Podcast Episode 18 – Baby Steps

Jul 1, 2023 | Podcast

I’m Diana Swillinger, and you’re listening to the Renew Your Mind podcast. Episode Number 18 Baby Steps. 

DIANA: Hey. Hey, what’s up, everybody? I’m doing really well, and I’m feeling grateful this week. I’m actually recording this episode in the days leading up to the 4 July. And, uh, I’m feeling grateful for a lot of things. I know that there’s a lot that’s not perfect in our country. Our history is not perfect. I know it.

Here’s the deal. There aren’t perfect people anywhere. There isn’t a perfect country anywhere. And the world as a whole is filled with humans who do good things, and those same humans make mistakes. That said, our country being filled with imperfection and having an imperfect history. There’s still a lot to be grateful for. There’s still a lot of good things. I’m grateful that I’m able to talk to you all freely here on this podcast. I’m grateful that we have stores filled with food to buy. I’m grateful for so many freedoms. There’s a lot of good things in my life, and I just am really grateful. So I hope you are, too.

Today we’re going to be talking about baby steps, which is going to be fun. But first, I’m going to read a review. I got a review on itunes by Steffers B 88. Oh, that makes me think of BB Eight from Star Wars. It’s not BB Eight, though. It’s just B 88. So Steffers, B 88 says actionable. Excellent podcast. Diana is the real deal. She’s an excellent coach and such a fabulous teacher of how to handle your emotions. Everyone needs to tune into this podcast. It’s like a free life coaching session. Using her advice in episode nine, I’ve already seen results in handling my grief. Thank you, Diana. I love how concise and actionable your episodes are. Tune in now, friend. I love it. This one means a lot to me because I have spent a lot of time purposely learning how to welcome and process grief in a healthy way. And so I am very touched that I could help someone in this area. It really, really means a lot to me. Thank you, Steffers B 88. I really appreciate it.

All right, here we go. Baby steps. Baby steps to the elevator. Baby steps to the sailboat. Baby steps onto the bus. Does this sound familiar to anyone? I got this from a movie that is appreciated in my family. In fact, since I wrote the notes for this podcast yesterday and was preparing, I decided our family needed to watch the movie last night, so we did it’s. What about Bob? In this movie, Bob is played by Bill Murray. And just a quick description without giving it away. So those of you who haven’t seen it and for sure want to go see it after I talk about it, I won’t give too much away. Uh, but Bob, played by Bill Murray, has some phobias. He’s kind of like a hypochondriac, except instead of it being physical ailments, he has this plethora of psychological conditions.

Some of them might be real, some of them might be manufactured. We don’t know. It doesn’t really matter for the sake of this comedy. But Bob needs help from a mental health professional, and so he hires Dr. Marvin, dr. Leo Marvin, who’s played by Richard Dreyfus. So in their very first session, and actually their only first real session in the entire movie, dr. Marvin gives Bob his best selling book called Baby Steps. So he hands the book to Bob after Bob explains all of his psychological ailments. And Bob says baby steps. Dr. Marvin replies, it means setting small, reasonable goals for yourself. One day at a time. One tiny step at a time. Baby steps. Bob repeats baby steps. And Dr. Marvin says, for instance, um, when you leave this office, don’t think about everything you have to do in order to get out of the building. Just think about what you must do to get out of this room. And when you get to the hall, deal with the hall and so forth, you’ll see baby steps. And Bob starts using this concept immediately to get over fears and start doing all the things that he thought he couldn’t do before if he didn’t break things down into baby steps in.

His first challenge is to get out of the office and get on the elevator, which he was afraid to do. On the way up, he took the stairs over 40 flights. So now he’s going to use baby steps to get on the elevator and go down and, uh, exit the building. Until that day, he never did. He’s afraid of germs. He didn’t want to get on with those people. He was probably claustrophobic too. But he knew if he wanted the outcome of getting out of the building and not have to take the stairs again, he could just break it down into one step at a time. And when he took the first step towards the elevator, he was only thinking about that step. He wasn’t thinking about pushing the button on the elevator. He wasn’t thinking about being on the elevator. He was only thinking about that one step.

