Live Whole Health #56: The First Step

At the start of a new year, we often think of ways to dramatically change our lives or achieve something big. It could be losing 25 pounds, running a marathon, writing a book, or learning to cook like a chef. Inspiring and challenging goals excite us as we think about reaching them. But the small, first step that follows for any of those goals is the hardest to take.

The first step isn’t always the most exciting, for it requires dedication and attention. That tiny first step is the core to achieving our larger goals, and without the first step taken, we won’t reach those goals.

Recently, I was working with a Veteran who wanted to eat more vegetables. She set a goal to buy a bag of baby carrots the next time she went grocery shopping. I asked if she wanted to develop a plan to eat those carrots and she said no, that just buying them was enough. At first, I thought she needed to do more, until I realized she had set the exact right goal for herself. Just buying the carrots was a change – it was something she wouldn’t normally do, and it could eventually lead to her larger goal.

We often overlook and skip the importance of small steps, pushing ourselves to take more dramatic actions. But as the saying goes, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Whatever your goal is, think about the very first step – skipping dessert at night, buying running shoes, journaling, learning to boil an egg – and honor it by celebrating your accomplishment.

Have you thought about beginning meditation but deciding you don’t have 15 minutes or an hour to give? Well, then here is a small step: this 1-minute mindfulness meditation with Dr. Robert Eric Dinenberg from the St. Louis VAMC offers a one-minute session that is as important and valuable as a longer practice. Enjoy!

More information

What resolutions have you committed to this new year? If your goal is to be more active, check out this flier’s tips on how to Live Whole Health and get your body moving. Just 15 minutes of exercise a day can improve your health and increase your quality of life:

Marc Castellani, Ph.D., NBC-HWC, is the Whole Health clinical education coordinator for the VHA Office of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation.