When we use the term baby steps, we often do so with an inherent judgment, as though someone taking baby steps forward is not to be taken seriously. Imagine a news story that describes one politician’s plan as making “great strides” while another’s represents only “baby steps.” Our inner judge might well interpret that to mean that the second politician is perhaps too cautious and uncertain while the first is confident and self-assured and knows where he is going.
The truth of the matter, however,
is that we underestimate
what it takes to make baby steps.
Babies and toddlers, the baby step experts, experience the world at a heightened level of awareness, using all of their senses to take in new data and expand their knowledge base to achieve new goals. Maybe we denigrate baby steps because their goal is often a simple one: a parent’s hug, a much-loved toy, a cookie or just a frolic in the direction of greater freedom.
The fact is that the wild, wobbly gait of the new walker defies our assessment that baby steps are cautious. They are not.
Appearances to the contrary,
baby steps are bold and intrepid,
risking injury or failure
with hope and a brave heart.
When adults take baby steps
to improve their lives,
they are always on journeys
of great courage and importance.
In fact, some very famous people have honored the small destination-conscious steps that move all of us forward.
What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step. ―Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step. ―Martin Luther King, Jr.
Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit. ―Conrad Hilton
Whoever wants to reach a distant goal must take small steps. ―Helmut Schmidt
I dream of men who take the next step instead of worrying about the next thousand steps. ―Theodore Roosevelt
Your mind, this globe of awareness, is a starry universe. When you push off with your foot, a thousand new roads become clear. ―Rumi, thirteenth-century Persian poet
My client Lily will proudly tell you that she “walked [her] way out of depression, taking baby steps, one at a time.” Lily is someone who would be described as strong but not aggressive. Giant strides are not her style. She is contemplative and serious—an introvert with a wry wit and a surprising humility about a lifetime of accomplishments.
Lily and I first worked together when she participated in a life transitions group I facilitated. When the group sessions were complete, she chose to continue her personal growth work with me one-on-one.
“That discussion group set my feet on a spiritual journey. Along the way I discovered, as many people do, that my spiritual journey had actually started long before. I just didn’t recognize it until I stood in the backwash of many traumatic years and felt ready at last to see the path I was on,” Lily said.
“The focus of the discussion group was ‘The Art of Change: Flourishing in Uncertain Times.’ The insights resonated with me so powerfully that I knew I needed to continue exploring where I was and what the next steps might be. I’d gained some new language and tools and could see an open door before me where I’d never even noticed a door before.”
Life is actually an endless cycle of transition—honoring what has been, cherishing what is, learning when and how to say good-bye while keeping our hearts open to an unknown future that has yet to reveal itself.
Promotion or layoff. Marriage or divorce. A new birth or an empty nest. Experiencing serious health challenges or a success we’re not sure we’ll be able to handle. We are all always in some stage of transition. Lily did an excellent job of describing one of the challenges for people in transition: they not only don’t see an open door, but they often can’t see any door at all.
The transition from that discussion group to working with a life coach was a baby step that would turn out to be extremely powerful. While Lily had known me personally for more than a year, she wasn’t familiar with life coaching at all. Like many others, she found that this insight-filled modality helped her recognize blocks and strengthen her own self-awareness. In her words, “Without self-awareness, you not only don’t see the blocks, but you also don’t see the opportunities.”
Although at the outset she couldn’t articulate precisely what she hoped to accomplish by working with me, Lily trusted and followed her own intuition, certain she had gotten a glimpse of that open door and wanted to know how to step through it.
Baby steps help us
use all of our senses
to take in new data and
expand our knowledge base
to achieve new goals.
Over time, she used her growing self-awareness to identify dreams and goals that were no longer black and white but filled with color and a new energy.
“I knew that energy didn’t come from Deborah; it came from within me. Working with her helped me look at my life in new ways that released my own energy and made it sing. I now choose my ‘little battles’ with faith and a happy heart.” Here are Lily’s new key aspirations and inspirations:
- I aspire to see with my heart into the hearts of those around me.
- I aspire to treat myself and others with love, respect, curiosity, compassion and gratitude.
- I aspire to open myself to grace, letting it flow into and through me, guiding me through the day.
- I aspire to recognize the Divine design for me and be open to following the bread crumbs on my path.
- I aspire to finish this life in harmony with God and myself.
Viewing these aspirations and inspirations in terms of Abraham Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs, it is clear that Lily is functioning at the highest level, focusing on love, belonging, esteem, respect, creativity and spirituality.
The energy and ability to pursue dreams
and make changes originate within.
Her life is an example of just how high you can climb, taking one baby step at a time, when you are willing to trust yourself and the Universe.
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