The False First Step

June 20, 2018 5 min read

The False First Step

June 20, 2018 5 min read



A podcast mic

Domain names

Social media handles

Gym memberships

Books, so many books

The perfect top/dress/shoes/outfit

What do all of the above have in common?

They’re all things that I’ve bought, but not taken action on, because I thought they were what I need to become the person I’ve always wanted to be.

How often do we fall into the trap of thinking – when I own this thing, when it’s in my possession, whether it’s shoved in a drawer or displayed redundantly on a mantlepiece, THAT’s when I’ll be my very best self.

It’s the basis of the worst kind of marketing, the ‘buy this and you’ll be happy’ kind of sales tactics that we’re overwhelmed with at every turn.

I saw a quote recently that said ‘people don’t buy products, they buy better versions of themselves’. Anthony Ongaro from the minimalism blog Break The Twitch created a name for this phenomenon – the false first step.

So what is the ‘false first step’?

The false first step is the idea of doing something unnecessary (like spending money on a product) to achieve a goal, instead of taking action on it. It’s the feeling that you need to own or possess something before you can do the thing that you say you want to do. It’s thinking that by spending money or wasting time, you’re moving forward, when in fact it’s the very opposite. As Anthony so expertly puts it, the false first step is where “we’ve actually lost something (money and time) rather than attained something (meaningful progress)”.

I first heard this term a while ago when Cait Flanders mentioned it on her and Carrie Smith Nicholson‘s podcast, Honest Money Conversations, and it really struck a chord.

I have a confession, friends. I am a serial false first stepper. 

I’ve taken so many false first steps it feels like I’ve ran a marathon, when in reality, I’ve barely moved.


**‘You’ve Got This’ Pin gifted from Old English Company**

Let’s go back to those examples and discuss, shall we?

The podcast microphone

I’ve dreamed of creating my own podcast for over a year now – talk about procrastination! I’ve had multiple concept ideas, bought domain names, half built websites, mocked up artwork and bought a £100 mic (when I could have probably got away with my phone) – and guess what?

I haven’t recorded a single minute.

What is wrong with me?? I have plans to change this one very soon!

Domain names

Niche blogs, netball sites, charity ideas, even a bloody soup business of all things; I’ve spent upwards of £700 on domain names over the past 3 years. How insane is that? In reality, only two of them are currently in use; this one and my film blog. I am a pro at talking myself into buying domains, thinking that if I own a URL, an incredible business or platform will just magically appear.

The worst thing? Only realising you own some of these random domains when they annually renew. This is one of my biggest ‘false first step’ culprits and one I’m really cracking down on.

Social media handles

Of course, if you’ve bought the domain, you need to secure the social media handle too – don’t want anyone beating you to it! Many hours and dummy email addresses later, I’m left with shitloads of dormant Insta grids and Twitter feeds, destined never to be posted on.

Gym membership

Ah, that old chestnut. I’m sure I’m not the only one to be overcome with a desire to do more exercise, sign up for a gym and proceed to see £20 fly out of my bank account each month and I’ve barely broken a sweat – at the gym, anyways.

This one definitely goes a little deeper than just mindless spending or procrastination, though – it’s intrinsically linked to my body image issues and past tendency to give in to those diet culture thoughts.

Books I think I should be reading

There’s nothing like the sweet satisfaction of ordering a haul of books from Amazon, ripping them open the next day and getting a waft of that ‘new book smell’ as you flick through the pages. But then, those tomes, written to educate and entertain and inspire, get left on a shelf to gather a coat of dust.

I’ve bought books because I thought they made me look intelligent or cultured, because they’re what everyone else is talking about, and because I thought they would change my life. Sadly, these days I am perilously slow at finishing books and so many of them remain unread, stuffed in the bookcase in my living room.

Books seem such a low investment, and almost like an outward declaration to the world of how ‘cool’ you are, but unnecessary spending on them over the years can soon add up.

The ‘perfect’ piece of clothing

Being plus size and struggling to accept my body over the years means it’s super hard to find clothes that I’m comfortable in, and has lead to many a panicked, impulsive £150 ASOS order, paid for because I am convinced that I NEED those clothes, that they’re going to be THE ONES that perfectly encapsulate who I am and become the pieces in my wardrobe that I’ve needed all along.

This is rarely the case. Sure, some of them look fine and some of them I send back, but ultimately I need to learn that although having clothes I love is really nice, it’s never going to be the thing that genuinely brings me peace and happiness – just a wardrobe full of stuff I never wear.


**‘Start Somewhere’ Pin gifted from Old English Company**

Why do I keep doing this?

I think there’s a lot of things at play here – the crushing weight of self doubt, giving in to my money story, my mental health seeking external things as a form of escape, and maybe a wee bit of fear about actually taking action on the stuff I want to do?

The false first step is procrastination to the max. It’s what keeps people in denial about their life, keeps them stuck in the same old job and routine that they hate, and I can personally feel it keeping me frozen in mediocrity. And the last thing I want from my life is mediocrity.

I’m determined to not be someone who never gets past the false first step.

What I’m going to do about it

  • I’m going to remember my word of the year – Action.
  • I’m going to work on recognising when I’m about to take a false first step, acknowledge it, and just take a second to think whether the thing I’m doing/buying is actually constructive or not.
  • Instead of doing stuff that I think I need to do to ‘prepare’ for the thing, I’m just going to do the damn thing.

Here’s to taking the second step, friends. And the third, and the fourth, and the fifth, and however many it takes to build a life I’m truly in love with.

I’d be over the moon to hear your thoughts on this. Do you think you often fall foul to the false first step? Do any of the examples I listed resonate with you? Talk to me in the comments!


  • Sakinah June 21, 2018 at 6:59 am

    Thank you for sharing this… feels like it came out of my own soul. Here’s to ACTION!
    *okay now I gotta get out of bed*

    • Sophie Butcher June 22, 2018 at 7:32 pm

      Thanks for commenting!

      Haha, getting out of bed is the hardest part!! x

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    Hi! I'm Sophie.

    Writer, thinker, often overwhelmed. I like to talk about film, feelings and feminism. Not necessarily in that order.

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