Lao Tzu has written, The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. This roughly means, if you don’t start, you can’t finish. This holds true for all types of journeys. From physical trips such as a car ride from New York to California, to emotional ones, such as seeking peace or reconciliation with a loved one, to wanting to launch a new career.
Simply stated, you have to take the first step, whether that’s pulling out a map and planning your route, sitting down to plan what you want to say to the person you’ve wronged, to deciding what new career you want to pursue. You can’t get there, wherever there is, just by dreaming about it. You have to take action.
Taking action is the hard part. It’s relatively easy to discern what the goal is, I’ve got to get to California, I need to make amends with my brother, I really hate my job. It’s not always easy figuring out how to make it happen.
State the Goal and then ask yourself, What’s next?
Playing the what next game is the quickest way to get your brain going. Any and all answers are acceptable. We’re not looking for a plan of action, we’re just brainstorming ideas. Let’s use the example of the road trip to California and jot down our answers to “What’s next?”
- Need to find out how many miles the drive is
- Need to research the best route
- Need GPS
- Need to plan stops along the way
- Need to take the car in for a tune-up
- and so on…
The first bullet point, Need to find out how many miles the drive is, leads me to say–where in California are we going? Cali is a big state. So, the first question is–where are we going? The answer, San Francisco. Okay, now we can get accurate mileage.
Knowing exactly where we’re going will also help us plan the best route. Once we plan the route, we can decide how many miles we want to drive per day and that will help us plan where we’ll stop. Are we camping, staying at hotels? Knowing our route helps us figure out where we’ll stay.
Maybe we want to sign up for AAA, just in case we have any car troubles along the way. Answering each What’s Next question will lead you to the next question until you have created a plan of action that works for you.
Plan of Action
- Submit vacation days to work
- Get your AAA membership renewed
- Find out how many miles to San Francisco (approx. 2900 miles from Brooklyn to San Fran.)
- Determine best route
- Plot hotel/campgrounds for every 500 miles or so
- Research sites to visit along the way
- Take the care in for a tune-up
This is the rough draft of the trip’s action plan, lots of details will have to be added to make this a fully functional plan. But its gotten you started! You can now see that the trip is not only possible, but you have an outline to help you make it come true.
It’s just a first step, though. You still have to DO all the planning based on your action steps and then actually LEAVE your house in Brooklyn. Otherwise, it’s just an exercise in planning.
The What Next exercise can be used for anything. Want to quit your job? What job would you like? Do you have the credentials, do you need to get some additional schooling? Do you know anyone that has the job you want–someone to give you pointers. How much money do you have to make to have a decent lifestyle? What can you give up to reduce your bills.
Brainstorm for ten to fifteen minutes and create a list of what comes to your mind. You’ll be surprised at how satisfying that can be.
Take the first step of your thousand mile journey.