instead of thinking “I have to clean the entire house today,” I tell myself, “I’ll just put the laundry away.”

Or instead of feeling overwhelmed about getting up for going to the gym, I convince myself, “I’ll just put on my workout clothes.”

And you know what? It works.

Ten times out of ten, I follow through with the rest of the steps to reach my goal.

For example, after I put the clothes away, the progress I’ve made gives me energy to tackle another load of laundry. And while I’m at it, I might wash the sink full of dirty dishes. Before long, I’ve cleaned the whole house without even meaning to!

The same goes for exercising. The steps involved in getting ready and going to the gym may seem like more than I’m up for in the moment, but as soon as I commit and follow through on just the first step, it gives me the momentum I need to take the next step.

I never put on my workout clothes and then go sit on the couch. That just never happens. That’s because taking that first, simple step is like knocking down the first domino in a series. Once you do it, the rest fall down as a result.

Sometimes moving even the tiniest bit in a new direction is all you need to keep going in that direction.

Setting goals can be hard because change is hard. But if you can trick your mind into taking that first step, it’s usually all you need to stay on track—even when you don’t feel like it.

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  1. I read an anecdote once of a guy who wanted to get a bike ride in while training for a race only to realize it was raining outside. His impulse was to just stay in where he would be warm and dry but instead he hopped on his bike and headed out. The initial rain was cold and uncomfortable but he soon found himself having a good ride and a great workout. When he got back someone mentioned how disciplined he was and he realized the only discipline involved was simply taking that first step. He just needed some momentum and the rest took care of itself.

    So much of what we do is determined by inertia. The hardest part is getting moving in the right direction.