“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”
– Dale Carnegie
It’s easy to sit at home and create grand plans for all the things you want to do in life, the places you want to go, the achievements you want to make, the stuff you want to have. That’s the easy bit, we can all do that, the dreaming and wishing and thinking. And they are very important steps (for it would serve no purpose if one were to rush out into the world and just do whatever arose at the time with no plan or thought for what one wanted to achieve), but they are just the first steps.
And, alas, for many people they remain the only steps actually taken, which results in, well, not a lot really.
I know I’ve often had great dreams, grand plans, a wish-list as long as my arm, all things I would do “one day”. Yet no matter how good they were, no matter how admirable the dream, I would do no more than sit and think about it and wish for it and then busily get on with not doing anything about it.
Why did I just sit there and think about it, rather than getting on and doing it?
Almost certainly for the same reasons that you have oh so many plans you think about but never act upon – I didn’t feel confident enough to tackle it, I didn’t feel I had the courage to start because, well, what if it went wrong or if I went about it the wrong way or…
And so the more I sat thinking rather than doing, the more this lack of courage and confidence grew, my fears grew, and I was consumed by massive doubts about ever being able to do it. Which all formed a rather destructive vicious circle.
You may know the feeling – “I would love to do x if only I knew how to start but I don’t think I’ll be good enough and I might get it wrong…
But as with any great endeavour, it is not necessary to start on the entire task from day 1; indeed, that is the worst possible way to go about things. As the great philosopher Lao-Tzu famously said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”. Break down your grand vision into several (or even lots) of smaller, manageable steps, each of which takes you closer and closer to achieving your grand vision, each small step bringing the end ever-closer.
And as you complete that very first step, something magical happens.
Not only are you now one step closer to your destination, of course, but the completion of that small but vital first step instills in you a sense of achievement, and almost unconsciously and imperceptibly it increases your courage an your confidence; the very fat of actually achieving something always boosts our own confidence, for it presents with us concrete proof that we can do something. This new confidence and courage, small as it may be, journeys with you through the second step where it is boosted once again, and so it goes, snowballing into an unstoppable flow of confidence and courage, a growing wave which carries you through your journey, feeding off each complete step, until you find that not only have you reached your destination, you have surpassed your expectations along the way.
All because you ignored those fears and doubts and took that first small but vital step.
Take a moment to pause and consider – what goal or plan do you have, something you would love to do, but which you are too scared to tackle or which you feel you do not have the ability to tackle? It could be something big or small; you may want to take a few minutes to really consider the question. Go on, do that now and then come back…
…OK, so you have this task you would like to complete but you are filled with doubt and uncertainty and fear about your ability to do it.
Which is absolutely fine, because you don’t need to do all of it, at least not yet.
Imagine that task as your journey of a thousand miles.
And now, break it down into smaller steps.
And break each of those steps into even smaller ones.
Keep going, until you find that the first small step is, when you sit back and examine it, something which you feel you could achieve – it may take a little time, you may need to investigate some options, but you have that small first step.
Now take it.
And notice how good it feels once you have completed that step – it’s a bit of a confidence boost, isn’t it? You have succeeded in taking that step – congratulations!
And now take the second step, and notice that it too boosts your confidence as you successfully complete it.
And notice also that even if you take a small step and it seems to go wrong, because it is a small step the small error is easily corrected (and lessons gratefully learned in the process) which means that it doesn’t derail your journey; if anything, it simply makes you even more determined to complete your journey because you’ve just found that obstacles and problems along the way are completely resolvable and that in fact they merely add to the ultimate enjoyment of the journey as a whole.
Keep on with the small steps, one at a time, until one day you suddenly notice how much more confident you feel, how those old doubts now look so silly and insignificant as you March purposefully on your journey, breeding confidence and courage with every enjoyable step of the way!