The Living Joyfully Podcast

The Living Joyfully Podcast

LJ012: Baby Steps [Foundations]

January 12, 2023

This week on the podcast, we're talking about baby steps. So often, when we're faced with a challenge or making a choice, we don't need to have the full picture or the final answer in order to move forward. By taking a baby step in the direction that makes sense to us or to our loved ones, we can learn more about the situation and see how it feels. One baby step can lead naturally to the next. As we keep communicating and checking in, we can find a path forward that works for everyone.

We hope today's episode sparks some fun insights for you and we invite you to dive deeper with our Episode Questions. Join us on Instagram or YouTube to continue the conversation and share your reflections.

Let’s dig deep, challenge paradigms, choose connection, and live joyfully!

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  1. Does it feel like many of the day to day choices you’re making are urgent? Are they really? If you haven’t listened to episode 8 yet about Anna’s mantra, “there’s plenty of time,” I highly recommend it.
  2. Thinking back, can you remember a time when you felt pressured (often by ourselves!) to make a decision quickly yet the better choice wasn’t immediately clear? Can you think of a series of baby steps that might have helped? Feel free to get creative!
  3. Is there a choice or a goal you’re considering right now that feels big? You don’t need to know exactly how you’d get there, but can you see a baby step in that direction? Can you do that and see what happens?
  4. Are you more of a leap-first person or a firm-footing person? What about your partner? Your children? How can understanding that help you communicate with them about future decisions?


PAM: Hello and welcome to the Living Joyfully Podcast. We are happy you're here exploring relationships with us, who we are in them, out of them, and what that means for how we move through the world.

If you're new to the podcast, we encourage you to go back and listen to the earlier episodes. We started with some foundational relationship ideas in these first dozen episodes and have really enjoyed how they are building on one another. And if you've already been enjoying the podcast, please share it with the people in your life that you think would benefit from contemplating these ideas. It's super easy to share. Just send them to From there, they can pick their favorite podcast player and it will take them right to the show in that app. Thanks so much for helping us spread the word.

And so, this week, we are going to talk about the idea of baby steps. When we're trying to make a choice, so often, we don't need to make the big, ultimate decision right now. This builds on the idea that there's plenty of time, which we talked about a few weeks ago. These are the threads that are moving through them all.

So, maybe we're not yet sure whether we want to pursue the end goal that we're considering. When we find ourselves here, what's often missing is more information or experience. So, taking the next baby step in that direction can give us more information to help us make that bigger picture decision. Sometimes we need to take quite a few baby steps before we get a keen sense of what we ultimately want to do.

Or, maybe our partner or child wants to do something that stretches our comfort zone. Chances are, we don't need to make a yes/no choice immediately. Staying open and curious, which we talked about last week, can help us take the next baby step in that direction and just learn more about what it entails and how it feels. It can also give us a better understanding of why they're wanting to go in that direction and some experience that can help us better explain our perspective. We're learning more about them and we're learning more about ourselves.

That deeper level of self-awareness and having a better grasp of the language around their goal, now we can have more meaningful and connected conversations with them. There's just so much we can learn when we try just that next baby step, isn't there?

ANNA: Oh my gosh, yes. And it really is the natural extension of last week's discussion on being open and curious. When our partner or child brings us something they want to do, sometimes if we don't see the whole path clearly, we'll just shut it down. At the first thought of resistance, we're just like, "No, that doesn't sound doable." But if instead we can ask some questions and start walking in that direction, we learn so much more about each other and also about the task at hand. What does it really mean? What is it really going to entail?

We don't have to commit to that end goal, like you're saying, right away. Taking that first step helps us learn more and keeps us connected.

PAM: Yeah. Yeah. So, I have a story to share about taking baby steps and stretching my comfort zone, that, looking back, I do remember fondly.

It's an example of how we don't need to make all or nothing decisions immediately, and how choosing the next baby step does not mean that you've committed to a big yes right now.

So, this happened years ago now, in the aftermath of a big January snowstorm. My daughter was maybe 13 or 14 and we had tickets to see a concert in the city about an hour away. So, that morning, the snow was falling heavily and I was sure they'd cancel the show. People were being told to stay home if possible. I was looking forward to settling in and hanging out around the fire in our wood stove.

My daughter had been looking forward to the show and was understandably disappointed. I told her that I was pretty sure they'd reschedule the show. So, she wouldn't miss it. It would just be postponed. She kept checking the website. And by early afternoon, they announced that the show was going to go on.