Now, if we were to pause the movie, when Bob decides to take that first step to the elevator, and he takes that first step, and then we pause it, it wouldn’t really look like he made any progress getting out of the building for us. It would look like he’s in the same place if we examine just that one first baby step he took, it seems like he’s still in his psychiatrist’s office and nothing’s different, and he’s not anywhere near the outcome he wants of exiting the building. And the reason I’m breaking it down into this, like, if we could pause the movie and then we think he has made no real progress.

We kind of do this to ourselves, don’t we? We look at the outcome we want, and then we compare it to where we’re at. We don’t see any progress. We think this is a big problem, and we get discouraged, and we make it real dramatic. Like, it’s tragic. It’s just another way that we’re really hard on ourselves. We want to see the results immediately. We don’t. And then we think the end goal is too far away, and we feel like we’ve fallen short. We’re not measuring up. We’re not even close to reaching that goal. It kind of makes me think at this point of one of the questions that I ask my clients a lot.

I ask, how long? How long are you willing to keep taking steps toward your goal before you actually get there? How long are you willing to work on thinking different thoughts before you start to feel better? How long are you willing to feel uncomfortable? How long are you willing to wait? How long are you willing to take a small step and then another and then another before you realize you’re actually making progress? How long? A moment? A week? A month? One year? Five years? How long? I imagine when Bob wants to get down the elevator with baby steps, he’s not thinking about how long. He just wants to do the one next step. Even if the end goal didn’t seem any closer, he was still willing to do the next step. Basically, Bob was willing to take the next baby step for as long as it takes.

There’s this moment that’s a little painful for us as the viewer. If we imagine ourselves as being one of the people on the elevator. When the elevator doors open and it’s full and Bob’s just pacing and not getting on the elevator, they’re all staring at him. He starts taking these baby steps onto the elevator. But he didn’t even concern himself with those other people. He didn’t concern himself with the amount of time it was taking. He just kept doing the next step. So, you guys, what I’m saying is, what was presented as a fictitious book in What About Bob is actually brilliant. It’s like a superpower. My husband revealed to me yesterday when I pulled out this movie, he’s like, Baby steps. This is one of my favorite mantras. I’m like what? You never told me. He’s had so many amazing goals in his life, and he’s reformed his life and grown in so many ways in the last five years. And I had no idea. One of the ways he was doing it was with baby steps from Dr. Leo Marvin and what about Bob? And it works.

I know a lot of people who’ve had things they want to achieve in their life who quit when it gets hard. Too many people quit when they hit an obstacle or it feels uncomfortable, or they get tired of feeling uncomfortable. Trust me, Bob was uncomfortable. When Bob arrived at that big, tall building to get up to the 40 something floor and see the psychiatrist. He was so uncomfortable about getting on the elevator that he took the stairs. Then he gets to the office and he learns about baby steps, and he’s like, I’m just going to take baby steps. And he was willing then to be uncomfortable when the doors closed.

When he finally got on the elevator to go down, the doors closed and it started to move. They just pan out to, like, some broader view of the building or the halls or something. And Bob’s screaming. It was uncomfortable. He felt some fear. He felt some discomfort. He felt some uncertainty. He probably doubted if he was doing the right thing, but he did it anyway. It’s a superpower when you use it to continue taking the next step towards what you want, no matter what. The length of time doesn’t matter. Discomfort doesn’t matter. Fear doesn’t matter. Doubt doesn’t matter. Obstacles don’t matter. Uncertainty doesn’t matter. The number of steps doesn’t matter. We can just choose to keep taking one next step. The one next step. We know how to do baby steps. I think this analogy is, um it partners well with this one meme that I see on social media a lot, where it says, like, babies aren’t born knowing how to walk, or how many steps do babies have to take until they learn how to walk? That kind of thing.

Because you know what happens when babies try to learn how to walk? They fall down. They try a step, and they fall. Then they take a few steps and they fall. They fall a lot. And they aren’t like, that was hard. I guess walking is not my thing. They just keep trying. They just decide they’re going to keep doing it for however long it takes. And once they do get up and take a few steps, guess what? They fall down. I got two steps this time, three steps next time. They just keep doing it. Bob in the movie is using the baby steps to get on a bus to go well, it’s a little psychotic. He wants to track down his psychologist on vacation, and he’s using whatever means necessary, but he has to get on a bus, and he’s afraid to get on the bus with all the people. And he failed to get on several buses that day. And the bus driver says, Bob, this is the last bus to Lake Winna Pasaki last bus. He failed to get on the bus several times that day, but he kept trying, and then he got on the bus.

