Time To Simplify


The one step approach to achieving goals

Self-help blogs are full of three, five, and ten step approaches to self-improvement. May I offer you a one step approach?

Let’s say you have an endeavour ahead of you. A goal you want to realise. Or maybe it is just a work deadline.

Perhaps it is something you once wanted to achieve, but now you no longer feel motivated. You feel the task looming, and your head is rapidly filling up with “should”, “need to” and “have to”. 

As a result, your stress levels are rising but your energy is draining, your motivation is dissipating and your performance is dropping. None of that is helpful. However, you are stuck in this vicious cycle, for the moment.

So, how to come unstuck? How to beat procrastination and just get it done?

When we think about what we need to achieve or do, we often automatically zoom out and focus on the whole, enormous, complex accomplishment demanded of us (even if it is just meeting a work deadline). In doing so we overwhelm ourselves and our brain, specifically our prefrontal cortex.

There is too much to take in. Too much to do. Too much to analyse. Too much that can go wrong. There is simply too much to process. As a result the cortisol floodgates open and we fret and stress. And crucially, we do nothing. Except beat ourselves up for doing nothing.

Sounds familiar?

This is where the art of the one step approach comes in.

If it is too much for your prefrontal cortex, then give it less. A lot less. Instead of thinking about all the things you need to do to achieve the goal, focus on one small but effective step right now. Just one simple step.

You need to write a proposal, or maybe even a book? Let go of “the proposal” or “book” in all their overwhelming, vested enormity.

All you need to do right now is to write a sentence. Just one sentence. Then after that, you only need to write one more sentence. Just one sentence. Then another.

In every single narrow moment, there is only one step you need to take: write that one sentience.

You want to be fitter? You want to start running?

Right now, you only need to tie your shoelaces. That is all you need to do. After that you only need to open the front door. Once outside, you only need to put one foot in front of the other. There is no 5k or 10k. There is just the next step in that moment.

Your prefrontal cortex can cope with that. It can write one sentence. It can tie shoelaces, and it can open a front door. Before your prefrontal cortex knows it, you have tricked it into running 5k or writing the dreaded proposal.

If the big picture is too big, don’t zoom out, zoom in. Zoom right in on the here and now, and the one small step.

It is you, not cortisol, who should run the show. Take the power back, one single step at a time.