Neil Armstrong stepped out of Apollo 11 and onto the surface of the moon, famously stating, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” If he was willing to take that first step into the unknown, then how do any of us have an excuse not to take the first step in… well, anything?
I know that it’s easier said than done, but I’ve had many instances where once I’ve gotten over the first hurdle, the rest is like skiing downhill. As an example, I’m currently working on trying to get a six-pack by year-end. After many years of eating away my stress through Seamless, I was about seven sizes too large and working on my eighth. I knew a change had to be made, but I had a lot of trouble getting myself to start.
Write Down Your Goal
Arnold Schwarzenegger always says to write down specific goals. General goals are great, but they don’t really hold you accountable. I’ve found that I can come up with excuses why any outcome either met or failed to meet my goal. No, in order to keep from backsliding, you need to have a very specific goal (to avoid misinterpretation), that is written (to hold you accountable), and a timeline (to keep you from procrastinating).
Last December, I was fortunate enough to travel to Punta del Este, Uruguay, to celebrate New Years. If you’ve never been, it’s a beautiful place, filled with beautiful people. When I would look around, it seemed like everyone was in extremely good shape. At least everyone except me. As I was scarfing down a fried seafood platter on the beach, I turned to my buddy and complained, “you know, I wish I could look like those guys, but I can’t.” He looked at me incredulously, saying, “well you can, but you’re not exactly doing anything about it. I bet you can look like that in a year.” In my foolishness, I took that bet.
The bet gave me a specific goal: “Get a six-pack”, and a specific timeline: “by end of year 2017”. Now I just had to figure out how I was going to turn what I call a “donut” pack into a six-pack in one year. I was doomed.
Preparation is Key
Taking the first step can be overwhelming. Like Neil Armstrong, you’re stepping into the unknown. You can, however, do your homework in order to better understand and prepare for what steps you will need to take. With understanding also comes a plan, which should serve to lessen your anxiety.
After I made the bet and returned to the States, I felt overwhelmed. I had no idea where to start. I had tried a few of the diet fads before, like the South Beach Diet and Atkins, but none of them really worked for me for more than a month. Since I didn’t know where to begin, I could at least do my homework. I read as many books, articles, and blogs about nutrition and exercise as I could. I also spoke to nutritionists and personal trainers. Eventually, I was able to form a plan to try to achieve my goal: I would cut my daily caloric intake, watch my macronutrients, which meant lowering my consumption of alcohol from banker level to normal levels, and increase the number of times I went to the gym.
Baby Steps – Subdividing Each Step
If the first step is too overwhelming, just break it down into the smallest parts that make-up the step. It doesn’t even have to be in any particular order. It’s easier to take 1/100th of a step than it is to take one whole step. Once you’ve gotten the first step down to its constituent parts, start by doing just one.
My to-do list for my first week was daunting:
Cardio: 4x a week
Weightlifting: 4x a week
Daily Calories: 2100
But since the baby steps were also laid out for me, I just picked one. I said that for day 1, my mini-goal was to eat only 40 grams of fat, without regard for the rest of the metrics. It was a little difficult, but definitely doable. Then the next day, I said that I would eat only 40 grams of fat, and then go for a jog. It wasn’t so bad. By the end of the week, I had gotten through 50% of my first step. But once I got going with even a mini-step, it got easier to take the next mini-step, and eventually I finished taking my first step.
One Step at a Time
When you’re hiking a mountain, you don’t just jump from the base to the top in one go. You will need to take a steady number of steps to get to the top. You can choose to run, or you can choose to walk. Either way, it’s all a series of steps, so don’t worry about how far you have left, just take it one step at a time.
About six months into my routine, I noticed that none of my suits were fitting anymore. My pants were falling down without a belt. I hadn’t really weighed myself during these 6 months and was just taking following the routine day by day. As I stood on the scale that day, there was a noticeable difference, I had lost almost 40 pounds. All the small steps of every day of the past six months had finally added up without my notice.
What if You Falter?
Sometimes you miss a step, it happens. What do you do? Do you work extra hard the next week to make it up, or do you give up? Neither. Instead, pick yourself up, take another step, and keep going. Don’t wallow if you miss a step. Luckily, you likely won’t have to start over. Even if you do, then just take it step by step, and you’ll get there eventually.
Haters Gonna Hate
Get support. Friends, family, or your pet turtle. Surround yourself with positive attitudes that will encourage you to keep going and hold you accountable if you try to stop. Plenty of people will tell you what you’re doing isn’t going to work. Screw them.
So? Now that you know how to take the first step, what’re you waiting for?