People love steps. Steps are a neat, tidy, easy-to-remember process. They are often extraordinarily beneficial, whether it be toward productivity of personal growth.
The problem is that steps are never enough. A 3, 5, or 7 step process can never encompass all that needs to be done or changed. They are a human construction to add organization to complex issues (a good thing). But there are so many things which can’t be reduced to steps: creativity, relationships, introspection, heart change. These things are alive, and living things can’t be produced by a simple, multi-step procedure.
So here are three steps to help you avoid dependence on steps.
1) See steps as a guideline, not a formula for success.
People have produced some enormously effective processes for success, but all process must be diverged from at some point. When you see “seven steps to. . .” remember that it provides a direction in which to go, but not step by step directions.
2) Remember that steps are, first and foremost, descriptive not prescriptive.
When people come up with a multi-step process for success it’s through their own experience. They are describing what worked for them. That does not mean it will work exactly the same for you. Implement what you can, but remember that you are alive and the process is not. It likely won’t be as perfect for you as it was for the originator. In fact, it might not even work as well for them the if they tried it again either.
3) Keep in mind that every process is small piece of a great puzzle.
No set of steps answers every question that will arise or overcomes every challenge. The more specific a process is, the more useful it is. The more grandiose it is, the more you should be inclined to throw it in the reject heap. A process must be detailed in its application in order to be helpful, but by being detailed it is inherently limited in its scope. No one process will make you perfectly organized or a perfect spouse. A collection of smaller processes will get you closer to those aims, step by little step.