Obviously, she wanted to go and I wanted to stay home. I imagined all the hurdles in our way. And it seemed like way too much work, yet I could see her immense disappointment and I chose to shift to being open and curious about the possibility.

And though I couldn't yet muster a, "Yes, let's go!" I did manage to take a baby step to meet her with a maybe. Though the snow had now stopped falling, I explained the obstacles I saw and that I was willing to try the next baby step and see how it looked. If it looked okay, we'd try the next baby step and the next, and she agreed.

So, step one was, clean off the car and shovel enough of the driveway to get out by our planned departure time. And we did it, even after the snow plow went by and created another curb of snow at the end of the driveway that we had to dig through again.

So, step two, is our local rural road plowed and safely drivable? Once we could peek out and see the road, that was a yes, too. Step three was pack the car with extra hats and mitts and snacks in case we get stuck along the way. Done.

By the time we pulled out of the driveway, it felt like we were on quite the adventure. I was rather surprised we'd actually made it this far, but there was no point that said, "Stop," so we kept going. Step four, as we slowly drove into the city, I reminded her that if the road or the traffic got bad, we would turn back. Even in her excitement, she was fine with that. It turned out that though the roads were snow-covered, they had been plowed, so it wasn't deep, and traffic was very light. Slowly but surely, we made our way into the city.

Step five, we pulled into the venue parking lot. We were both so surprised to find ourselves there. It was almost surreal. I can still remember the feeling. So white and quiet outside. And inside, the concert turned out to be a very intimate show. The band thanked those who showed up and really connected with the audience as they played. It ended up being a pretty magical night.

I remember that day vividly because it was a great reminder that, when I'm feeling overwhelmed, when I'm feeling like I need to make a big yes/no choice, taking baby steps and looking around after each one to see what's up and see how I'm feeling can be a really helpful way for me to move through it.

I could acknowledge both my discomfort and her enthusiasm, holding both of them gently in my hands. And baby step by baby step, explore whether we could find a path forward that worked for both of us.

And that said, sometimes we don't have the capacity for that, and that's okay. Sometimes we start out and come to an impasse. That's okay, too. But sometimes we find a path of baby steps that works out. And over the years, that happened way more often than I expected. That inspired me each time just to give it a shot.

ANNA: Just to give it a shot! Oh my gosh. I love that story. And I think what I want to highlight is that by being open to those next steps and communicating along the way, you stayed on the same side.

You were a team. You were solving it together. You were traveling those next steps together. And you could have shut it down with a no saying, it's just too snowy, which really wouldn't have been that unreasonable of a reaction. But most likely, it would've led to some kind of rupture, even beyond the disappointment. Maybe even a slammed door or just some kind of upset. But instead, you dug into your concerns. You were honest about them, talked about them, and slowly started to address them together, knowing that at any time you could change your mind.

And what she saw was that you were trying, and again, that you were working together. And that is just such a different energy than making top-down decisions. Because had it not worked out, she would've seen the path of why it didn't work out. The road's impassable. We can't get the driveway dug out. The car's not starting. Whatever the real thing would've been, as opposed to you inside by the fire making that choice for her.

I think we can do this with our partners, too. They'll have an idea and instead of examining where our reactions are coming from, we just react and we shut it down and it's really disconnecting. And interestingly, we can do this whether the idea has anything to do with us or not. It's really easy to fall into that trap of pointing out all the problems. Instead, we can listen, ask questions, celebrate the excitement that the person has for the idea. That's what keeps us connected and helps us find the next steps that make sense.

So, it's back to being open and curious. I want to cultivate that mindset when someone comes to me with an idea, because from that place, we can figure out any resistance and start to address it with those next baby steps. And the key with this process is to remain connected and curious. I can be honest about what's coming up for me without judging or shutting down what's happening for them and where they want to go.

I think part of it is releasing any sense of urgency, which we talk about a lot. I know sometimes I can feel pressured when somebody comes to me with a request, but what I've learned is that, if I answer from that place, I most likely will say no or something that disconnects us. It's okay to ask for some time to think and gather your thoughts and consider things. And that's back to, are you an internal or external processor? Taking time to think about what's causing the resistance helps you to be able to communicate that with your partner and child.

And honestly, the first step is often just listening, like really listening. What's behind the request? What are they excited about? How do they see it playing out? Then perhaps the next step is really still information gathering. There's a lot you can do that's pretty low stakes, but it shows that you're open to understanding and trying to find a path forward, and it just makes all the difference in a relationship.

