Action creates action. We probably all know that. Once you get on a roll, you tend to keep on rolling. It’s the first action that’s the hardest part.
The fuel for motivation is found in the tiniest rays of hope – that sense that we are moving in the right direction, or heading toward actually achieving something. Unfortunately, hope only gets rolling when things have started happening. It’s all very chicken-and-egg.
The good news is that you don’t have to progress very far to raise some hope. Taking the very smallest step chips away at mental and emotional inertia.
Without hope, we are easily overwhelmed by the size of the mountain we have to climb. We view the entire ascent as one massive obstacle rather than something that is achieved through piecing together a number – possibly even a large number -- of very simple steps.
In the first Superman movie, the great hero had to find a way to reverse the rotation of the earth in order to move back in time and rescue the already-deceased Miss Lane. But what was the first thing he had to do?
He had to find a phonebox. Even Superman has to start with a simple step.
So does everyone and everything.
A mountainous in-tray can be massively oppressive. It is full of things you haven’t done. Your mind will tell you that you haven’t done them because they were hard to do. Yet if you pick up the first piece of paper in that tray and dispose of it, your chances of picking up the next piece of paper and disposing of that too will escalate dramatically.
This is because a small amount of hope has arrived. You may be moving slowly but you have moved one step. There’s a small element of gratification in that achievement. So much so that you now have a greater chance of taking another baby step and moving onto the next item. That little ray of hope helped build momentum. It was the first move toward disarming inertia. Motivation now has a chance of poking its head above the parapet.
This first step is often a problem for big picture people. They can easily see the forest but find it hard to focus on the individual trees. They can be inspired by the mountain, and perhaps see it’s majesty and power more clearly than others, but this can be matched by a sense of awe that overwhelms their confidence in making a successful ascent.
There is a solution
Reverse the scenario. Don’t see the whole in-tray (or project, or career, or business plan) as a mountain. Instead, make the mountain that first piece of paper.
It might take only five minutes, or even less, to manage it. It may be only a matter of deciding to put it in the rubbish bin. But approach it as the only thing you have to do today. See it as the magical key that opens up the wonder of motivation. Be in awe of the power of that first piece of paper. Focus on it -- and only it -- as the first step in a long journey. Bask in its magnificence. The first step is massively challenging. Make it the biggest and most important picture. Get excited about sorting it out.
When you’ve handled it, revel in its completion. Embrace its achievement as a liberating experience. It’s done. It’s over. You have moved.
Amazing isn’t it? You have managed all that in less than five minutes.
Now try it again.
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