Okay, here’s another analogy for you. I love analogies. Um, rearview mirrors on cars and trucks. Now, I’m not talking about looking at the past. I’m just talking about the fact that it’s a mirror. And the mirror needs to have a wide angle to function the way you need it to, because you need to be able to see a bigger picture of what’s going on. So we look through this mirror and, uh, maybe we’re looking at our goal or what it is that we want. We want to see something. We want to see the bigger picture. But you know what’s printed on them? It says, objects in the mirror are closer than they appear. Okay, so the bigger picture goal that we want, that always seems so far away. It’s actually a lot closer than it appears. It’s always closer than it appears.

It feels like things aren’t changing. Feels like you’re not getting closer. Feels like you’re not reaching your goal. You might feel like you’ve taken several steps towards the elevator, but you don’t feel like you’re any closer to the elevator or getting down. I see this all the time. I have clients who, halfway through my coaching program, they start asking, when is this going to start working? When am I going to start feeling better? To them, it feels like they’re learning things, but not much is changing. They feel like they’ve taken several steps and they aren’t even closer. But I know that every time this happens that they ask me, I know they’re just about to turn the corner and start feeling better. It happens every time. Because that goal that they want is always closer than that appears.

Too often. We think things are far away and it’s getting hard, and maybe it’ll never happen. And so now I’m going to quit. But when you’re diligent with your baby steps and you just keep going, and you just keep making progress, any progress, even if it seems like you’re not going to get there, you will get there. Are you willing to take baby steps towards what you want? And if you are, for how long? A week? A year? Ten years? If it’s something you want, how long are you willing to keep doing the next thing to get closer? So I want to give you an example of taking steps towards a goal in a way where you’re committed, regardless of how long it would take. If you want to feel better physically and be healthier, like just having this overall feeling of wellness in your body, having more energy, whatever it might be for you, if that’s what I want, if I look at the entire process of it, it could easily be overwhelming, and I might not even want to start. So we do this sometimes, right?

It might be like, okay, self, starting Monday, here’s what you need to do to be healthy. You’re going to exercise five days a week. You’re going to drink 75oz of water each day, cut out sugar, go to bed by ten, stop using screens after eight, eat more veggies, count your grams of protein, switch from coffee to tea, limit carbs. And then it’s like, holy cow, I’m out. Or I might even try it for a week. I might decide, I’m going to do this, try it for a week, grip my teeth white, knuckle it. And then what? And then be out. Because it’s too much, it’s too hard. This is so far from baby steps. This is jumping into the deep end. Now, some of you might be thinking, I know this, Diana, you’re not telling me anything new. All right, I get that you can see how overwhelming a list like that of actions like that is, and that it’s not sustainable and you know that. But what you might not know is that you could be doing this essentially and not even know you’re doing it. How? Because you do it in your brain. When we see this long list, we know it’s ridiculous. So maybe we might decide not to try to do it all? And maybe we’ll decide, of course I can’t do all that, I’ll just start eating less sugar and drink more water. That seems doable.

So we tell ourselves we’re taking baby steps, but now we’ve got this program in our brain running in the background that keeps telling you how many steps there really are if you want these results. So you’re like, I’m just doing sugar, I’m just doing water. And the brain is dramatic. You’re never going to be able to eat sugar again. Maybe you’ll take this baby step of reducing sugar, but you know where that’s going to lead? It’s going to lead to banning all the good treats for the rest of your life. And then you’re going to have to add a gazillion other things to their regimen if you really want to be healthy.

So you’re trying to take a baby step or two and your brain is still locked in on a bunch of overwhelming tasks. It’s just running in the background, you might not even notice it, but your brain for sure knows you’re going to need to do all this stuff and it won’t be easy and you won’t be able to do it for as long as it might take. And what if you miss out on things and you’re going to doubt you can even do it or manage all of it? And for sure you’re not that special unicorn that makes it all work and just has it all happen. And then you know what else? Thanksgiving is going to come and Christmas, and that wedding you have to go to, and the parties and you’re like, just forget it. Even reducing sugar and drinking water seems too hard now because we get these dramatic stories going in the back of our brain, you knew starting with some baby steps was the right way to go. But your brain’s not like it doesn’t know the program. Here’s why this is very normal.

