The Alchemy of Small Steps
Rediscovering Motivation in a Chaotic World
Earlier this year, I explored the struggle between the abstract and the concrete within my newsletter.
My creative life has lived in the collision of these two spaces since then.
On the one hand, I want to give actionable value from my writing. Something which the reader can take away practically.
On the other, my insights always arrive at the edges of things, distrusting how the modern world instrumentalizes the spirit.
Words have far more power when they evoke rather than dictate. I find myself inspired by offerings over prescription, exploration over rigid construction.
And as anyone who reads my newsletter knows, I try to offer my “working out of things” rather than something fixed.
All that said, I feel like my written voice has emerged out of this struggle.
Instruction manuals in broken Beta
Experimental guides with imperfect blueprints
Wonky compasses navigating an unsure somewhere...
They won’t get you to the destination but might highlight the nature of the scenery along the way...
If that’s of use to someone out there that is meaning enough for me!
I have started these little introductions to Précis what to expect if you read on.
This week’s rumination explores:
Unlocking motivation and purpose when faced with a lack of drive.
How to break free from feeling stuck in a world of choices
Why the smallest step is the greatest act of reckless faith
Right, here we go!
With love, Jim
How do you face the day when your motivation is absent? There are times in our lives when what it is we are meant to do is not entirely clear. Often we struggle with a feeling of stuckness - how the hell do we move our lives forward when the world is so dam intractable? It’s compounded nowadays by the simulacrum of choices before us. So many, that they singe the senses. Each one appeals and stimulates, cajoles and calls, and yet when we put our phones down we’re left with a sense of overwhelm and meaninglessness. What is it again that inspired me? I’m sure a second ago I was crystal clear about what I'm meant to be doing... These realisations depart as quickly as they arrive, like phantasmal spectres. And so there we are, on a Monday morning viewing the world not as one full of potential but one where, in the words of Marx, all that is solid melts into air. How do you find your centre when all centres have been displaced, all certainties atomised? It’s in these moments that the challenge of our lives is most clear: We need to find a way forward. The only question is; how. Having the dream is often not the problem. It's how to walk towards it we struggle with. And nowadays, we lack the ability to make ourselves humble. We feel unspeakable powers within us, and then at the point of action, our sense of why puffs into smoke. That which we can do is manifestly vanquished by that which we could do. Standing before us is the whole world and yet we don’t know how to dam well get to it. The illusion of the whole negates our capacity to build a pathway to get to it. But you have to remember that all the tools you need are inside you. The gateway to the future is embodied in the tiniest step you can possibly make. And to take that step is a prayer. Why? Because to believe its potential is to link it to what is possible. The process of belief, faith, and conviction is the bridge which shapes our lives. Our stories; serialized in the absurdity of acts of faith we don't even recognise to be faith. That's why we get dislocated from our dream. Because we forget that getting out of bed is not just an act of faith, but quixotically absurd. And yet in our own doing lies the key. We just need to reattach the meaning to the doing. At the last, we recognise - The only thing that we can ever do is to identify the next smallest thing and commit to it with our whole dam hearts. It’s in that action that we express most who we are - not in the megalomania of our fanciful imagination. Buddha said that humility is the foundation of all the virtues. Are we still capable of being humble? We moderns wish to be Titans yet cower before our newsfeeds. Drug addicts with no awareness of their own addiction. Popping out of our newsfeeds is a simulacrum of dubious ideas we've all signed up for without ever noticing we've subscribed. Rammed down our throats is the idea that we have to outwork the next person, that we have to fill the void with nothing but blood, sweat and tears. It appears the cure we’ve bought into is profound and continual mania. Yet all the older traditions counsel a different way. Dare we cross this bridge, from the assumptions of modern mania and into the threshold of how our own living potential can exist in the world? This world is before us in all its grandeur, all its majesty and all its awe. How you choose to be in it defines both who you are and how your life will be. And what you have to understand in your darkest moment is that right here, right now - you are in the heart of your challenge. And the key is not to try to fill up every moment with a will to do that which you simply do not feel like doing. That’s the inauthentic lie sold to you by content creators ChatGPT’ing a one sized fits all approach to life. Instead, what about your authenticity in this moment? Perhaps it can manifest precisely because you are resistant to all the motivational gunk that is being pumped into our unwilling souls every day. Of course, you’re exhausted. That’s what happens by assuming someone else’s advice when it simply doesn’t fit the needs of your own spirit. Courage is sometimes finding the way that is right for you. So why not commit to this moment right now as a link to the future, rather than feeling worthless because you can’t ever seem to get to that future? Adyashanti said that “When we make ourselves small, we open up space for the world to enter and transform us”. The act of doing that next smallest thing before you, no matter how minuscule or seemingly irrelevant it may seem to be, unlocks the whole dam mystery. If that is the case then you have the greatest opportunity of your life, not in the vast unattainable dream which tortures you, but in the courage to seize one thing and commit your entire being to it. And remember, you express your reverence before life, by the sheer act of commitment to the very thing which life is pretending not to notice. It does notice. And what you does matter. Faith is about holding in your heart that the next thing before you is a sacrament. Instead of asking for everything, ask for nothing. Ritualise the step you take and think of it as a gift, not just to yourself but to life. Don’t think of it as something on your to-do list but as a prayer. Each syllable builds a bridge into the future which one moment overwhelmed you, and the next moment brings you forward. That is what reckless faith is. To be led by each heartbeat. It contracts and dilates - but where? In the dark itself. You might be in the dark, but you are also in the heart. Keep going, keep believing. You have absolutely no idea the significance of the next moment of your life and where it wants to lead you. Let it.