Small steps, Jason is what a former mentor and CEO once said to me when I was feeling frustrated from a series of failed test trials at work. I never forgot that even though the words are so simple, it resonated deeply in me coming from someone who leaned on me for the success of the project and had complete faith in my efforts.
Every now and again those words pop up in my head especially when I reflect on how far I’ve come as a man over these last 5 years (and change). Not only am I talking about my mental health, but as a dad, friend and much more. I struggled before with managing my anger. I was the guy who cursed in traffic, worried anxiously over little things beyond my control such as the weather and other people’s decisions, and was fragile when it came to my self-esteem.
Anything worth pursuing takes time. When I think about how wonderful it’s been being with D, I don’t think about the immediate chemistry I felt on our first date. Instead, I think about my journey of personal development that brought me to her. My relationship with my son also didn’t happen overnight. It’s taken years of understanding him and learning how I can become a more patient father. I also took the time to learn about his passions as well, one of which is basketball. I learned how to play and sat down to watch games on TV with him for years to get to the space where I am today with him. And whenever I feel a little blue, I have a wealth of resources to better cope, rather than drive blindly and white knuckling my way through problems. This took years for me to accumulate my ever-growing list of resources.
What do small steps look like?
I remember when I was in my state of depression, I wanted time to speed up so I can get over feeling down. What I realized was that my depression was real and I needed to acknowledge it and give it the time it deserved. I learned that our feelings of highs and lows are much like waves and the best thing we can do with our feelings is to be present and ride them through, knowing that the feelings will subside and balance will be restored. I also found journaling helped tremendously. When I felt really blue, I’d document my thoughts along with the time and manually tracked my feelings throughout the day. This helped me visualize when I’d get windows of positive energy, restoring hope and motivation for me.
D recently explained to me that in order to get to a place of motivation, there’s steps prior to that. We don’t get from zero to feeling motivated overnight. There’s a critical step of contemplation. Contemplation is the spark or idea you get that gets you thinking, is this possible? Can I do this? Would it be a good fit for me? To get to that contemplation step, we need to remain open to new ideas; whether it’s a link someone sent us, or an article you recently read or learned about, we need to plant the seeds. If you can’t muster enough energy to plant seeds for yourself, allow others who care about you to give you ideas. Sooner or later, one of the ideas will resonate and get you contemplating about the possibilities. But just brace yourself for the feelings of motivation that will soon follow!
Permission to Explore
I grew up learning that I had to stick with just one option when it came to deciding upon a career. Like many, I was only 18 years old when that big life decision was forced upon me: What career path will I take? It’s ludicrous to think that at only 18, I was going to decide what my 40+ year career would potentially look like. Whether you’re 18 or 48, I’ve learned that it’s important to give myself permission to try different things in life, afterall I’m not committed to pursue everything I try. And for the things I do enjoy, I can then decide if I want to make that commitment. If we don’t allow ourselves to explore different ventures in life, we’ll never know what our true passions are. We can be so funneled to believe life has to follow a straight road. Embrace the offroad, have fun and explore!
After a certain point, it’s always a good idea to look back to see how far you’ve come. Much like this blog, we want to be able to give ourselves the pat on the back. I sometimes read my old journals (and even my old blogs…yikes!) and smile knowing how far I’ve progressed in my journey. Much like running a marathon, it’s always about my personal best. I measure my success against no other than with myself. When you look back at your journey, it doesn’t take much to appreciate how far you’ve come. Maybe there’s a new friend you made, or a new skill you acquired. Maybe you did something different this past year instead of following the same routine. Maybe you lost a job and learned to polish up your resume. Maybe you lost a member of your family and in turn, built a closer connection with another family member. There’s always a silver lining to everything you go through if you choose to look for it, and not fall victim to your past. When I reflect on my life, I grew up in a home of abuse, anger and family violence. You’d think I’d be homeless, in jail or dealing with my own family strife, right? Instead, because of the strife I faced, I became an author over the years and share my story to inspire hope in others. Truth is, I became a better dad and man as a result of my past struggles.