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Taking the first step

So now you have a goal. It’s a SMART goal. You know that your first step toward that goal should be small. You also have motivation to help you get this ball rolling. Good. Now how do we get from here to that first step? Like I did with starting my gym habit, start small. I told myself that the first few times, all I had to do was show up. That’s all. No pressure to work out or have any idea what I was doing, just put my physical body inside the 4 walls that we have designated as “the gym”. But if even that seems too big, start smaller. Maybe you can’t get yourself to the gym just yet. Try packing your gym bag and putting on your workout clothes. If, after that, you feel capable, you can even try going to the gym. But if that’s all you can do the first time, that’s good enough. If even packing your bag and putting on your workout clothes is too much, try laying out your workout clothes in a designated area (on top of your dresser, maybe), and put your empty bag beside the front door so that, theoretically, if it were full and you were to go to the gym, you could grab it on your way there. If even that is too big, start even smaller. Put your sneakers next to your bed. That’s all. That can be your first step. Once you’ve decided on a small enough first step (seriously, make it so small that it seems absurd), do your absurdly small first step for a couple days. The key here is to pick a first step that is so small that you actually do it. We’re basically tricking your brain into action. Then on the third day, take a slightly bigger step. If your first small step in losing weight was to track your calories at breakfast (not even trying to eat less, just writing down the foods you ate and how much), next try tracking breakfast and dinner. Do that for a few days. Then try tracking all 3 meals. Then add in snacks and drinks. Make the steps so small that they don’t intimidate you at all and are easy to fit into your day. Each tiny step you take can be a 10 second task. You’d like to keep your house clean? Start with putting your plate into the dishwasher immediately after dinner. It isn’t allowed to even touch the sink. Nothing else in your house needs to be cleaned today, all you have to do is put 1 plate immediately into the dishwasher.

These tiny steps take the pressure off of you to create massive change overnight. Make your steps as small as you feel they need to be. If your first step needs to be as small as dragging your ass out of bed to go mindfully place your hand on your sneakers for 3 seconds before crawling back under the covers, then that’s where you start. And yes, that first tiny step may feel ridiculous, but when the other option is doing nothing at all, this tiny first step is the obvious better option.

When it comes time to do your tiny first step, be it unrolling your yoga mat when you come home from work, or replacing your night time bottle of soda with a mug of tea, if you find yourself resisting and struggling to push yourself to do the thing, think of your why. Remember when we created your why? Remember how excited you were about your eventual future self who has healthy sleep habits and eats 5 servings of vegetables every day? How you couldn’t wait to have all that energy? How much you were longing for that clean house, that higher GPA, that new job? Ignore the part of your brain trying to talk you out of doing your first tiny step for a bit and just focus on your why. Conjure up that excitement again. Think about how happy it will make you to come home to your cute and clean apartment, or to be able to finally touch your toes, not to mention those crazy yoga poses you see people doing on instagram. Revel in it. That will be you. Maybe it will take a few years, but that time will pass anyway, and in a year, you can be 30 pounds lighter and running 5k every day, or you can still be on the sofa wishing you had started a year ago. It doesn’t matter what you do, the time will pass anyway. And future you will always wish you had started before. So do something for future you. Go roll out your yoga mat. There is no pressure to actually do any yoga today, just roll out the mat. Though if you’re feeling really inspired after rolling out the mat, go ahead and do some yoga.

I’d like to end this post by saying that, if after all of that, after deciding your very tiny step and visualizing how great your future self will be after she builds this habit and this discipline, if you are still unable to get yourself to do that first tiny step, please consider seeking help from a mental health professional. I’m not trying to be an armchair psychologist and in no way intend to diagnose anyone with anything, but if you are still unable to take that small first step due to apathy or feeling like it still isn’t worth it, or any other reason, my advice is not what you need. Please take care of yourself and talk to someone. It is not a personal failing if you are still unable to take this first tiny step, I’m just not the right person to help you.

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