Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Taking Baby Steps

I'm told Alcoholics Anonymous has a motto of "One Day at a Time." (I've never attended a meeting; I'm still in the One Drink at a Time stage.) But as I grow older, I've come to believe that particular mantra carries wisdom worth applying to aspects of anyone's life.

A close friend, who has struggled with weight issues her whole life, recently returned to Weight Watchers after a long hiatus. The registration clerk asked her how much she hoped to lose.

My friend hesitated before softly answering, "Five pounds."

She said the woman didn't reply, yet looked up and then blinked as she filled out the form. Clearly, she believed my friend needed to shed much more than five pounds. Thirty, maybe forty. (Who's counting? Definitely not me, who could stand to lose about the same.) But this larger goal, at that moment, seemed insurmountable to my friend. Yes, she hoped to eventually achieve more. Now, however, she could only focus on losing five pounds at a time.

Another friend is going to school while he works full-time. At the reasonable rate of one or two classes a semester, it will take years to finally walk away with a college degree. He refuses to do the math which makes his goal unimaginable. He says he can only focus on completing one class at a time.

I'm writing yet another draft of a new novel. I've written, and finished, two other books. I comprehend the patience and perseverance that writing entails. It means months, even years, of writing and rewriting to achieve near-perfection in an 80,000-word manuscript. But when I sit down each night to write, 80,000 words is inconceivable. I can only focus on writing one chapter at a time.

Huge accomplishments--those that require days, months or even years of effort and strength--are fraught with uncertainty and self-doubt. As much as we admire those who openly commit to ambitious goals, we're often skeptical of their success. We're even more reluctant to fully acknowledge our own long-term objectives. The fear of failure hangs heavy.

Often, taking one tiny and tangible step is all we can muster.

Yet maybe those baby steps, taken one after the other, are enough to reach our final destination.

And if anyone blinks an eye at our progress, we need to remember we're getting there, one day at a time.


  1. Well you've got me thinking about those baby steps and I think of relationships: family, friends, co-workers. They happen with baby steps as well. So maybe its the best and safest way to go for most things in life, you think?

  2. Spot-On!! Set long term goals, but live day-to-day! Never give up; never surrender!!

  3. Anon: You are so right. Relationships are built--and sometimes rebuilt--one step at a time. I'll remember that when I meet my future husband...

    JK: "Never Give Up; Never Surrender" would have been a perfect title for this post! Thanks for the comment.

  4. Yes, when I collect the 64 essays from students, I'll say to myself...I'm only grading 5 tonight. That way when I actually grade six--whoo hoo!! Reward for me!

    ps. I quote Bill Murray (from "What About Bob") all the time..."baby steps,baby steps" a great philosophy

  5. All the 5 lbs. add up, all the steps add up, one mile at a time--we need to focus on what is ahead in front of us----everything is a journey.

  6. Murf: Yes, I actually thought about "What About Bob" when writing this. Baby steps across the treadmill, baby steps across the page...

    Anon #2: Absolutely--Everything in life is a journey. Which is why God invented rest stops.