Lesley Garner
Lesley Garner
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Life Lessons
Everything I've ever done
that Worked
Everything I've ever
Learned about Love
Everything I've ever
Learned about Change
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The Times of Our Lives

Everything I've Ever Learned About Change

Stepping Stones

I have made my way through life on stepping stones. This
isn’t the only way. Look around and you will see that people build
their lives very differently. Some hack their way through the jungle,
slashing and burning and transforming the landscape. Some are
always taking wild leaps into the dark. Sometimes they land on their
feet. Sometimes they miss and fall. Some people are so paralysed
by the risks inherent in change that they crouch in the undergrowth
for years, becoming more entrenched as time passes them by.
Some are full of wild schemes that they never try out. Some waste
years longing to be rescued. When it comes to making changes in
life I have found that stepping stones work for me.

Using stepping stones as your method of forward motion
means that you never make a leap without having a landing
place. It may not be dry land. It may not be a settled resting-place,
but it will be movement in the direction in which you wish to travel.

What do stepping stones look like? A stepping stone
towards the change you really want will not be the change in its
entirety. So if it’s a dream job you are after it won’t be the dream
job, but neither will the stone you are leaving behind. Stepping
stones are the stages that will get you there when the distance
between where you stand and where you want to be is too great
to cross in one leap.

You create stepping stones by doing research and making
connections. Say you are after that dream job. You can’t get it
straightaway, so you consider training and voluntary work. You
offer to do unpaid work if it will get you nearer your goal. You
read articles that name people who do the kind of work you want
or who could help you, and you write to these people, asking for
their advice and if you could maybe even meet them. They can
only say ‘no’ or, more usually, not reply at all. But one ‘yes’ could make all the difference.

Even moving via stepping stones means taking risks – the
risk of putting your ideas out into the open and looking foolish –
but you must do that if you are to make change.

So you start moving in your chosen direction, stepping stone
by stepping stone. If you want to make films, you get a camera
and start making something you can show to other people. If
you want to write, you start writing and join a writing group. If
you want to make political change, you go to meetings and
demonstrations and join lobby groups. You volunteer. You meet
like-minded people and one thing leads to another.

Stepping stones are not just about finding a new job. They
can be moves towards the kind of life you really want to live.

Have you thought of moving abroad? Go on holiday to another
country and do a recce. Do you feel you’ve outgrown your
friends? Get involved with an activity that attracts you and you
will meet like-minded people. Do you long to move to a different
part of town? Stop fantasizing about it and start walking round
new neighbourhoods. Consider renting while you look. Life doesn’t
have to be all or nothing with no safety net. It can be trial and error.

Making your way on stepping stones means building on
the great truth that one thing leads to another. And one person
leads to another. When you make your intention known to the
people you meet in the gym or in your terrible job or at your local
party meeting, somebody may say that their friend’s aunt or their
neighbour’s cousin knows somebody who knows something
about what you want. Always follow up leads. Every lead is a
stepping stone. And one stone leads to another.

If you have ever tried to cross a stream by creating your
own stepping stone you will know that it can be a hit or miss
business. The stone you are trying to position ahead of yourself
disappears under the water. Or it is insecure and wobbles wildly
when you try to step on it. This doesn’t matter. Cast about for
more stones and just keep chucking them into the water. Sooner
or later you will create a firm footing.

The other crucial point about stepping stones is that you
never step off the one you are on until the next one is in place and
will take your weight. I once made the mistake of giving up one
job before I had secured the next. You recover, of course, but you
have made life harder for yourself. Waist-deep in flowing water is
not an easy base from which to make a change. Even the smallest
stone, the least promising job, the least likely contact, is a springboard
to the next.

One day you will step onto a stone which leads to dry
land. Congratulations. You’ve made it across. All those letters and
e-mails, all those contacts, all that research, all that unpaid preparation,
lobbying and persistence have carried you through to the
place where you wanted to be.

Do you still want to be there? Or has your mind leaped
ahead to a new destination across another wide stretch of water?
It doesn’t matter now because you’ve learned the art of getting
there. Stepping stones will get you anywhere you want to go.

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