The Next Step

There have been many times in life when I would like to have had all the answers to a big question laid out in detail for me:

  • What should I be “when I grow up”? (as a freshman in college)
  • How exactly should I parent this child? (when I delivered my first child)
  • Should I homeschool my kids thru high school? (when Kinder loomed ahead)
  • What will my business look like? (when I was just starting out)

The reality is that there was no way to answer those questions definitely – with all the detail and guarantee of success. I think that was really at the heart of each question – how could I make sure this turned out right or best?

In essence, when looking ahead to the future, we feel like we should be able to anticipate every circumstance and question and then figure out the correct answer  – before we are actually even confronted with the specific experience. For many people this causes much anxiety and stops them from making a decision or moving forward. They just can’t “see” how things will exactly work.

As a planner, I have found value in trying to anticipate the need or circumstance in order to be prepared, but usually I miss. I bring more supplies than were necessary. I forget other things. A question comes out of “left field.” I stress about something that doesn’t even happen. Life just doesn’t always turn out in the way we expect.

So, I’ve learned that instead of trying to game each and every situation and be stressed by the burden of “over-preparing,” to just focus on the next step, the one right in front of me. If I were walking on a trail in the dark, with a flashlight, it would be that area right in front of me.

Because that’s what I can see, that’s what I have real-time data for. So, as a parent, instead of trying to figure out if my son is going to be able to play soccer in college, I just need to think about now – is it something he loves now and does it work with the other goals of our family now. Sure, it helps to seek out wisdom from others and to have great examples of successes or failures to pull from when making decisions like these. But we must remember that each story is unique; your son’s story is unique, and who knows what life holds for him just down the road.

When we decided to homeschool, it was so freeing to just decide to teach Kindergarten. One of my friends gave me that wisdom. Just make a decision for one year. And so we did. Each year, we still evaluate if it is a great thing for our kids and for our family overall. If circumstances were to change, we’re open to switching gears.

In business, there’s the strong pull of a need of security to feel like you have everything figured out before you decide to take that first step. But instead, I think most people would find much more freedom and confidence if they just decided to take one step in a direction they’d like to head. Just one. Then as they see a little further and gain more clarity, they can know how to take the next and the following.

With each step we take, we have more information, experience, and wisdom from which to draw. And we often forget that WE change with each step we take. A journey changes us as we gain more perspective and learn from failure and discover more about ourselves. It’s just inevitable. But very difficult to anticipate.

So, your question might be big or little, in the grand scheme of life, but how would it help you to just make a decision about the thing right in front of you and take just the next step?

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