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On Taking the First Step


More news for Well-being

There is a distinct energy in a school at the beginning of the year. Last week, I took space to sit and watch. Our new students and staff arrive with a sense of possibility. There is the buzz and excitement as friends and colleagues reunite after the summer break and the anticipation of new friendships forming. At the start of the year, there is a lovely feeling of having a clean slate. Everything lies ahead.

But with excitement and anticipation, other thoughts and feelings swirl around too. Beginnings can be hard. When we begin, we need to move out of our comfort zone and change gears. It is a time to reconnect and find our place again. It is not uncommon to feel nervous or even have a low level of fear in the beginning.

I loved the simple but sage advice our Head Prefects chose as their theme this year. In Leadership Assembly, they encouraged the student body to ‘take the first step.’  This message acknowledges the challenge of beginning and the importance of taking one small action to move forward. One step.


Robert Maurer, a professor from the UCLA School of Medicine, agrees with our prefects about the importance of taking small steps. His research highlights how fearful thinking impacts brain function and can stop people from stepping into change and progress. In the beginning, we can over-complicate things. Whether it is overthinking and worrying about what people think, or not wanting to take a step until the conditions are perfect, including ourselves; we often hijack our brains with our thinking.

Maurer believes the antidote to this is thinking small thoughts, asking small questions, and taking small steps. This sentiment aligns with the ancient Japanese philosophy of Kaizen. With Kaizen, “the journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step,” and the focus is on the slow and steady process of improvement. By thinking small thoughts and taking small actions, we circumvent a flight response in our brain and make progress.


So as we begin the new school year, I wonder what one small step you could take toward reaching your goal is? What is the one step for your learning? Your friendships? Your vitality?

In response to the prefect's theme, I wanted to share this beautiful poem written by David Whyte. I have reconnected with this piece over the years and love his invitation: to start close in; to start with the ground you know.  

Start Close In

Start close in,
don’t take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don’t
want to take. 

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way to begin
the conversation.

Start with your own
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don’t follow
someone else’s
be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own. 

Start close in,
don’t take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don’t
want to take.

Many Rivers Press © David Whyte




Kerry Larby, Head of Well-being and Positive Education



Wednesday 10 February 2021

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