When faced with large problems, it's easy to get caught in outcome-oriented "what if" thinking. It's easy to look at the millions of "what ifs" and focus our attention on the outcomes that we least want to occur. If we're feeling notably positive, we might shift our focus into visualizing the most desirable outcomes.
In my case, for a long time, I found myself in the middle of the road between those two ways of thinking. I would plan for the worst, hope for the best, and expect something in-between.
This kind of thinking has served me well. It's helped me stay prepared while at the same time maintaining a positive outlook. This has given me some supportive, creative, and effective solutions to problems.
However, the challenge I've come to realize is this: Whether we're affirming a positive or negative future, in either case, we're focused on living in an outcome-oriented state. In other words, our happiness and sense of inner peace are being derived from something external to ourselves. That also means we're not choosing to have conscious control of our immediate experience (which is the only form of control we have).
In exploring this further from a spiritual perspective, a different approach may work better. When I say "work," I don't mean that this approach magically gives us the most positive outcome to a problem. What I mean is, it allows us to experience more conscious control of our experiences, to feel more present and peaceful, and ultimately to find the "right" solutions to problems.
(And "right" is not necessarily the same as "most pleasing to our egos.")
The simple secret I'm talking about? Putting one foot in front of the other. Taking one step at a time.
Not in the conventional sense. I'm not talking about taking a big goal and breaking it down into smaller goals. I'm not talking about taking the first most logical step towards solving a problem. This is a different kind of step. Specifically, it has now become the first step I practice whenever faced with a challenge. And this one shift has made a huge impact on my inner experience.
The shift is this…
Bring your attention to your physical body. It doesn't matter which body part, or even for how long. All that matters is that you shift your attention away from the problem you're wanting to solve and that your attention goes immediately towards your body.
That's it. That's the first step. That's the secret to solving your biggest problems.
I could explain why, but that would only appease your mind's desire to "know the secret." And that won't serve you very well because it would only become intellectual knowledge. It wouldn't become embodied or integrated in a useful way to help you move forward.
Don't take my word for any of this. Instead, try it out.
The next time you find yourself stuck in a problem or focused on the "what ifs" of the future, just take notice of any part of your body. See what your inner experience is like in the present moment. From there, allow your inner awareness and experience to guide you towards the next step.
Maybe that next step will be one of action in the world. Maybe it'll be another step towards sensing your body more deeply. Each moment is different. Each challenge is different. Each life is different.
What I do know is that when you take this first step, whatever you need to know most in that moment will be revealed to you. You’ll also discover that with each next step you take, you'll be one step closer to the optimal solution for whatever challenge you're facing.