#8: Don't Worry about Step 64
I'm a worrier. If worrying were an Olympic sport, I'd be a multiple gold medal winner. If they gave Nobel Prizes for worrying, I'd be approximately $1 million richer. I worry a lot. About a lot of things. I've been trying to get better, through therapy and meditation, but it's a journey, for sure. And I know I'm not alone. Millions of people struggle with anxiety, and there's a huge medical-industrial complex that has grown up around the treatment of anxiety.
One of the things that makes me most anxious is worrying about the future—how I'm going to handle X situation or Y problem. I lie awake at night, thinking about some future event, and how I'll react, or deal with it, or prepare for the fallout from it, etc. The best part is, most of these things will never happen. I spend time worrying about possible problems or hypothetical situations, dumping cortisol in my already stressed body for no reason at all. It's one thing to worry about a concrete event that you KNOW will happen, like when I have to negotiate with the bank or have a difficult HR conversation. It's quite another to stress about how I'll get a book deal for a book I haven't even written yet. (True story.)
Now that I'm getting ready to embark on a new project, the stress is even greater. I toss and turn, anxious about how I'll deal with clients (that I don't have), pay myself (with money I haven't earned), market myself (well, that I am trying to do), etc. I can get myself pretty wound up about these future events if I'm not careful. And it's when I'm most wound up that some advice I once gave Brian comes to my rescue. (He likes to repeat it back to me.)
Creative projects, businesses, huge events that scare you and cause worry, etc. are like staircases. You start at the bottom, on step 1. And you have to take every step to get to the top, whatever number of steps that is. You might be able to take a big step here or there, but you can't get to step 64 without first going up steps 1-63. And if you spend time worrying about step 64, you are probably going to stumble on step 5. Or step 20. Or step 37. And if you stumble on those lower steps, the likelihood of making it to step 64 is so much lower. You might stop. You might fall back down to the bottom. But you certainly won't help yourself get to the top.
The best bet, then, when faced with an intimidating "staircase" of work, is to simply focus on the step in front of you. If you are at the bottom, focus on step 1. Make that step the best you can. Leave step 64 for the future. It will still be there, trust me. But when you get there, if all your other steps were intentional, and done well, you'll be in much better shape to tackle whatever that step entails.
That's the mantra: One step at a time. One foot in front of the other. Intentional. Mindful. Focused on what's at hand today, not 63 steps in the future. That's the way to success.