New year, new you?

New year, new you?

We all do it. We aim so high at the beginning of the year. We set those personal and professional goals and feel that this time we’ll really keep the momentum going. Then, come February, we’re back to our old tricks again. Much is written about goals and managing them, so I’ll spare you the same old information. What I’d like to encourage (and I’m talking to myself, here, as well) is the First Step approach.

A journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step – Lao Tzu

For more than fifteen years, I considered becoming a big sister with the Big Brothers Big Sisters Organization. Year after year, I considered the commitment, the responsibility, the requirements of time and other resources. Next year will be the year to start! This went on and on. I was waiting to be ready, waiting for everything to line up with a nice, perfectly sized gap for this new element of my life to fit in. Like finding time to exercise, or the will to eat a healthier diet, or getting help on developing presentation skills, or facing that box (those boxes!) of documents to be scanned and shredded – it felt daunting. I looked ahead to all that starting/continuing/completing the project would entail and I shrunk away.

Then, one day, almost exactly two years ago, I was thinking about the BBBS Organization again. Only this time something was different. I got the idea that I would commit ONLY to going to an orientation meeting to learn more about the program. That was all. My commitment was to simply show up and listen. Once there, I thought, well, I can fill out an application. I don’t have to continue the process, but I can do that. The orientation led to the application. The application led to an interview. The interview led to a meeting with a prospective “little” and her parent. That meeting led to what has become a meaningful, rewarding, and ongoing two year relationship. We just celebrated her sweet sixteen together.

As it turns out, the “little” I was matched with has developmental issues and, since I have zero experience or training with special needs, the learning curve has been steep for me. She struggles physically, cognitively, and with focus, communication, and relationships. She has needs that I could never have imagined attending to and, had I known all that would come, I would have been hard-pressed to think I could pull it off. And yet, I have. I am. I have become a trusted and valued female role model and mentor to her. I am someone she knows she can count on when others have turned away. I am an ally to her parents and teachers and a sounding board for her as she navigates what are, even for average kids, treacherous teenage waters. It’s not remotely easy but it’s meaningful and important. I am so glad I took that step and attended the orientation.

So, here’s my advice: Take the first step. Keep it small. Go for what’s just ahead. Pretty soon, you’ll look back and see those 1,000 miles stretching out behind you.

Stephanie Silverman is an Executive Coach for public speaking and all areas of spoken communication. This article originally appeared on her blog.