Zero to One: the hardest step

I have the privilege of working with what I see as the entire breadth human abilities. From those who are struggling to maintain a healthy level of general functioning, to those cautiously approaching a positive change, to those who are taking their performance to an even higher level.

Although dealing with a high achieving individual and someone in the throws of depression can feel like different worlds, it can be useful to see them as points on the same continuum. And this perspective can prove as valuable for people approaching a change.

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When clients struggling with weight first set foot in the gym for a meeting with me, they can be terrified.  Wide-eyed, mouth open, slightly fearful shock is the look I sometimes see.  It says, ‘Really? I’ll never be able to do that!’

At that beginning point, starting from zero, it’s like there’s an insurmountable barrier between them and losing weight, being fit and happy in their bodies.  They see a vision of the goal, and it seems so far off, it’s impossible.  When you’re at zero, 10 looks a hell of a long way to go.  But when they stick around, despite fearing that they will either die or look terribly silly, they realise that they are in good company.  Everyone is on their own journey, and taking that first step has been hard.  But once they’ve made that that first step, others follow more easily.   Zero to one is the hardest step to make.

This principle applies whether the goal is to lose weight, improve existing abilities or manage depression.  Success starts with good goal setting skills. Behind every change people achieve lies a road paved with uncertainty.  They wouldn’t have known how their efforts would pay off, or even that they’d be good at it.  But they would have consistently made choices towards that goal.  Set-backs will happen, too, but they’ve tried to notice these and actively confront them.  Stepping into the gym that first time is an active choice to confront the barriers between the present reality and the goal.  That step from zero to one is probably bigger, harder and scarier than the rest of the steps along the way, and when we do it, it deserves congratulations.

Make goal setting work for you by deciding on an appropriate goal.  Whether we want to lose excess weight or achieve something else, goals have to be set at the right level to be useful rather than an obstacle.  No matter what level you’re starting at, consider the smaller steps on the way to your personal goal.  Being too focused on the big goal can make it feel unrealistic.  Instead think of the steps you need to take to take.  It’s ok if you don’t know what all the steps there might be right now.  You only need to start with the first one.

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