“What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step.
It is always the same step, but you have to take it.”
~Antoine De Saint-Exupery
I have noticed that when we set out to make big changes in our lives we instantly start with the big steps. If we want to be happier we consider major changes in our family or business lives. If we want to get into a better financial situation we tend to drastically overhaul our budget or if we want to get healthier we throw away all of our junk food and vow to only eat salads from now on. While making all the changes we want to see at once would be awesome if we could manage it, in truth we actually tend to set ourselves up for failure. The change seems to large to comprehend so we procrastinate instead of starting it, or we beat ourselves up the second we deviate from the plan. Quite often the only thing we end up with is a heavy sense of guilt at our failure.
Many reasons exist for this type of goal setting. For the go-getters among us it seems perfectly natural to visualize the end result and then begin implementing the changes that will have to be made immediately. Others may tend to jump headfirst into the process only to find that they lack the energy to see it through. Encompassing all reasons however, is the inability to think in terms of exponents. Our brains are not set up to easily see how small changes can build into the large change we desire. For example, we know that skipping the $2.00 cup of coffee from the coffee shop everyday could save us over $700.00 per year, yet when writing our budget we tend to focus on the $2.00 instead of seeing the $700.00. In setting the goal of spending more time with the family we tend to get ambitious and plan for big activities once a month instead of setting aside one or two nights each week to eat dinner together which would ultimately lead to a higher number of hours of family time.
Part of the reason we resist thinking small comes from a belief that if a goal doesn’t seem somewhat impossible it is probably not worth it. We want to embark on a course that sets us up for a huge accomplishment that everyone will notice instead of minor achievements. The rub here is that it is the accumulated effect of these minor achievements that makes the huge accomplishment possible. Think about that big hairy goal you have in the back of your mind, the one so large you can’t even figure out where to start. Now, think small. Decide what one thing you can start doing today to achieve that goal and start it. Now consider the difference you will be making toward that goal over a defined period of time and keep that accumulated total in mind to motivate you. For example, if you reduce the amount of cigarettes you smoke each day by three, then you will have smoked 1,095 fewer cigarettes in a year. Replace one fast food meal with a sensible salad every week and you will have cut an average of 4000 calories every single month. That’s a pound per month from one small change. Remember that it is the end result that counts, not how many small steps you take to get to the finish line!
Send me an email with your big goal, the one small thing you will be doing to work toward it and what the accumulated impact will be a year from when you start. Tell me how this information makes you feel about achieving that big goal? Does it suddenly seem in reach when it didn’t before?