Richard Levitt: Baby Steps

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Richard Levitt says its good to have a place to aspire to, but it's baby steps that will get you there.

It’s easy to live in our own heads. Holding visions and spinning fantasies about what we’d like to do and who we’d like to be.

The best part? We’re always good at it, always successful.

The hard part? Stuff doesn’t get done.

That happens because goals are so much more compelling than process. And the more ambitious they are, the more engaging. Maybe playing a searing guitar solo. Or growing all the food we eat. Or hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Whatever it is for you …


But getting there takes so much work. Like practicing all the musical scales. Or learning to be a competent gardener. Or actually hiking. So, unfortunately, big fantasies often result in big disappointments.

Once a group of very successful creative friends were chatting about just that. How do you think big, but rationally? How do you actually achieve an aspirational goal?

The unanimous answer: baby steps.

So while it’s exciting to imagine being a musician on stage or feasting from an urban farm, they’d say it’s better to just have fun learning a song or planting a couple herbs. And enjoying the little victories.

In her book The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin wrote, “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

That’s what I’m talking about. Rather than grasping at some distant goal, take one little step. I wanted an edible garden — which I’d inflated into a gargantuan task. Finally, I focused on building planter boxes. Easy success. Then added soil … another win. Then planted some stuff … POW! Small wins can feel really good.

In martial arts, they say, “Don’t aspire to a black belt, just show up for class …”

Who knows where that first step will take you? I bet it’ll take you right where you want to be.

With a Perspective, I’m Richard Levitt.

Richard Levitt is an East Bay writer who teaches martial arts, yoga, and creative problem-solving.