For big changes, think small
At no other time than the beginning of a new calendar year is change more prevalent on our minds. We resolve to lose weight, stop smoking, spend less, save more, exercise regularly and eat healthy. We even make resolutions to not ignore our New Year’s resolutions this time around. However, time after time we fail to make the big changes in our lifestyle that most of us need.
Failure is not usually due to the lack of resolve or a bad idea, but rather we try to make changes that are too big and too fast. By altering our approach to changing small things, we are often more successful in the long run. Life is a marathon, not a sprint, and when we take this approach we are usually much more successful.
There was a 1991 movie titled “What About Bob?” starring Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfus in which Bob, Bill Murray, struggled with major issues in his life. His success at overcoming those problems had to do with the process of taking baby steps. He wasn’t capable of making the big steps, but he could make small steps and those small steps over time amounted to major changes.
The concept can be applied over and over in all aspects of our lives. Saving a small amount of money over time is almost always more successful than trying to save a large amount over a short time span. Losing 15 or 20 pounds over a year is healthier and easier than trying to lose that same amount of weight now because you want to fit into last year’s swimsuit during a February cruise. Training to run a marathon is accomplished by building strength and endurance over short distances and gradually increasing that distance until your goals are met.
Small changes are successful because of two primary reasons. First of all, small changes are easier to make. Choosing a smaller portion size rather than giving up the foods you truly enjoy is easier. Parking one row farther from your work location and walking is easier than waking up on the morning of your first day of an exercise plan and running five miles. Drinking one less soft drink per day or week is often easier than giving it up completely. Small changes work because they don’t present themselves as insurmountable challenges. Little changes work because we believe we can do them.
The second reason small adjustments in our lifestyle help us to accomplish our goals is because of sustainability. What I mean is that you can continue to make small changes because it was easier in the first place. It is hard to continue with major changes over time. Perhaps you want to set a goal of walking five miles each week. If you save it all up for Saturday morning, you might do it on the first week but you are not likely to do it the next week. But if you break that mileage down into small amounts such as taking the stairs instead of an elevator and parking farther away from your office or place of work, then you may only need to walk a mile on Saturday. You may feel better and decide to walk two miles instead and actually enjoy it more.
Even world-class athletes will tell you that the most successful people are the ones who pay attention to the details, the little things. If it is successful for them, then why not harness that concept and diligently apply it in our lives? For a richer and more rewarding life and better health in the new year, learn to make little changes because those changes, over time, have big results.