That First Step
By Charles Hopkins
Published 10/23/2007 | Entrepreneur
We all know it and we've all had experiences where we realized the
truth of it. The first step is often the hardest one to take. Not
necessarily because it is so complicated. Although in some situations
it can be hard because so many things are unclear at the start. The
main reason that getting started with something can be so 'difficult'
is because to take that first step requires making a decision and then
take it one step further by taking action on that decision.
This goes for babies as well as for adults. A child that starts to
walk isn't sure if it can. After all walking is quite a balancing act.
Especially if you've never done it before. The child already has the
ability to walk. They have the necessary leg muscles and they also have
a certain amount of balance since they can already stand. What they
lack is confidence. It is mainly this lack of confidence that will keep
them from taking that first step. Once the child discovers that it can
move around quite easily, as long as they don't try to cross too much
distance at once, they become pretty comfortable. Before you know it
you wish they were back to their crawling days; there is no more
You would think that we grow over this "lack of confidence" thing
as we get older. After all, as we grow we develop the ability to
reason. And that should give us the ability to make better assessments
about what we can and can not do. Apparently this is a bit over
optimistic. Our ability to make good assessments is probably slightly
overrated. Most decisions, if not all of them, are still made on an
emotional basis, not a rational one.
Of course the first step is often used as a metaphor. But taking
this literal can help in driving this point home. Tony Robbins, in his
Unleash the Power Within seminars, organizes firewalks for thousands of
attendees at a time. In firewalking the first step is most definitely
the hardest. After the fist step all you do is just keep on walking.
You don't think about every step that you take. You just put one foot
in front of the other and focus on the person standing at the other end
of the burning hot coals. It's that very first step that takes all the
courage. The other steps are merely an extension. It doesn't take much
courage to keep on going once you've started walking. Stopping is
pretty much the last thing on your mind.
It's like this with many other challenges in life as well. Many
times we fuss about decisions; things we might want to do, know we
should do but somehow just put off again and again. We dread what might
happen if things don't turn out perfect. We worry about everything that
can go wrong and we develop into masters at coming up with unlimited
numbers of excuses. Of course we would rather call these "sound reasons
for not moving forward". After all "excuse" is such an ugly word.
Even if you've done something similar before and you were
successful at it, you can still get scared another time around. After
all, circumstances could be different this time. Perhaps your
performance isn't what it used to be. You could have gotten rusty in
some areas. Maybe you were just lucky the other time. This phenomenon
can even occur in firewalking. For example; imagine you're at a
firewalk at a Tony Robbins event in London in February. Around that
time of year it will be pretty cold outside. Due to the amount of
participants, about 12.000 at such an event, it takes quite a while
before you actually get to the burning bed of coals. They have set up
the site in such a way that all the people can walk the fire within a
60 to 90 minute timeframe. Before you get to the fire your feet will be
so numbed by the cold that you could hardly care less about some
glowing coals under your feet. For a short while you may even consider
slowing down your pace so you can warm your feet a little. Now take the
same firewalk experience in June, when temperatures are a lot more
pleasant. This time when you stand in front of the bed of coals your
feet won't be numb at all, and you know it. The thought of storming
across does seem a bit more challenging when you realize this.
Some doubt is fairly logical when you're trying new things. Even
when you have proof that you've done something very similar before and
succeeded, fear and doubt can creep back in and stop you dead in your
tracks. But if you've done your homework. If you've properly prepared
and you know the reasons why it will work, don't spend too much time
worrying. It won't do you any good. Just focus on what you need to do
and remember that after that first step it all gets easier.