One of the things that holds us back when we want to start something new or break an old habit is feeling overwhelmed by the massive changes we think they have to make right away. And all those giant, looming changes become oppressive, leading to a sort of paralysis that prevents us from even attempting the new goal, or causes us to give up on it as soon as we feel we’ve “failed’ to stick with the program.
But it doesn’t have to be all or nothing
Rather than trying to make massive change all at once, we may be able to achieve greater success by making small changes, changes that we feel confident we can stick with. After all, a bunch of smaller goals will eventually add up to one big goal.
The good news is that we don’t have to get bogged down with the big goal right from the start. It’s good to know it’s there, but it’s also good to know we don’t have to make it there in one giant leap. We can take steps, focusing on the journey rather than the destination.
Could that be the key? Just one small change at a time, focusing only on doing that one small thing until that small thing is now just a part of our lives and not something we have to think about much. Until that small thing becomes a habit.
We succeed in making the small change.
It becomes a habit.
Then we add another small thing.
It may not seem like we’re doing enough but that’s far from true. All those small changes can add up to some pretty profound results. Pretty profound results that actually stick because we took reasonable, adaptable steps to get to those results. We chose small changes we were 80-90% sure we could stick with so we knew we’d be successful. Once we achieved success with that small change, we added another. It all adds up.
Small changes are definitely better than no changes or abandoned changes
Small changes are better than no changes and that the accumulation of those small changes over time can have significant health benefits. Taking step-by-step approaches rather than big change approaches. Focusing on the steps, the journey, not the destination. We’ll eventually arrive wherever it is we’re going!
To be successful we need to set up our environments in a way that provide us with or support small “nudges” toward better food choices, getting our butts off the couch, quitting smoking, moving more, or whatever it is that we decide we want to change.
Some examples of what I mean…
Want to be more active?
Make it fun, pick something you enjoy, and set yourself up for success. Set out your gym clothes or jogging shoes so they’re ready to go and looking at you in the morning, ready for you to put them on and get moving. Or use one of your breaks or part of your lunch hour to walk (grab a pal!). Or sign up for a class (dance, boxing, martial arts, barre, yoga – pick something you’ve always wanted to try or already know that you like). Or plan a hike every weekend. Or join a sports team or league.
Want to eat healthier?
Don’t make it a ‘diet‘ or take things away, just focusing on adding in some good stuff that you like. Eat an extra serving of vegetables every day at lunch. Or put out a fruit bowl in place of the cookie jar or candy dish. Or cook dinner one more night a week (and make enough for leftovers – two home cooked meals!). Or try one new fruit or vegetable every week. Or take a cooking class. Or eat more mindfully (taking a few deep breaths before eating, eating with no distractions, setting down food/fork between bites, etc).
Want to feel less stressed?
Go to bed 15 minutes earlier. Or set an alarm on your phone to remind you to do some deep breathing exercises for 5 minutes each day. Or go for a walk after dinner. Or practice yoga, mindful stretching, or something like Tai Chi for 10 minutes each day (or 3 days out of the week or whatever works best for you – set a reminder on your phone or write it on your calendar). Or plan a night out with your significant other and/or your pals. Or read a chapter a night of book you’ve been wanting to read. Or take a hot bath before bed a couple nights a week.
Want to quit smoking?
Start a smoking log to become more aware of when you light up. Or smoke one less cigarette a day. Or skip a usual cigarette break and go for a walk instead. Or schedule ‘non-smoking’ breaks with fellow quitters or want-to-be-quitters (still get together at your normal smoke break times to socialize, just do it without the cigs). Or ‘pay’ for each cigarette with a good deed or a healthy behavior (like helping someone out or doing some air squats).
These are just a couple of ideas out of infinite number of changes you may want to make to live your best life.
Choose something that is meaningful to you.
Choose a small change that you are confident you can stick with (a 9 or 10 out of 10!).
And just focus on that one small change.
The rest will come; they all don’t need to come NOW.
What small change are you going to make?