Say the goal you want to achieve is to climb a mountain. If you’re standing at the foot of the mountain and looking up, you’re probably thinking “Gulp – that’s a long way up!”

The task seems so daunting and it’s all too easy to become consumed by thoughts of:

  • how long will it take?
  • how difficult will the path be?
  • what if I can’t find the way?
  • what if I get lost?
  • what if it’s too far?
  • what if I don’t make it??

The fear may paralyse you, and because of that you may not even start the ascent.

So how do you get to the top? The answer: by putting one foot in front of the other.

Caroline climbing Mount Kinabalu by putting one foot in front of the other
I climbed Mount Kinabalu… by putting one foot in front of the other

You don’t need to be able to see the whole path. All you need to do is take the first step. And then take one more. Rinse & repeat, and before you know it you’ve reached your goal.

Boy, what a view it is from the top! Turn around and look back and you’ll be amazed how far you’ve come. All it takes is consistent action: just one more step.

Conquering my fears

As someone who hated the idea of climbing anything more than the single flight of stairs up to my bedroom, the idea of hiking up a mountain represented my worst form of torture. However, my friend Helen has somehow repeatedly convinced me to accompany her in climbing random peaks across the globe, and consequently I can tell you from personal experience that this approach works!

I achieved an ascent of over 4000m up Mount Kinabalu
After 2 days and a vertical ascent of 2,000m I almost reached the top of Mt Kinabalu in Borneo

Using the ‘one-foot-in-front-of-the-other’ method, we have conquered Poon Hill in the Ananpurna mountain range in India (3210m), completed the 6 day hike along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru, crossing the highest point at Dead Woman’s Pass (4215m), and climbed Mount Kinabalu (4095m) in Borneo. All of these represented massive achievements for me.

Ok, I didn’t quite make the summit of Mount Kinabalu – the guide turned me around about 80m short because I was too slow – but then had had a knee operation only 6 months earlier! I still had time to appreciate the view though. Wow, it was breathtaking.

Breaking it down

It’s not just about mountains though… have you heard the phrase “How do you eat an elephant?” And the answer: One bite at a time. The concept is the same.

How do you eat an elephant?
How do you eat an elephant?

Using the method of breaking something large or complex down into small ‘bite-size chunks’, you can overcome all kinds of seemingly impossible tasks.

This is how Stephen Duneier, a C- student with an inability to focus for more than 5 minutes on any task at school, became Global Macro Hedge Fund Manager for twelve years and founder & CIO of two award-winning hedge funds.

The approach he used is simple. Take a complex idea, break it down into manageable tasks, work on those tasks, and along the way make marginal improvements to your process in order to shift the odds in your favour.

How to Achieve Your Most Ambitious Goals

In a TED talk titled “How to Achieve Your Most Ambitious Goals“, Stephen describes how he applied the same approach to achieve goals in his personal life too, and in doing so learned to speak German, got his pilots licence, learned to fly helicopters, to play drums, rock climb… He also taught himself how to knit, and used his knitting to yarn bomb anything and everything from trees to massive boulders, and them moved on to crocheting and claimed the Guinness World Record for the largest crocheted Granny Square in the world (10m x 10m).

It’s about the tiny decisions

When talking about facing the challenge of climbing all 33 hiking trails in the front country of Santa Barbara’s mountains – having never been on a hike before in his life – Stephen says: “It’s not about the 33 trails. It’s about the tiny decisions you need to make correctly along the way, in order to improve the odds of achieving the outcome you desire.”

For example, “When you’re lying on your couch, it’s the decision to stop scrolling through Facebook and to put down your smartphone. To put on your hiking clothes. To walk out the front door and shut it behind you. To walk to your car and drive to the trailhead.

“You get out of your car at the trail head and you take one step. You take two steps. Three steps. Every one of those steps is a tiny little decision that needs to be made correctly along the way in order to achieve the outcome.”

Building my online business

And that is precisely how I am approaching my journey to build my online business. One bite-size step at a time.

How about you, what daunting challenges have you completed by taking them one step at a time? Share your story in the comments below.