It all started with Ironman training, I think. Looking at the big picture of swimming 2.4 miles, cycling 112 miles and then running a marathon (26.2 miles) was overwhelming. "All in one day?" a friend asked. Seriously overwhelming.
Coach helped me pull together a training plan that, in a nutshell, focused on three swims, three bikes and three runs per week. The workouts increased in duration over the course of several months, until finally, some time "tapering" at the end, to rest up before the big day.
Sitting in his office on that winter day, I peeked ahead at some of the taper workouts scheduled for seven or so months in the future, and my eyes bulged. "This is the taper??!" It was more than I was doing in my current off-season triathlon training. Before I could fully grasp what I was in for, he suggested, "Don't look ahead. Focus on the here-and-now. Focus on what you need to do today and this week." Allowing myself to think ahead to spending an entire day swimming, cycling and running was to invite overwhelm and have to deal with getting my head back into the game. Keeping a healthy mental game is just as important as the physical training.
I don't know about you, but being overwhelmed can stop me in my tracks. It can truly be paralyzing.
Since then, when I've had a major task or situation to get through, I have gone right back to this Baby Steps Training Philosophy. Any time I think, "How am I ever going to do this?!" my automatic response has been to answer with, "Baby Steps." Coming back from an injury or launching a new website at work, or, most profoundly, getting from cancer diagnosis and treatment all the way to come back was all a matter of tackling the task in front of me day by day.
The practice of using baby steps to accomplish monumental goals is as easy as developing a training plan. Doing each day's work between today and the goal date is not overwhelming. In concert with a plan composed of baby steps, keeping track of your daily progress by writing about it or keeping a simple log helps immensely. I kept a log during cancer treatment that my oncologist said was the biggest reason for my positive attitude. Even when one day was not too great, seeing it in context with all the progress I had made was encouraging. The best way to see proof of how well using baby steps works is to look back at a log.
If you are facing a challenge or want to achieve something wonderful but feel overwhelmed with the thought, and someone says to you, "Baby Steps," this is what they are talking about.