A ‘turtle step’ is the least I can do, divided in half. It’s also
the only way I’ve ever achieved anything.” ~ Dr. Martha Beck
I walked out onto the back deck and lay down in the lounge chair. I pulled the blanket over my chin and looked out over the tops of the pines to the night sky. Tonight was the third night I hadn’t really slept, and I hoped the night air would help lull me to sleep.
A few feet away, in a room adjoining the deck, my son slept. I thought about all the ways I felt I had let him down.
The sweet, local man who agreed to help us move would be at the house in a few hours. Boxes, bags, and all kinds of what he would call “loose gear” was piled in the garage. Other than clothes, office equipment, books, and toys, I was only interested in bringing the things you could not replace: photographs, handmade Christmas ornaments and pottery, baby books filled with mementos, and my grandmother’s rugs and porcelains.
I would have a couple of days to unpack and settle into the townhouse at the edge of Main Street before launching a new enterprise against the backdrop of the worst recession we had ever experienced.
I needed to change my entire life—a thought that threatened to push me under. Overwhelming. Beyond what I was capable of doing. Enormous.
My To Do list lived in my head like a swirling, amorphous, ever-changing blob. Like the lava in a lamp, the blob would stretch and change, releasing little balls of matter before gobbling them up into itself once more. Shape shifting, but never getting any smaller.
I remembered something Martha Beck had said to me during my coach certification training when sharing a story about how she overcame the challenges of her life. I rose to my feet, tiptoed past my son’s room and searched the garage for the binder that held my coach training notes.
I found the legal pad sheets tucked into the binder’s front pocket. In black, Flair pen ink (in quickly-jotted scrawl), were these words: “Break it down into the smallest pieces, and then divide those tiny pieces again = Turtle Steps.”
The entirety of our conversation came back.
Rather than trying to make one large, impossible leap across the yawning chasm, I could inch my way forward in such tiny steps, my movement wouldn’t even be perceived by onlookers.
Somehow I would arrive, like an apparition disappearing from here to reappear over there.
I took those notes back to my lounge chair and fell asleep.
Perhaps you find yourself at an edge of your own right now. Staring across a distance so vast, you have to squint to capture the smallest inkling of what “there”… or “arrival” even looks like for you.
While popular culture celebrates the Hollywood version of making massive, sweeping changes in order to become an “overnight” success, let’s choose instead a mindset that serves us in a way that is infinitely more loving.
Take your giant goal (with its teeth gnashing and slobber on its chin) and begin breaking it down. Quickly write down all the component parts of the goal that come to mind. Perhaps you have a dozen or so large chunks.
Now, take one chunk and pulverize it into the tiniest specks of tasks. Important: ignore ALL THE OTHER CHUNKS. For now, they do not exist.
Pick up one speck. That’s all you do today. Ignore all the other task specks.
Tomorrow, select another speck to tackle.
This seemingly insignificant, but continual, incremental advancement will inch you forward toward anything you want to create. Magic will come along for the ride, too; soon, you’ll see the effects of the Providence of the Universe compounding and conspiring on your behalf in ways you cannot anticipate.
Be ready for some truly surprising synchronicities!
Bonus: as we turtle step forward, we slip past the brain’s fear mechanism that loves to keep us in Resistance and Procrastination. More and more, we find ourselves at our desks, in front of blank sheets of paper, at our easels, and in our studios.
Confident. In flow.
With only the tiniest of tracks in the sand as evidence we showed up that day.
I’ll meet you at the shoreline. Together, we’ll celebrate while the foamy water swirls around our feet.
Sending love from the mountaintop!