My roommate was trying to get in shape. He talked about the goal often, so I offered to help him stay motivated. However, on the day that we were going to exercise, he was procrastinating.
Finally, as it got later and later, I told him out of frustration that he said he wanted my advice, and, “Step one was to get to the gym before it closes!”
He laughed at my exasperation and we did go to the gym before it closed. Since then saying, “Step one!” has been an inside joke for whenever someone fails to put in the basic effort for a goal they supposedly care about.
Forgetting Step One
I had my own moment of forgetting step one. When I moved to Vancouver, one of my main goals was to meet as many people as possible. I wanted the same rich social life I had built in Winnipeg and in France.
One of my strategies for doing that was to use the site MeetUp.com to join interesting groups and attend their gatherings. But after a few weeks, I had registered for a dozen groups, but hadn’t attended a single meeting. I had forgotten step one.
How often do you forget step one? Wanting to be a successful blogger, but failing to write regularly. Wanting to get in shape, but not showing up at the gym. Wanting to learn a language, but never having conversations with people who speak it.
There’s No Excuse for Skipping Step One
Step one is interesting because it only requires effort. Writing a bestselling novel requires some luck and skill. Writing a novel requires only that you show up to write every morning.
Because step one isn’t dependent on any external factor, it is also a good measure of how committed you are to a goal. If I professed a desire to be a great writer, but I never wrote anything, I’m simply not committed to that goal. There’s no excuse for failing step one.
What was funny about our comment, “Step one!” is that it immediately pointed out the obviousness of our blunders. Wanting to be in shape, but not going to the gym or wanting to meet people but not leaving the apartment were clear failures.
If I had been going to events to meet people 3-5x per week and I still hadn’t made any progress building good friends, that wouldn’t be a step-one failure. From that point, I could honestly say I was putting the effort in, but my strategy or tactics might be off.
Step one is definitely needed for any goal, but it’s rarely enough. As I wrote about in last week’s article, just showing up to the gym wasn’t enough for me to make gains. I needed to be obsessively focused on fitness for a burst of time.
The same is true of any goal. Just showing up and putting in the prerequisite effort won’t necessarily get you there. It requires a good strategy, tactics and often an intensity you don’t get just by showing up.
However, all those things are step two. Unless you can honestly say you’ve completed step one, step two is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter what writing technique you use, if you never sit down in front of a blank page.
Having Your “Step One!” Moment
A new rule I’m trying to enforce is that I’m not allowed to complain about anything unless I’m completing step one. Before I make a comment about being frustrated with a situation, I need to ask myself if I’ve honestly showed up enough.
If I have done step one, then the patient process of experimenting, changing strategies, researching, introspecting and looking for a solution comes into play. But all that mental effort and debugging is a waste if step one remains unfinished.
Reminding myself of step one is also liberating. It short-circuits the unhealthy over-thinking of simple situations. If you aren’t showing up, then there’s no need to carefully think through the situation—just follow step one!
When have you been stuck on step one before? Are you stuck there with any pursuit now? Share your thoughts in the comments!