25 years ago I owned a small chain of toy stores. Things weren’t going well, and my stress level was off the charts. I was completely overwhelmed with the daunting challenge of trying to turn things around, and found myself in a deep state of paralyzing depression.
I asked a good friend and mentor if he had any advice. He did. And to this day it remains the best piece of guidance I have ever received. “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” he said, quoting the legendary Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu.
“Make one change today,” he said. “Do one small thing that helps to make things better. Just a little thing that you can easily accomplish in a single day.”
“Do one thing today. Then tomorrow do another little thing. And another the next day, and so on. It won’t seem like much each day, but by the end of a month, you will have done 30 little things. By the end of three months, you’ll have done close to 100 little things. Individually, each action won’t achieve any miraculous results, but the collective difference will surprise you.
I decided to try it beginning that day, and was astonished by the results.
After just three weeks, two things had started to happen. The first was the noticeable and steady climb in sales. The second was the similar impact on my emotional state. The effect of finishing each day with a small sense of accomplishment and forward motion took a major bite out of my stress levels, and washed away the horrible feeling of helplessness.
It is a lesson I have carried with me and applied ever since, and one I think we all can learn from.
We All Get Overwhelmed
Sometimes we get overwhelmed at work. So much to do, so little time. So many problems, deadlines, roadblocks and unexpected turns. The ongoing stress and anxiety can be profoundly debilitating. The next time you find yourself in that position, try Lao Tzu’s advice. Take that first baby-step. Find one small thing that needs to be done, and get it done. Then find something new the next day, then the next and the next. After two weeks, you’ll feel a whole lot better about yourself and your future. I promise.
“When nothing’s going right, the worst thing you can do is nothing”