Taking the “Next Step”

July 1, 2008

I like paying attention to coincidences. So recently, when I saw the words “next step” in two unrelated articles, I thought I should pay attention.

One article was written by organizational expert David Allen, who urges procrastinators not to worry too much about the big picture but simply to figure out “the very next action step” needed to move a project forward. Procrastinators don’t need to have a project totally figured out before acting on it, Allen says. He advises simply to be specific about that next step: If you need to meet, for example, decide if you’ll organize the meeting by phone or by e-mail.

The second article was in Discover magazine. It talked about human-like robotics and how best to program them. Robotics researchers are finding that they can accomplish more with robots by emulating how the human body works. In the past, the article remarks, scientists followed the prevailing theory of “the brain as the center of thought.” But now scientists are finding that decisions flow from the interaction of the environment with the physical material of our bodies. This works for all living things, from humans to insects. The article cites the example of a cockroach that doesn’t appeal to its brain to tell it how to handle walking on an irregular surface. “Instead, its musculoskeletal system is designed so that local impacts drive its legs to the right position to take the next step.” The same logic applies to humans. This “bottom up” theory of intelligence, the article notes, is also called “The Wisdom of the Body.”

I believe that the message of both articles is this: Don’t worry too much about the big picture. You can trust that you’ll find your way if you just keep taking the next step. — Reprinted from Cindy’s Coffeehouse Brew.

— Cindy Hampel



  1. Cindy, I find that so many of your insights ring true for me, and this idea of not worrying about the big picture is especially true right now. I have always been one to plan, plan, plan. But for now I can’t make things fit the way I want them to, so I have to go just one step at a time. I have discovered that it is important to keep moving, even if it’s just a bit at a time.

  2. Sharon, I’m also one who tends to plan a lot, but lately I’ve been needing to remind myself, too, that all I need to do right now — and all I really can do — is just to take the next step and trust that everything will work out.

    Thanks for joining the discussion!

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