PAM: Yes, as an internal processor, I have said to my kids over the years and they learned to work with, "If you need an answer right now, it's gonna be a no. But if you give me a few minutes to just take it in and figure out how it feels and what it looks like," I just need to process it and it's not something I can do aloud. As an internal processor, I just need to do it in my head. And do the different paths. Okay, so this is the change, this is what that change looks like over the rest of the day or week, depending on what it is. And then I'm like, "Oh yeah, that's all good." And then I go back and say, yes, or I actually discover what the hiccup is, and then I can go and say, "Oh, but look, that impacts this for me. How can we address that?"

But if I need to answer right away, I would say no. And most people are not like, "I'll take the no right away, please." So, seeing through their eyes is just so very helpful, because that's what each baby step can help us with. So, even if I don't get to a place where I share their level of excitement about the thing, I can definitely often get to a place where I can appreciate their excitement. And want it for them. That makes all the difference in the world for me.

ANNA: So much. And I think just what you were just talking about it, it's important to acknowledge that there are differences that we can learn about in each other. And we talked a bit about that in episode three, but I think this is another potential difference that can trip up relationships.

So, you're going to have the people who like to leap first, ask questions later, and then you're going to have people who really need to feel out every step, to confirm that there's some firm footing here before I go any further. And understanding where you lie on that continuum will help you communicate with your partner.

So, if you're a leap-first person and you're partnered with a firm-footing-only person, you can take that into consideration, just like your kids were able to do, and see that their questions are not about discounting your idea at all but that they're trying to make the idea work for them.

So remember, often our work is to not take things personally, but to see that our partner's actions or behaviors are trying to meet a need. And so, then we're learning about one another and we're learning about how to approach these conversations. So, even when you have two different styles, you can find ways to come together honoring each other. That starts with setting any defensiveness aside and trusting that the two of you will keep working to find a path forward that feels good.

You may find some unique combinations of leaping and planning or leaning on each other's strengths to get the best outcome, because so often in these situations, it's really a bit of both, right? Leaps of faith and some pre-planning that get us there. And sometimes there's certain situations that are better served by one or the other, but knowing each of your strengths puts you in the best position to get where you want to go together and helping one another. Knowing that there are options and keeping the lines of communication open helps us remain connected even if we're navigating difficult decisions or stretching our comfort zones.

PAM: Yes. Our differing personalities are such a great thing to consider when we're talking about goals, paths, and what that next step might be. It makes all the difference. And as you were sharing there, what comes to mind for me is just the experience. Each time we move through it, we're building trust with the other person. Trust that I will consider the kind of person you are. What feels good to you? What doesn't feel good to you? I'm not gonna try and railroad my answer. But I'm not going to just accept your answer either and be martyrly about it, because that's going to lead to burnout. That's going to lead to overwhelm, all sorts of places. And sometimes that happens, but then there's work to move through that and to get back to connection from there.

So, the more I can bring myself and be open and curious about other people, each time that happens, we build a little bit more trust that this process is working for us, no matter what path we ended up on. That, to me, was always one of the most fun things. Yes, there was a hard piece about the uncertainty, like going into the conversation, not knowing where we'd go, but oh my gosh, the places that we ended up so often were way more interesting and fun than the original path that I thought of.

ANNA: That's so true, but that's because we were open and created this environment where they could feel open to ask and respect and understand, and all of those pieces that weave together to create these strong, connected relationships that we're talking about every week.

PAM: Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So, here are some questions you might want to ponder as you explore how taking baby steps can make choices and decisions easier. It's a skill that you can definitely get better at through experience.

So, number one, does it feel like many of the day to day choices you're making are urgent? Are they really? If you haven't listened to episode eight yet about Anna's mantra, There's Plenty of Time, I highly recommend you start there.

Question two, thinking back, can you remember a time when you felt pressured (and that can be pressure we're putting on ourselves) to make a decision quickly, yet the better choice wasn't immediately clear? Can you think of a series of baby steps that might have helped you along the way? And feel free to get creative. It can feel like, oh, that's just more work. But, oh my gosh, the journey is the experience.

ANNA: Exactly. And the creativity is all a part of it and what makes it a little bit lighter, not so much weight, as we can be creative together.

PAM: Yeah. All right. Question three. Is there a choice or a goal you're considering right now that feels big to you? You don't need to know exactly how you would get there, but can you see a baby step in that direction? Can you do that and just see what happens?

And lastly, are you more of a leap-first person or a firm-footing person? What about your partner, your children? How can understanding that help you communicate with them about future decisions?

All right. Thank you so, so much for listening and we will see you next time. Bye! Have a great day!