Practices From the Inside Out: A Series of Small Steps

Practices From the Inside Out: A Series of Small Steps July 20, 2019

A Series of Small Steps

Fifty years ago today two astronauts took small steps which signified a giant leap for humankind.

People walking on the surface of the moon was not the result of a single leap of faith. A long series of interconnected small steps fit together to give them an opportunity to change history.

Speaking to a joint session of Congress in 1961, President Kennedy set a goal for the United States of landing someone on the moon before the end of that decade and bringing them back safely. The next year, President Kennedy explained the United States chose to go to the moon not because it was easy, but because it was hard. He believed the goal would help organize and measure the best of the nation’s energies and skills.

President Kennedy could not have known all the sacrifices and work accomplishing his goal would require. He himself would not live to see it accomplished. The president did not lay out a comprehensive plan listing the objectives necessary for achieving his goal. There was no estimate of what it would cost. Many technological and scientific problems would need to be solved.

The entire story from the speech in the Capitol to the footprints on the moon was a series of small steps.

The spark of the goal inspired some people. They changed their careers, their families, their lives to help accomplish it.

There were people who became discouraged or frustrated or tired along the way. It felt to them as if the goal was overwhelming, or impossible.

The goal motivated some people to work with other people, or to compete with them. Some people got caught up in obscure corners of accomplishing the goal.

For many, the goal did help organize and measure the best of the nation’s energies and skills.

Beginning a Series of Small Steps

The series of small steps from the President’s speech in the Capitol to the footprints on the moon was powerful. It is difficult to recognize all the ways those small steps changed the world in which we live.

I believe in the power of taking a series of small steps, even when we do not see all the steps in advance.

Today, on the fiftieth anniversary of those small steps on the moon, it will be January, 2020 in less than six months. I encourage you to set your own new goal.

How would you like to change the world before the end of the next decade?

What is the goal which would most help you organize and measure the best of your energies and skills?

Is there a goal which is worthy of our attention and commitment for the next ten years?

Today we remember we do not need to have all the objectives spelled out. We do not need to know the answers to all the questions we will face along the way. Our goal is not something we can accomplish overnight. We are not doing this because it is easy, but because it is hard.

The most significant things we can do are 1) find a worthy goal and 2) take a series of small steps.

We will become tired and frustrated and discouraged along the way. Some of us will feel lost and alone. It will be easy for us to want to give up, turn around, and go do something else.

I know people who get to a point in life where they cannot remember why they are doing what they do.

Can we set a goal strong enough for us to remember until 2030?

Taking a Series of Small Steps

For some of us the challenge in taking a series of small steps is they are small. We are looking for a goal we can accomplish quickly, with one giant leap of insight or inspiration.

Some of us would like a goal which accomplishes itself.

Those are not the goals we want for the next ten years.

We want a goal which will change us and change the world around us in ways we do not expect. Our goal needs to be challenging because we want it to bring out the best in us. We are not talking about a bucket list or a life list of places to visit. Our next ten years will not be organized the restaurants where we eat or the movies we see.

Each day of our next ten years is a series of small steps toward accomplishing our goal. We will need to overcome obstacles and find new ways to solve problems.

It will be a significant challenge for us just to continue taking steps for the next ten years.

How can we discern the goal toward which spiritual life is drawing us for the next ten years?

Small Steps Are Also Giant Leaps

It took me a long time of reflection to appreciate the power of what Neil Armstrong said when he set foot on the moon.

Many of us recognize the astronauts’ small steps onto the moon were giant leaps. They were the culmination of years of effort and sacrifice.

It took me longer to see how each small step in the series is a giant leap.

None of the people who took the small steps from the speech in the Capitol to the footprints on the moon saw what they were doing as insignificant. Each person took each step with a sense of purpose and an understanding they were making a contribution.

We are seeking a goal for the next ten years which will help us see our own small steps as giant leaps.

When we appreciate the value of our series of small steps we will not be tempted to just go through the motions. Each of our own small steps holds the potential to be a giant leap.

How will our series of small steps take us closer to our goal today?

What goal for the next ten years will spark a new series of small steps for us this week?

[Image by NASA]

Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is and his email address is

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