“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Laozi, Chinese Proverb
The first step is always the hardest. No matter what you are undertaking, whether in business, relationships, personal development, etc., it always takes an enormous amount of courage to embark on the journey.
Now, that’s not to say that once you start, everything will coast along from there. If it’s a worthwhile undertaking, chances are that you will encounter obstacles throughout the journey as well. But the one struggle that you can bank on, the one you can be most aware of and therefore prepare yourself to overcome the best is that first step.
Immerse yourself in this scenario. It’s a cold winter morning and you grudgingly open an eye to glare across at your alarm clock (app) that is buzzing. It’s still dark outside, and you can hear the howling wind and rain. But you’re in your safe cocoon. Snuggled up with your blankets, your head resting on a soft pillow, perhaps a warm significant other curled up with you.
Life is pretty damn good, right? But you know that you need to get up, throw off the warm blanket, pick the crusties out the corners of your eyes and get into the shower so that you can get ready for your day.
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of staying in your safe, warm bed for just a few more minutes… That’s why we have snooze buttons, right?
So, you lay there, contemplating the merits of facing the cold, harsh day and how horrible it will be for you. Suddenly, you open your eyes and your retinas are violated by sunlight.
You fell asleep again!
“Shit!” You think, “I had planned to go for a walk before work… WORK. IT’S 8:40! I’M DUE TO START IN 20 MINUTES!!!”
So you scramble out of bed. The cold doesn’t faze you anymore. The boss taking you aside for being late again is what is fazing you now!
You run to the bathroom and start the shower, lamenting how many precious seconds it is taking the water temperature to rise enough that you won’t catch hypothermia.
“Finally!” You exclaim as you step into the shower and continue racing through an abbreviated version of your morning routine, before arriving at work late, your face half-shaved and your stomach growling from not having had breakfast.
If the above scenario or something similar hasn’t happened to you before, you have my sincere congratulations . You are a much more disciplined person than I am. Maybe I am the only person who has done this, but I have a sneaking suspicion I’m not alone.
Now think about it this way. Re-read the above story, but replace the concept of getting out of bed with exploring that business you wanted to start. Replace the comfortable, cozy bed with your personal beliefs, occupation, or whatever else gives you a sense of mental warmth. Replace waking up for the second time with the “sudden” realization that you’re in your 40’s, 50’s or 60’s.
Replace being late for work in an unkempt state with laying on your deathbed, except your patchy beard is your unrealized potential. Your hollow stomach is your unfulfilled dreams and regret. The beeping sound you hear isn’t your alarm – it’s your heart monitor reminding you that you are “circling the drain”.
By then, it’s too late.
Sure, you can make a conscious effort to get up earlier tomorrow to avoid a horrific repeat of your day today. But that doesn’t work with life. There’s no second chance at this phase of your life. Try as you might, you can’t wind back the hands of time.
What’s done is done. Equally, what’s not done is not done.
This may seem like a morbid, or even scary concept. Good. It is. And the fact that it has elicited that response from you is a sign that you have survivor genetics.
Human psychology is such that we have a thing called negativity bias. Back in the caveman days, if you had a tree laden with luscious fruit to your right and a lean, panting, hungry-looking wolf to your left, licking it’s chops as it pictures you as dinner… your attention was drawn to the danger, not the reward.
So you’d run to try to escape the wolf that’s going to bite your ass rather than merrily picking fruit and dealing with your newfound canine companion later. The ones who survived and became your ancestors did, anyway.
Use that primal instinct to your advantage. Let it fuel your ambition.
We are all being chased by a metaphorical wolf, but most people would rather not look at it until it’s latched onto their jugular. The wolf’s name is Regret.
Feel the hot breath of that rabies-invested wolf* nipping at your heels and make it your motivation to take action, get out of bed, start your business, train to run the marathon you have always wanted to run, or whatever it is you feel you need to do (your heart’s conviction), even if you don’t want to (the incessant chatter in your head that makes excuses for why the need is a bad idea.)
Don’t be a dumb, fruit-picking ostrich with its head in the sand. Make like your surviving ancestors and take action now – even if it’s something small like reserving an email address for your business or creating a blank Word document called “Marathon Training.docx”. Don’t worry about filling it all in with sets and reps now. Small, consistent changes compound more quickly than you think. The key is that you are moving in the direction that you need to go today.
Tomorrow isn’t good enough. If you had a wolf chasing you down, would you hesitate to haul ass out of there? Of course not, that would be insane and natural selection would do its thing to make sure your stupidity and lack of urgency didn’t become a stinking turd in the gene-pool.
“The best time to take action was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb
I’m really feeling my Chinese proverbs today… but it’s true. You can’t go back to when your alarm went off – when you first heard the screeching call to action awakening you from your slumber.
But the time that’s already passed doesn’t justify leaving it until you’re going to be late for work. Until you miss out on your potential, and suddenly you’re old, and your enthusiasm and vitality has been rotted down into bitter cynicism and unrealized dreams by snoozing.
You chose to hit the snooze button. We all did. Take responsibility for it, own it, and CHANGE IT! It’s not too late.
“The best time to get your lazy ass out of bed was when your alarm went off. The second-best time is now.” – Tim
Make a meme out of that one.
And if you are wondering what makes me qualified to talk about this, what my credentials are and why you should listen to me, then… don’t listen to me. Hit that snooze button and go back to sleep. It’s your life, I’m just sounding the alarm again so that you have the choice to awaken if you want to.
But if you want to know what my first step was, what I did to introduce my own feet to the cold floor, how I’m getting my legs moving to put some ground between me and that wolf… you’ve just read it.
* I don’t know if wolves get rabies. Please don’t write to me to correct me – I don’t care.