Time and again I read this advice: If you want people to read your blogs, include a numbered list of steps to take.
If you want to sell a book, give your audience a step-by-step formula for how to win.
If you want to give an effective speech, tell people 10 things they need to do to improve in the subject matter.
This never ceases to surprise me. It may very well work for some professions that require precision and deliberateness, but what I, and most of the people I interact with know, is that great leadership and passionate living cannot and will not be achieved by following steps; that growth moves in a non-linear fashion, and that life has its own rhythms and order that, try as we might, we cannot wrangle or organize through steps.
Making order out of chaos is something we do. Routine is important. Guidelines are useful. Some things do occur in a step-by-step fashion:
1. Boil water
2. Add to container
Viola! Instant soup.
While lists and steps provoke thought and provide wisdom and structure, they cannot fix your life, transform you into Churchill or heal your broken heart. They cannot undo your disappointments or bring you to the level of success you want / need / deserve. That takes a whole different way of being and level of commitment, of which steps are a small part.
So naturally, I feel compelled to create a list, albeit an untraditional one, about un-listing; unhooking yourself from the lure of A Life Lived Through Steps.
5 1/2 Steps to un-five stepping your life
3. Let’s Get Lost — Never have I been so challenged as when my boyfriend and I literally got lost in the woods. In between panicking and retracing our steps, we rationed out the remaining water and snacks, bickered, and planned to sleep entwined to brace against the cold. Luckily we found the trail before nightfall, but it was a tremendous lesson, one that got us in touch with survival skills and strengths we did not know we had, and naturally, brought us closer.
I’m not recommending you get physically lost. It’s just that I am continually reminded that life is a game of hide and seek: We lose ourselves and find ourselves and each other, again and again. Allow “getting lost” in this sense to be a part of your ever bourgeoning aliveness.
5. Two steps forward, one leap into the Non-Linear — While we are busy surviving, interacting, planning our futures and pretending that most things are “cut and dried,” we are living in a mutable, inscrutable world with a cyclical, non-rational undertow. A taxi may take us physically from point A to point B. But internally as we grow through our lives, we actually move more like this: From point A, to A.3, circling back to A.1, stretching out to A.5, revisiting A.2 and so on, until we arrive at B “ish.”
1/2. I interrupt this list to confirm that you do realize these aren’t really steps. They’re just tidbits of thought provoking material aimed to bounce you out of routine, to inspire you to invest in strengthening the deeper muscles that will give you the ability to fully embrace this life. Because that’s what I think we really need to develop, even though I can’t tell you how to do it step-by- step.
2. Control is a comforting notion — I turn on my computer. It works! I begin to type or avoid typing and peruse Facebook instead. Hurray, I’m making choices, doing my day. Until my computer doesn’t work. Then I am at the mercy of the technology gods at Apple. If I think positive thoughts, maybe I could make it work again? Nope, sorry, control is out of my control, simply a comforting notion, an illusion that we cannot help but invest in. Hence, lists.
4. Intentionally left blank — Enjoy the pause.
1. Move On Dot Org — Those in my close circle know that “Move On dot org!” is one of my favorite sayings, which I brazenly stole from a hilarious friend. If a list of steps isn’t working for you, or you have outgrown its wisdom, then MOVE ON and let it go.
It’s time to become list-less again.
And remember, steps or no steps, Love Yourself No Matter What.