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Most likely, we don’t know each other, but I’ll dare to guess we have at least one thing in common: who we are today is not who we want to be tomorrow.

You wouldn’t have picked up this book if it weren’t true. There is still so much I want to achieve in this life. I want to be a better person. I want to leave a bigger legacy. I want to build something great. I want my life to have impact beyond what it would if today were my last day.

As big as my dreams may be, my doubts are often bigger. Does my past define my future? Am I too old? Am I too young? Do I really have what it takes?

My hunch is, you’ve probably been plagued by questions like these. Questions are good, but sometimes we don’t even bother to ask them—we jump straight to telling ourselves, “I’m too old, I’m too young, I’m not smart enough. I could never do that.”

If we do this long enough, we lose all hope to dream. We don’t dare to reach for something bigger, for fear that we’ll just be disappointed. The moment a hopeful thought seeps up, we slam it back down. We might even pat ourselves on the back for not allowing that annoying little dream to ruin our day. “Take that, nagging feeling! I’ll teach you not to interrupt my comfortable life.” The worst part is, we usually don’t even realize we’re doing this.

We’ve become distracted by the “proverbial mile” that stands between us and our goals. It’s sometimes our biggest opponent because the enormity of the work needed to achieve our dreams is crippling. And that’s the problem: we see everything we need to accomplish instead of looking for the one thing we can accomplish—the step.

When we focus on the mile, we lose sight of the step. When we lose sight of the step, we don’t move. And when we don’t move, our dreams, our desires, and potentially our destiny go unfulfilled.

It’s a natural part of what we do. In fact, we must look at the mile. It’s typically the first thing we do when trying to size up our ability to achieve a goal. If we never looked at the mile, we would never know what it takes to get where we want to go. The problem is not in looking at the mile but in getting stuck focusing on the mile. Our brains are constantly trying to evaluate where we are in relation to the mile and what’s still left to accomplish our goals. Too often, the mile can feel overwhelming. That’s why we need to train ourselves to think and act differently, focusing on one step at a time.

The mile (aka our ferocious enemy) is not as big and bad as he may seem. But don’t take him for granted. He’ll jump up and have you stuck before you realize what’s happening. In fact, his job is to trick us into believing we can’t accomplish the thing we desire, therefore rendering us stagnant. He’s a liar.

My wife and I were watching one of our favorite shows, NCIS, and one of the main characters, Ducky, made this statement: “When you are overwhelmed, do something you know you can accomplish, and suddenly you won’t be quite so overwhelmed.”

I love this statement. It sums up a lot of what the word step means to me. It’s a powerful principle, yet so simple to understand. Typically, in those moments of being paralyzed by the overwhelming number of tasks we believe it will take to accomplish our goals, we simply can’t move, or we can’t decide how to move.

We can’t move because we’re looking at the wrong thing. We’re looking at everything we need to accomplish instead of looking at the one thing we can accomplish.

The great news is that the biggest setbacks can be overcome by shifting your focus back to the smallest step. This kind of refocusing is not a one-time occurrence. The mile will tempt you again and again, and that’s OK. When you’re overwhelmed, stop and think about one small thing you can do now. Then make that your only goal.

My simple advice is to find your step, take it, and then take the next, and the next so that five or ten years down road, you don’t look back with regret about what you could have accomplished, but instead look back with satisfaction about what you have accomplished.

“The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”

—Chinese Proverb

Step is written by Chris Capehart