‘G’ is for Go One Step at a Time

fear / excitement
‘D’ for Decide: Fear or Excitement
July 12, 2023
‘E’ – Energize Yourself for the Long Run
July 26, 2023

‘G’ is for Go One Step at a Time

depicts someone taking one step at a time

This is the sixth in a series, first published in 2021, in which I explore how to move forward when our journey is difficult. The series began with an introduction and has covered the first three of six TRUDGE practices for long-term resilience: Tell the Truth, Remember, Unpack Your History, and Decide: Excitement or Fear.

TRUDGE – being resilient as you move through a challenging time in your life. In the midst of difficulties, life can be overwhelming. Change can be agonizing; “I just want this to be over!” “I wish life would go back to normal.”  Maintaining your resilience during times of major change can be helped by going one step at a time.  

This requires pacing yourself, finding a rhythm that works. Gritting your teeth and slogging through no matter how tired you are, can literally end with broken teeth and an inability to think logically. Some people try to do all the things as quickly as possible which often results in frantic activity that does not move you forward. Both can result in depletion – exhaustion so deep that you are no longer able to take care of yourself or your responsibilities.  

Consider Your Next Step(s)

Difficult times are often complex and take time to resolve. Listing out the things that need to be taken care of and deciding on priorities is vital. This allows you to realistically manage your energy and resources. Start with a list of the bigger items that need to be addressed. It may help to talk to others who have been through this before. Choose one or two areas of focus. Break these down into manageable steps. When overwhelmed by the big picture, pause for a moment and look at the next step. Keep track of what you have done, it helps to see that you are making progress.  

Listen to That Voice

Gravel falling through the cracks of a person's hand

As you look over your list, one reality is going to intrude. “There is no way I can get all this done!” Listen to that voice. Don’t try to do it all. Give up high maintenance activities that give little in return. Look for shortcuts. Ask for help. Lower your standards (clean less often, cereal for dinner, etc.). Tell people, “Sorry, I can’t help right now.” You will get back to life as usual, once you are through this difficult time. You will pick up things you set aside for a time, though perhaps not those you didn’t miss.

Two Standards: Safety & Effectiveness

Measuring devices

When in doubt about your priorities consider two important measuring sticks. First is safety. Is there anything about your current situation that is a safety risk? If so, that needs to be addressed first. Second is effectiveness. Consider what will make the biggest difference in the long run. You can’t get it all done. Focus on the tasks that will create the biggest change toward your goals. Prioritize safety first then focus on long-term goals.  

Pace Yourself

Looking at your bigger list choose a bite sized piece and focus only on it. I remember being in a time of trudge, knowing that there was so much to do, in so many areas. I learned to write down all the things and then choose a few to focus on that day. Toward the end of the day, I would run out of steam. I learned to say to myself, “I have done what I can for today.” With no more energy left for big problems I focused on clean up, getting ready for bed, and setting myself up for the next day. It was no use beating myself up for what I hadn’t gotten done. I did what I could; it was time to rest and recover.  

Celebrate as You Go

Rejoicing child.

Give yourself credit for progress and celebrate the small wins. I had a friend who had to have significant surgery on her nose due to cancer.  She took a photo of her nose – every single day.  When she felt discouraged about how “badly” her nose looked she would review the photos.  Seeing the healing over time helped her realize that she was moving forward, although it was a slow process. Find some way to document the process you are making.

Big problems don’t generally get created overnight; they will likely not be resolved quickly. It can be hard to accept that it will take time. Chances are you’ve been through something already in your life that took some time to resolve. Allow yourself to take care of your resilience while you go one step at a time through this current challenge. 


Laura A. Gaines

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