In my last post, I shared the seven tools that you need to begin your journey towards healing. We have to honestly assess where we are; optimistically choose where we want to be; create a plan for getting there; be true to our values while en route; and check to see that we’re on the right course. We ended with “Hiking Boots.” No one starts out a hike without proper footwear. Not only that, it’s silly to put on hiking boots unless you’re ready to hike!
We all begin the journey in what I call quicksand. It is that place of helplessness and inertia. We’re
We carry learned helplessness into our adult lives. Because we believe that we have no control over our lives, but rather our circumstances control us, we feel stuck. Like quicksand, the more we struggle, the deeper we sink. For each of us, quicksand manifests itself differently. For some, it may be spiraling debt. For others, it may be bad relationships. It can be clutter or one of many addictions. But whatever it is, we feel we have no control, we feel helpless and stuck.
There is only one way to get out of quicksand, and that is through action. Yet this is a paradox, because when we are in quicksand, the last thing we “feel” like doing is acting. What we feel is apathy, fear, dread, unease, anxiety, overwhelm and sluggishness. All these feelings oppose action. Yet it exactly what do not feel like doing that we must do to get out of the quicksand.
The reason is easily illustrated by a train. Have you ever seen a train start moving from a full stop? In the first split second when the train goes from stationary to moving its first millimeter, it expends many, many times more energy than it will cruising its second mile. Likewise, when we’ve been stuck for a long time, taking that first step requires so more effort and will, and is harder than anything else we will have to do.
You’ve heard the say, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” That first step is hard! But it is the hardest step you will have to take. The second step is easier. The third is much easier than the first. With each step, like the train, you pick up not only speed, but momentum. With momentum, you need less energy to move forward faster.
I remember, as a child, helping a grownup push a car. When we started pushing, my body was leaning into it on a sharp angle. It was so hard, even with two people, to get it to move an inch. As the car moved more and more, I was able to stand straighter and the car picked up speed. Then the grownup hopped into the car. I kept pushing. I was amazed that I alone could get the car to go faster and faster and with one arm no less!
When we are inert, any action seems insurmountable. When we are in action, what overwhelmed us before is effortless when we’re moving forward. So our greatest obstacle is the actual action we must do, but our feelings. So it is with a great act of will that we must disregard how we feel, and act anyway.
In the last post, I mentioned the seven tools. One of them, “The Map,” is about having a written plan. This is so important because it is based on your goals, and it lays out the action steps for getting there. A well-crafted plan will break down your goals into small enough chunks so that what seemed so overwhelming is now reduced to a small and simple task that you can do right away. Then it gives you the next small task, and then the next. Take those first steps and you will learn the greatest lesson of all: you, and only you are in control of your life. You are not helpless. You have the power to shape your life into anything you choose it to be.