Sometimes making progress when you jump into something new can feel as precarious as walking a tightrope. You're up to your eyeballs in the new and unfamiliar, and you're struggling to stay upright.
As I was watching a tightrope walker on a Cirque du Soleil DVD the other day, it occurred to me that there was a lesson there to apply to our careers and our lives in general. Here are some of the thoughts that came up.
Focus on change where it happens: Right here & now
The tightrope walker had to cross a huge gap from one platform to the other. But to get there, he couldn't be focused on the whole distance. He had to keep his attention in the present moment. He had to focus on the step he was taking. Getting caught up in thinking about the whole distance would only serve to distract him.
So many of us look at our goals and get distracted by the big picture. We get caught up in fantasies about what is going to happen and neglect the nuts and bolts work that needs to be done right here and now. Or we let fear of falling somewhere along the line keep us from putting our best focused effort into the present moment.
When you focus on doing your best in the step you're taking right now, the future takes care of itself.
Take a small step and build on it
Sometimes staying in balance is the result of simply not throwing yourself offbalance. The tightrope walker didn't take big open strides as he walked forward. Instead, he put one foot immediately in front of the other, then slid it forward.
One benefit of doing that was that there was a minimum amount of time for his foot to be potentially off track and throw his balance off.
That got me thinking of how we can do the same. Essentially it's about taking a step in the right direction and building on it, rather than feeling like we need to get it all done in one giant leap.
Any number of things can throw us off balance as we're creating something new. Uncertainty. Fear of failure. Not knowing how to do something. Feeling overwhelmed. Not feeling up to the task. The list goes on (and on, and on).
Taking small steps and building on them is one way to minimize the likeliness that those things will knock you completely over. As you take steps, you gain insight, understanding, and a level of mastery that you can apply to moving forward.
Use your vision and goals to help keep you on track
Finally, as the tightrope walker slid his foot forward, the wire acted as a guide for where to keep his center of gravity. It's the same in our efforts to move forward in life, except in our case the guidance comes from sliding our feet along the trajectory that leads to the goal and the vision.
It's easy to get lost and off balance as you move towards your goal. The busy demands of life, the shiny new ideas and opportunities, they can all distract us from what we originally set out to do.
Make it a frequent habit to check in with that trajectory. Is what you're doing leading you where you want to go, or is your foot dangling perilously out of line?
The tightrope walker made it to the other side. You can too.
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Time for a career change? Launch it with...
The Occupational Adventure Guide:
A Travel Guide to the Career of Your Dreams
by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst