I’m an impatient person. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’m a “why the bloody hell hasn’t it happened, yet?” That’s the problem when I start to see five steps ahead. I want to skip the first four steps and get right to the end point. And yet, I know that totally ignores opportunities for personal growth and the learning that comes with the sometimes long and tedious journey.
Now, let’s add that I am a recovering perfectionist, which means that I want to make the colossal jump to step five with brilliant strategy, ideal focus, and flawless execution. Kind of like hitting a Dangerfield-esque Triple Lindy with no practice.
Put those things together and you have someone like me who wants to do so much so fast so perfectly that I get overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all and have trouble deciding on the next step. Hello, analysis paralysis.
This tendency (or neurosis if you choose) surfaced at work a few months ago during a planning session with my director. After a few minutes of generating ideas, I was already moving along to what it would take to initiate all the step fives of the master plan for digital fundraising domination. Who has time to wait for colleagues to come on board and help? Who wants to wait for the technology design to be created in order for there to be a shot at success? Who needs to adhere to an organizational strategic plan? Who can…wait, there sure are a lot of things needing to happen…um, which way should we go…oh god it’s just too much I think I’ll just sit over here and stew on this for a while.
It was at this point that my director asked if I ever saw the movie What About Bob? with Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfus. “Well, no,” was my sheepish reply. How could I have not seen this movie? It stars Bill Murray and was filmed at Smith Mountain Lake, near where my wife grew up (and little known fact: she kinda-sorta knows the real-life folks that owned the lake house in the movie). “Then,” she proceeded, “I’m going to introduce you to the idea of baby steps. Baby step to the elevator. Baby step to your desk. Baby step to doing just the first task we talked about. We’ll only get to digital fundraising dominance if we do it with baby steps. And if ever in doubt, refer to the movie.” See, in the movie, Bob is wracked by anxiety and overwhelmed by everything around him. Dr. Marvin’s concept of Baby Steps helps Bob focus on setting small, reasonable goals in order to escape his paralyzing sense of overwhelm.
That photo of Bob above with Baby Steps now is pinned to the wall directly above my laptop at work. It’s also formed a bit of short hand where if I jump too far ahead of plan, the words “baby steps” are merely uttered and I know to pull back. It’s now so ingrained that I toss them back on my director when she’s in danger of leaping forward too quickly.
Does any of this feel familiar to you? I know I’m not the only one who could use a reminder to practice a little more patience and focus on that next small step to get where we really want to go. So next time you experience overwhelm, remember…baby steps.