We often know at some level that we aren’t living the life we would like to. We may even have a clear goal – but somehow, frustratingly, we still just don’t seem able to make long-term sustainable change in our lives. Despite developing clear goals, deciding on a plan and taking action, somehow we continue to lose our way and find ourselves stuck back where we started – or, perish the thought, in an even worse spot than before!
Part of the problem might be that it’s all too easy, in the rush of enthusiasm that follows the decision to change, to get carried away and try to change everything all at once. We could give it a try – and there’s evidence that it really does work for a few people. However, if you’re one of the many who’ve tried, tried and tried again, becoming disillusioned and weary along the way, here’s a suggestion for a way forward which might just work for you.
If you want to change any area of your life, try taking control by starting small! This is a simple but very effective way of making genuine sustainable change and growth in any area of your life.
First pick one area of your life where you’d like to grow. Take a look at where you are now and where you’d like to be.
Then, decide on one simple small step that moves you closer to what you want.
Now, make a promise to yourself that for the next week you will sustain and maintain this one simple small step.
– If you’d like to stop smoking and currently smoke 20 a day, you could promise to stick to 18 a day!
– If you’d like to lose weight, you could promise to only eat 2 biscuits with your morning coffee, rather than the usual 3.
It really doesn’t matter what the promise is. What does matter is that you intend to keep it!
The most common reason why people fail to achieve their aims is that they set goals which they themselves believe are out of reach. How easy would it be to give up trying to fly?
Keep it small, and it’s not only easier to keep your promise – but it’s also harder to break it!
After one week, review how you got on with your promise to yourself. You may find it helpful initially to recruit a trusted friend to ask you how you’re getting on. It’d be even better if they too are working towards fulfilling a promise of their own, and you can then each support one another.
If you kept it up all week – FANTASTIC – give yourself a pat on the back :o).
Now decide what would be another small step towards your goal.
Remember to keep it small and to keep moving forward .
Keep your focus on how far you’ve come rather than on how far there is to go.
If you didn’t manage to keep your promise to yourself it’s time to ask yourself honestly what went wrong. What can you learn from this? Did you really mean to keep your promise in the first place? Was it just too difficult? From your answers to these key questions you should be able to identify whether the change is still important to you. If you decide it is, then explore how you could make the goal even more easily achievable. Think of something smaller, or of something you can more readily commit to – and try again!
There is no success or failure here – only an opportunity to understand yourself more fully, to explore your resistances more deeply, and ultimately to learn what DOES work for you. Everything we do (or indeed don’t to) is for a reason – even if the reasons aren’t readily apparent. Many of us have ‘bad habits’ and even do things that are positively harmful to us from time to time. Exploring and understanding the reasons and beliefs that underpin our actions opens up our options for change, allowing us to choose to behave differently.
To get the ball rolling, the secret really is to keep the steps small. If you keep this process up you’ll find that you soon make measurable progress towards your goal and in all probability look back and wonder why you ever found it so difficult. How many babies do you know who gave up on the task of learning to walk because they kept falling over? It’s only in later life, once they’ve been fed a diet of self-limiting beliefs, that they develop these faulty thought patterns. We, as well meaning but fear-filled parents, teach them to ignore their natural propensity to practise and improve and to ‘give up’ instead. As adults we’ve forgotten what babies still instinctively know.
There is a second, less obvious, benefit to the process I’ve just described. Self-confidence and self-esteem both flow and flourish from the practice of making and keeping promises – especially true when our promises are only to us!
Give it a go! I’m sure you’ll be amazed!
Fear of taking action is the biggest single cause of stagnation in life and taking small steps can help to neutralise this fear. It allows us to gain control, build confidence and transform our lives. Any ‘wrong’ decisions or actions will be correspondingly small, easy to learn from, and easy to reverse if necessary. In this gentle way we can develop the habit of living, learning, and moving on!
“Taking small steps and preserving simplicity, then being wrong and learning from it is the best way to explore the unknown. Make failure frequent, fast, and cheap.”