Do you desire to clear the clutter out of your garage, closet, office, or mind?
Want to lose 10lbs?
Trying to figure out your next career or business move?
What goals do you have? What do you want to be different, better or easier in your life?
Is it something that you can see, do, move or is otherwise measurable?
Or is your goal or desire less visible, possibly unseen to others yet very real for you?
Perhaps you want to feel less anxious or stressed, or you want to experience more joy.
Maybe you are determined to be a better partner, be more present, or not yell at your kids.
Whatever it is, it is likely that you have pursued this goal before. You may have had some or very little success, and by success, I mean the change – the thing you did was sustainable.
You may have been wildly successful when you were laser focused on making that change, but then life got in the way and your usual habits and routines returned.
Often we measure success by metrics that are not realistic. We think we are not successful unless we have fully cleared the garage, or completely rid ourselves of whatever habit we are trying to extinguish. We tell ourselves “I have not done that yet completely so therefore I have failed, or I’m not successful at it. “
What a recipe for mind numbing discouragement! What if we stopped measuring what we do or don’t do by the world’s "all or nothing thinking" and started measuring in “baby steps”?
Here’s an example of a conversation I had with someone recently:
Person: “I‘m eating better, and I’m walking a lot. But I got on the scale and I’m not losing weight. I’m so discouraged. “
Me- “Aren’t you on a steroid medication right now? “
“Well yes but… “
In our exuberance for change, we often fail to look at the bigger picture. We fail to see the positives that we are doing that are occurring in small step fashion that can propel us in the direction we want to go.
Many of us, impatient for results, decide we are ready to do something different and leap headlong into a goal of I’m going to accomplish _____. Too often we lack a plan that is realistic with small steps that if appreciated for what they are- stepping stones toward our desired destination- would allow us to achieve what we set out to do.
Here's some Ideas for a Small Step approach, i.e., Letting go of Change in Big Leaps and Embracing Small Steps!
You want to clean out your office, garage, closet or mind: Pick one small area. It could be the right side of the room, in the upper right corner. Set an appointment in your calendar for 30 minutes to work on that one section only. Create a 15 minute meeting with yourself first to make an initial plan. Perhaps you will have a shredder on hand, a garbage can, a filing system, a give away box etc. Once you are set up, then schedule several 20 or 30 minute meetings with yourself to tackle one small section at a time. If you are trying to declutter your brain, you might schedule thinking/ journaling times that allow you time for strategic planning, goal setting, dreaming and visualizing more of what you want. Schedule time in small increments, unplug and get yourself into the space that is conducive for what you are trying to accomplish.
You want to lose 10lbs or stop snacking at night: Always consider your “WHY”. Why do you want to accomplish that goal and how will doing so change your life for the better? Then consider one small step or thing that you can do to change your snacking habit for example. Perhaps you will choose to switch only to fruits and vegetables after 7p. You might make a protein smoothie after dinner to fill you with nutrients and produce satiety so you are no longer hungry. You might tune into your automatic tendency to snack and ask yourself what is that about? What is your body or brain trying to tell you? If you realize you are snacking out of boredom, then ask yourself what else can I do to give myself a challenge? You might use what was mindless snacking time to listen to music, take a walk, read a book or learn a language. What else would feel exciting and / or relaxing and would bring you joy?
You want to figure out your next career or business move: Rather than taking an all or nothing approach, imagine one small step you can try out now, that might give you an idea of what you’re aiming for. Sometimes trying out a new idea while you are in the place or role that you presently are can ignite some clarity about what is next. Taking a small step might be setting aside time to imagine obtaining your goal and then back tracking small steps to achieve it.
You might consider taking an extended break that allows for more time and space for quiet reflection time and brainstorming options to get clear on your strengths and passions to consider how you might move forward. Once you have clarity, think in terms of small steps that move you closer to your desired outcome.
Everybody has something they want to be different or change. I once had a pastor who used to describe this as getting in touch with your “divine dissatisfactions”, a phrase that stuck with me.
One important part of this whole process is letting go of the idea of big leaps of progress, and shifting into the mindset of recognizing the value of progress in small manageable steps. This is true at home as well as a benefit in the workplace.
Not only will your desired goals become more attainable and sustainable, you won’t be as likely to engage in the battle of self condemnation and critical thinking that drags you down with discouragement along the journey to your destination.