I recently sat down with a friend who was down on his luck. His situation, which had been worsening for years, felt hopeless. Like so many Americans, he was in a state of despair and just couldn’t get unstuck.
When I asked him what he was doing to improve things, he rattled off a long list of obstacles. He had obviously spent many thoughtful hours contemplating all the things that were holding him back. All the reasons he couldn’t change direction.
To be sure, he was facing many real roadblocks. Many of the same issues that are plaguing our country. But he really didn’t answer my question. He was solely focused on the problem and refused to let his mind explore possible solutions.
I decided to press him. “Okay. I get that you have many, many tough obstacles. How about this… Tell me ONE thing you could do to improve things? Just one. Doesn’t have to be game-changing. Just one small positive action.”
When the pressure of solving the world’s problems with a magical potion was off, the conversation took a sharp turn for the better. “Well, I could go to the library and start learning more about my industry to become better at my job.”
“Great! Go on,” I beamed.
“I could start going for walks three times a week to drop some extra weight. I could also cut out fried foods. Oh, and I could spend more evenings engaging with the kids instead of hitting the couch.”
The guy who had been as tightly closed as a Wal-Mart on Christmas day transformed before my eyes. His energy skyrocketed. His list of small ideas compounded into a solid plan of attack to turn his life around.
While it’s overwhelming to try to solve all your problems at once, the act of putting just one small change in place can create the momentum you need. Find one thing you can do to improve your condition and do consistently it for a week. It will jumpstart your situation like a triple shot of espresso.
Here’s a powerful way to look at it: You are getting paid to train. Athletes spend 90% of their time in training, and because their performance improves they command huge salaries on the field. Your career is no different, except there’s a slight delay. When you study your craft, go to the gym, eat healthier food, read a book or take a class, that is a high-paying effort that will be paid out in future earnings since you’ll be better equipped to drive your career forward.
The same is true in our community. We need to identify positive action and get moving instead of wallowing in hopelessness. We need to attack our challenges with vigor, and realize that with each small step forward, we’re earning a high rate of return by ensuring a brighter future. This week, look around and find a single change you can make.
One small step. The payback will be priceless.