How many of us have made great schemes only to see them founder? It can feel good to plan sweeping changes, but often the glow of satisfaction is short-lived, as our well-intentioned plans just don’t get carried out.
Many people decide that they are going to overhaul their lives – they’re going to lose weight and tidy up the house and be a nicer person all at once. Then surprise, surprise, they fail.
So, rather than making big plans, think small. Many small changes can lead to big changes. Let me give you an example. If you spent 10 minutes every day doing something, that would be 1 hour 10 minutes a week, and a staggering 60+ hours a year. Think what you could do with 60 hours dedicated to one project. So do you want to have a tidier house, finally sort out your finances, or do you have something else in mind? Don’t plan big, just dedicate 10 minutes each day to it, and enjoy the result.
Louise Tondeur describes it like this:
“So what is the Small Steps Technique? It’s simple! In a nutshell: you can take any dream, goal, task, or aspiration, however daunting, and break it down into smaller and smaller steps until it becomes manageable. You can do small things in your everyday life to allow you to achieve what you want to. That’s it! See? Told you it was simple!”
Here’s a great quote from Richelle E. Goodrich about small steps leading to great results:
“Small steps may appear unimpressive, but don’t be deceived. They are the means by which perspectives are subtly altered, mountains are gradually scaled, and lives are drastically changed.”
So how do you break things down into small tasks?
Sometimes you don’t need to! If you are learning a new habit, you just need to do it on a regular basis, but just remember to concentrate on one new habit at a time. For example, if you want to practice mindfulness every day, commit to that. Don’t also take on other new habits as well. When it’s natural and normal, you can start to concentrate on a new habit, but don’t forget every so often to check that earlier habits are still holding good.
But say you have a bigger project that you want to achieve, you will need to split it down into smaller steps. Then concentrate on the habits. One at a time. Don’t focus on the long-term goal, but on the habits that will build to achieve that long-term goal. Start with the easiest step. If you want to lose weight, going on a diet will almost certainly not work long term. So think of habit changes you can make. List them in order of difficulty:
- Only eat sitting down.
- Chew more slowly.
- Don’t read or watch TV while eating.
- Eat a large salad every day.
- Go for a walk at lunch time 3 times a week.
- Walk a different way home from work to avoid the fast food place.
Your order may be different. You may find it really difficult to only eat sitting down, so start with something else. And remember this list isn’t all the things you are going to do right now. You are going to pick one and work on it till it becomes normal and effortless. How long will that take? There are statistics about how long it takes to learn a new habit, but we’re all individual. Anyway some steps will be easier for you to make a habit than others.
This may seem like you’re setting your goals very low. Think back to the times you’ve set mammoth goals. How often have you achieved them? My guess is not often enough for it to be a confident strategy to improve your life.
Start small, be persistent and consistent and build yourself a better life.