Psychologists know our brains want to pursue pleasure, avoid pain, and conserve energy. And whenever we do something that threatens that like a goal or a plan or a change to do something better in your life, your brain is like, whoa, hold up, that seems hard. If you go down that path, we’ll have to miss out on pleasure. We’re going to have to feel discomfort. It’s probably going to take a lot of energy. So here’s the solution to help give your brain baby steps. Because it’s your job to keep your brain in check. That part of the brain that’s concerned with pursuing pleasure, conserving energy and avoiding pain.

Let’s just imagine that’s, like the toddler in your brain, that part of your brain is like, I just want to sit here eating snacks and watching TV. Don’t ask me to do anything hard. Then the more developed part of your brain, the adult part of your brain, is going to need to be in charge if you want to do anything that requires energy or feels uncomfortable or delays. Gratification when you put that adult section of your brain in charge. And then the toddler brain goes nuts about how hard it’s going to be and it even wants to give up on the baby steps. The adult part of your brain can kick in and tell Toddler brain, hey, you really don’t need to freak out. We’re just doing one thing right now. That’s it. One step. One step toward the elevator. That’s it. Toddler brain is like, no way. I’m not going to go on the elevator. That’s scary. Adult brain can say it’s. Okay, all we’re doing right now is moving 1ft forward. We’re not getting on the elevator right now. We’re just taking one step. Okay? So baby steps to getting healthier. Toddler brain is like, no way. I will not give up sugar. That’s crazy. Sweets are yummy. Adult brain can interject and say it’s okay, calm down. We’re not giving up sugar right now. All we’re doing right now is choosing to eat one ice cream sandwich instead of two. That’s it. Just one step. That’s it.

So what do you have going on in your life right now that you want to do or accomplish or move toward? If it seems like too big of a project or too many tasks are overwhelming, I’m telling you, you can do it. You can train your brain to take it just one thing at a time to get where you want to go. I started this podcast with baby steps. When I decided I wanted to do a podcast and people were encouraging me to do it and said they really wanted to hear me teaching my tools this way. And I’m like, okay, but this seems like a really big looming goal. I don’t know how to do a podcast. I don’t even know what to do first. Maybe it’s too much. Other people will judge me. Maybe I’ll do the steps wrong. I won’t know what to say. My brain went nuts. That Toddler brain trying to spare me. But eventually I decided I’m just going to do it and I’m going to do one step at a time.

First step. I told my best friend I was thinking of starting a podcast. That was all I did. One conversation. My brain started to wonder, how do podcasts end up on itunes? That sounds overwhelming. Maybe I shouldn’t do it. Then I’d tell my brain to shut up. I’m like, hey, how it gets on itunes doesn’t matter right now. I don’t need to know how. Then I’m like, I’ll take another step. Think of a name. I did that. I wrote down some ideas for names. My next baby step. I put down my top two favorite names for a poll on Facebook. That’s it. I decided I would do a podcast, and I made a name another baby stepped on. Now what? How about I get a picture taken for the podcast art? Next baby step. I emailed the photographer and set a date. That’s it. My brain would still go to wondering about all the things that I would have to do to create a podcast. And yes, I did put if I had an idea of what I might need to do, uh, I put it on the list. But I only did one thing at a time.

How long will it take for me to get a podcast live? I would wonder sometimes. Didn’t matter. I was just going to do it. It was just going to take as long as it was going to take. I was just going to keep doing the next one thing. And eventually I’d have a podcast. And it wasn’t overwhelming. It takes all the drama out of it. It makes it totally doable. And by the time I put my podcast live, I wasn’t worried or nervous or anything. None of it had been overwhelming along the way because all I did is one thing. I could just do one thing until I crossed the finish line.

Baby steps. They work. If you have never seen What About Bob, I think you need to go watch it now. Then send me an email or a direct message. Tell me what your favorite part was. There’s so much funny stuff in there. I really want to hear what you liked. All right, y’all, that’s it for today. I will catch you next week. Take care.

As an advanced certified life coach, I help Christian women trying to live their best lives, but they still feel unsatisfied and stuck. I teach thought management skills that work so you can enjoy life again and step into who God has created you to be. Don’t forget to head on over to Rympodcast.com to get my free resources or a free coaching call.

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