Whether it is happiness, success, or any other part of your life, make big changes by starting small. There is a difference between making changes for a few weeks and making changes that last and become a permanent part of your life. Change requires will power and will power is a limited resource. We always start off with great intentions, but soon the stress and chaos of our life saps our will power and whatever change we wanted to make becomes a casualty. Also, if we attempt to create too much change all at once, it takes more will power than we have and we quickly abandon all of the changes rather than just some of them.
The answer is to create small changes that become habits which eventually stop requiring will power to implement.
- Make small changes that use only a small portion of your will power to implement.
- Do them consistently every day until they become a habit and are much more resistant to the stress and chaos that usually derails us.
- Build on those small habits by making more small changes so that over time and with a little patience we create permanent change in our lives.
There is a great analogy in the 1991 movie What About Bob? Bob is a highly needy patient played by Bill Murray who can’t get through life without his psychotherapist, played by Richard Dreyfus. Dreyfus teaches Murray to take “Baby Steps.” He tells him not try to conquer everything in life at once but to take one small step at a time. Use “Baby Steps”, and eventually those baby steps lead to bigger changes. So try using “Baby Steps”.
The first “Baby Step” is to create a keystone habit—something you can do in only 15 minutes each day. It is important to note that we are only going to work on one habit each month. Let’s make one small change and then build from there. This applies to any habit you want to create. Start with baby steps and grow from there. If you are running into difficulty accomplishing a goal, find the smallest increment of accomplishment possible, and begin there. If you can’t run two miles, start by walking to the neighbor’s house and back. Do that over and over again to build up your confidence in your ability to succeed. Prove to yourself that you do have the self-discipline to accomplish a goal on a regular basis, and then extend the goal. Walk to the second neighbor’s house. Increase the distance whenever you feel confident but still a little anxious. Push yourself past your comfort zone, but not so far that you want to give up altogether. Do this consistently at the same time every day until it becomes a habit. It should take about 30 days before you are almost on autopilot and your newly created habit just happens without much thought on your part. Don’t start on the next habit until the first one is established.
Start with “Baby Steps” that help you create the habits that will lead to big and permanent change in your life.