We’ve all heard the quote that a journey of thousand miles begins with a single step. The secret is to keep making steps consistently. Progress in life consists in continuing to make these small steps again and again and again. Those who have difficulty making progress often only see each small step by itself and fail to keep in mind the cumulative effect of all the small steps taken together.
Consider how many of the successes in our lives consist of small steps. Wealth is built in small steps by investing a little bit every month for decades. We raise our children in small steps by engaging with them every day for decades. Life itself evolved in small steps. The best image of this is provided by Richard Dawkins in his book Climbing Mount Improbable where he relates the parable of Mount Improbable: " Mount Improbable rears up from the plain, lofting its peaks dizzily to the rarefied sky. The towering, vertical cliffs of Mount Improbable can never, it seems, be climbed. Dwarfed like insects, thwarted mountaineers crawl and scrabble along the foot, gazing hopelessly at the sheer, unattainable heights. They shake their tiny, baffled heads and declare the brooding summit forever unscalable.
"Our mountaineers are too ambitious. So intent are they on the perpendicular drama of the cliffs, they do not think to look round the other side of the mountain. There they would find not vertical cliffs and echoing canyons but gently inclined grassy meadows graded steadily and easily towards distant uplands... The sheer height of the peak doesn't matter, so long as you don't try to scale it in a single bound. Locate the mildly sloping path and, if you have unlimited time, the ascent is only as formidable as the next step."
We all have goals in our lives that we wish to attain and often we wish we could attain them quickly. We want to get out of debt, become wealthy, lose weight, attain spiritual enlightenment and we want these things now. But, the path to each seems as insurmountable as Mount Improbable. What we have to do is find our way around to the other side where the gently inclined slope makes progress much easier because it is incremental.
I think the key to success in whatever endeavor you choose can be inferred from this image. Do one small thing and keep doing it. If you want to save money, start by saving a small amount every month and keep doing it every month. If you want to get out of debt start by paying a small amount more every month on your smallest debt and keep doing it every month.
Whatever you choose to do to improve your life, you can use this "small steps" method.
KEVIN J. BROWNE
Philosopher / Educator
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