This blog post is about the importance of getting started, plan your work and not not be completely stationary! It all starts with one small step. Plan Now! Do it now!
Everybody can answer this question: “How do you eat an elephant”? The answer is of course – “one bite at a time”.
So why isn’t everyone a Champion Achiever of New Year’s Resolutions, a Master of Project Completion and a Wizard of Perfect Work/Life Balance? That’s a tougher question.
One explanation is homeostasis. It’s a relatively new word, coined in the mid-1920s by Walter Bradford Cannon, Harvard Medical School physiologist. It literally means ‘similar (homeo) standing still (stasis).’
Dr. Cannon used it to describe the systems the body uses to try to keep equilibrium. They act to keep your temperature, blood pressure, sugar levels, mineral levels, etc., stable and balanced - ‘standing still’. Homeostasis is essential to survival.
Change is hard, deliberately
These days homeostasis is used to apply to software systems, social groups, psychological states and the activities of our daily lives. We know that we fall into patterns - like when and what we eat, even though common sense and medical advice might dictate otherwise. Also how often we exercise, the route we travel to work, how we store our clothes, how we treat certain people and so on. The formation of habits saves us from the excruciating task of critical thinking and analysis.
From the beginnings of time wise people have known how hard it is to change, to disrupt homeostasis. Your chances of making a really big, instant change in anything are slim. Our systems, mental and physical, are set up to work against us and to preserve the status quo. But what wise people have also said, time and again, the way to accomplish a big change or major achievement is - one small step at a time.
Fifty years before the word ‘homeostasis’ appeared famous American author Mark Twain said - ‘Habit is habit and not to be flung out the window by anyone, but coaxed downstairs one step at a time’. Two and a half thousand years before that, the ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao Tse gave us ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step.’
Well, the first small step couldn’t have been smaller for Steven Spielberg. Today he’s an Academy award winning director whose films have grossed the most money in film history. His first small step was simply showing up. He found an unpaid, administrative intern job at Universal Studios when he was just seventeen. After the internship finished, he guessed gate security would recognise him and let him through, so he simply bought a suit and a briefcase and carried on showing up. He watched and spoke to directors making films on set, day after day. The rest is history, and history has many more examples than we can list here.
India’s only female Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi advised:”Have a bias toward action - let's see something happen now. You can break that big plan into small steps and take the first step right away”. How do you make sure the first step happens? Take the wisdom of international business guru Tom Peters. “The only thing on earth that never lies to you is your calendar. That’s why I’m a fanatic on the topic of time management”. (2014 McKinsey Interview). Put your first small step into the calendar.
When action delivers a result, you’ll see your next small step. A clear idea of all the small steps needed to get the big result gives you your project. But for the achievement of big change, just focus on the next small step, with its date and time for execution clearly written in the calendar.
Good luck in taking the first step!