Friday, July 6, 2012

Small Steps

Every journey begins with a single step.

Robert Maurer, physician and faculty member at UCLA, told me that I would never look at that saying the same way again.  I listened to him for an hour.  He was right.

I had to love a man who acknowledged, right at the beginning, that change is scary.   Apparently, small steps can disarm the brain's fear response.  Once free from fright, the brain is able to create.

It was a new concept for me, the notion of moving beyond the fear.  I rarely get past the change is scary part.  Just ask anyone who's told me that I should write a book.  The look of horror on my face has caused more than one loving friend to step back a pace or two.

One of the blessings of lying on Douglas as my hip healed was the opportunity to think without having to act.  There were no expectations of me beyond growing bone.  There was little enough I could do to speed that process along, and there was nothing on which I could concentrate beyond a three sentence hand written thank you note. 

My mind wandered.  I found myself coming back to familiar themes as the weeks morphed into months but the coherent whole escaped me.  My brain couldn't conjure up a big picture of anything; it couldn't make it through a 60 minute television program.  Dear Abby was a challenge - I rarely remembered the question by the time I got to the end of her answer. 

Small steps were called for, demanded, required, all I could handle at the time.... so small steps are what I took.

Eighteen months later, enjoying our gift-from-the-Zuckerman-family week long stay at Canyon Ranch, I found the philosophical and physiological reasons for my behavior.  Validation and motivation was what that vacation was all about; Dr. Maurer provided it in a 60 minute lecture.

Kaizen teaches that manageable tasks - one paperclip off a chronically messy desk - moves you one step further along the journey.  The end is not your goal; putting one foot in front of the other is.

Think about it for a moment, denizens.  It's an extraordinarily freeing concept.

By writing my blog instead of a book, I've taken small steps toward creating an opus.  The book-writing-nagging has been going on since high school.  I've made no progress toward that goal... and I've had more than 40 years to make the move.  But no one nags me to write The Burrow... there's no need.... I love it.... I can do it... I accomplish it and smile.  It's a small but significant step, just like that one paperclip.

By starting in one school before moving across the campus to its sister school before meeting with a colleague's mother to consider expanding to California, I've grown GRIN without any major hiccups.  Lying on Douglas, I knew I wanted to make a difference.  One principal, one little boy, one kindergarten classroom later I've created something that can grow, one small step at a time.  I don't spend time worrying about where I will be; I am in the moment worrying about the now.  It's a worry that I can live with... and think with.... and take the next step from.

And that step is the single step at the start of my journey.  At least that is what I told myself as I signed up for Pathfinder Day at BlogHer'12..... the all day session on Blog to Book.  It seems like the next small step for me. 

My heart is aflutter, but my brain is calm.  Thanks, Dr.Maurer.


  1. I'm in the process of healing from neurosurgery and I look at each small push forward as a terrific gain. I won't be at Pathfinder Day, but I will be at BlogHer. It would be great to meet you.

  2. I'm so excited to hear this. Please do post updates about BlogHer too.

    Have a wonderful weekend.

    Megan xxx

  3. Dear a/b, I'm so glad to hear you signed up for Pathfinder Day. I've heard good things about it. I plan to be at the conference, I hope we can connect this year!


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