Karen Kerschmann, LCSW

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Clinical Supervision


Kerschmann & Associates

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and  Clinical Supervision

Kerschmann & Associates

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and  Clinical Supervision

From Overwhelm to Overcome: Reaching Your Goals One Step at a Time

by | Feb 23, 2024 | Anxiety, Anxiety and Stress, Uncategorized


Small Steps, Big Impact: Emily’s Story of Reaching Her Dream

Emily had a burning desire to become a renowned painter, but she often felt overwhelmed and anxious by the enormity of her aspirations. She would head to art shows wondering how anyone could reach such recognition. This left her feeling stuck as she continued working her well-paying, albeit unexciting manager position at a Fortune 500 company. Her free time consisted of watching TV, going to the gym, and visiting art museums with good friends. Her life was not dull, but she knew she was avoiding going after what she really wanted.

One Saturday, Emily decided that instead of her normal routine of grocery shopping and cleaning theHow to Manage Overwhelm While Reaching Your Long Term Goals Picture of Ladders with Different Number of Rungs house, she would focus on doing one thing that aligned with her dream. She grabbed her sketchbook and pencils and went outside to simply draw what she saw around her. No more, no less. After thirty minutes of sketching, Emily felt accomplished. She didn’t worry about creating a masterpiece; instead she had fun with the process of improving her skills one drawing at a time, and gave herself an internal ‘gold star’ for every improvement she made.

As days turned into weeks, Emily’s confidence grew and her anxiety waned. She started experimenting with different techniques and subjects, pushing herself to explore new styles and perspectives. Some days were challenging and overwhelm would creep in, but Emily would just take smaller steps and she noticed her anxiety was more manageable than she anticipated.

Eventually, Emily’s hard work began to pay off. Her sketches caught the eye of a local art gallery owner who offered her a small exhibition space. Excited but anxious, Emily accepted the opportunity.

The night of her art show arrived, and Emily watched people admire her artwork. She felt a sense of pride knowing that each piece represented countless small actions taken toward her dream. Some visitors even expressed interest in purchasing her work, leaving Emily feeling that much more energized.

With each sale, Emily felt herself climbing higher on the ladder of success. She realized that reaching her goal wasn’t about making one giant leap but rather about embracing the journey of growth and perseverance, one step at a time.

Years passed, and Emily’s reputation as an artist continued to flourish. She traveled the world, showcasing her paintings in prestigious galleries and sharing her story of how she became so accomplished. Young women would come up to her in awe, asking her how she accomplished such an outstanding reputation. Emily explained that it was the minuscule day to day work that had led her to her achievement. As Emily learned, it wasn’t the height of the ladder that mattered, but openness to understand that  small steps and patience are the key to managing the anxiety and overwhelm she had at the beginning.

The Science of Small Steps

BJ Fogg, behavioral researcher and founder of the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford University, asserts that the baby steps we make are the path to success in ‘Tiny Habits: The Small Changes that Change Everything’. “It’s easier to create habits and change than most people think, and it’s faster than most people think,” . “It can even be fun, if you do it in the right way” Bogg states in an interview with NPR.

Most of us have heard the old Chinese Proverb “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.  We can visualize this by comparing two ladders that are the same height but the number of rungs are different. Oftentimes we dismiss our small efforts as ‘not enough’ or a waste of time. However, if one can conceptualize this in terms of two  ladders, we can see that this method can not only be easier, more fun and faster, but also make something we believe is impossible entirely possible.

While the idea of big goals may lead to overwhelm and shut down, it’s the small, consistent actions taken towards them that pave the way to accomplish what we never thought we could. By embracing the importance of our tiny efforts, you can make significant strides throughout your journey.