If you’ve ever taken on change whether it’s a “little” habit tweak or a big life goal you know how difficult it can be. And, if you’re anything like I was you’re probably a little intimidated by the whole process. It’s hard getting back up and trying again when you feel like you just keep failing. I spent most of my adult life pretty frustrated with myself and my ability to successfully finish anything. I just couldn’t seem to maintain motivation or create momentum. In my assessment of things, I just didn’t have enough willpower or wasn’t self-disciplined enough, so I was doomed to fail or more likely… quit. It got to the point where I started feeling paralyzed by fear, overwhelm, and self-doubt. Sound familiar? Turns out I wasn’t alone.
Through the years I’ve discovered that this story is way too familiar for most people. You see, humans tend to be all or nothing when it comes to approaching our goals and getting things done. And, well, that’s usually the reason we aren’t able to. Over the years I’ve discovered that there’s a simpler way, a sustainable way, and a far more impactful way to change habits and mindset. If I wanted to accomplish my goals, all I had to do is create a small step. And guess what, once you know how to create an impactful small step you can create them for basically any goal or area of your life! Check out these 7 steps and get started today!
1. Imagine Yourself
Often the best way to accomplish a goal or make a change is to understand what you will look like when you get there. No need for a mirror here, just some good old self-awareness and assessment. Imagine, brainstorm, and write down the character traits, skills, and habits you’d have to acquire to get where you want to go. How do you need to change your habits and mindset to accomplish your goals? Do you have the habits and mindset now? I mean REALLY have them.
Remember that you want to write not only practical life skills but also mindset shifts necessary to accomplish your goal. Do you need to start waking up earlier and managing your time better, or do you need to create a more positive attitude and develop self-confidence? Both tangible and intangible items matter and can be turned into impactful small steps.
2, Pick One Thing
Now that you have your list, cross off any you feel you already have nailed down. Circle those you feel you have some level of grasp on. And last but not least review your list and place a star next to the ones you feel will make the others easier.
Now, choose one to work on. No worries, you aren’t going to mess up here, it isn’t a trick. I often like to start with one that is both circled and starred. I find it’s easier to build momentum if I take something on that will have broader impact and is already somewhat familiar.
You’re working to change your habits and / or mindset here. So, think about what you could do every day (or even several times a day) that would reinforce that skill, habit, or character trait. Try to find something that will be at least somewhat enjoyable to you and feels like it will be doable if you simply create some intention around it.
It is VERY important in this step to break it down. Some of us tend to create small steps that would only actually be small if you were a giant. Think instead of a toddler sized small step. Remember, it’s easier to make progress if the steps you create are easily obtainable. Your small step should be just a tiny bit outside your comfort zone, not a mile, a football field or even a yard outside. Don’t worry about going too small here… the smaller the better!
3. Stack it Up
The secret sauce to becoming more mindful of your small step is to attach it to something that’s already a habit or necessity in your life. Adding your small step to your morning and bedtime routine for example, makes it easier to fit into your day. You can also stack it with going to the bathroom, making lunch, or getting the kids ready in the morning. Look for something you do every day and attach your small step to that. After a week or so it’ll become a no brainer.
If your small step isn’t stackable, no worries, simply create another reminder for your small step. I like to use alarms in my phone or create calendar entries with reminders to ensure my small steps get done. You can also arrange your space to support your small step. For example, when a friend of mine decided to implement the small step of eliminating disposable straws she tossed them out, purchased reusable ones and put them in her kitchen where the disposable ones used to be. This made it easier for her to remember.
4. Keep Your Eye on the Prize
This might be the biggest mindset shift of all. The prize is NOT the long-term goal. I’ve found that when I try to keep myself mindful of my long-term goal while practicing my small steps I tend to get discouraged and frustrated. I feel like I’m not making enough progress. Instead, I break down my goals into quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals. My daily goal is usually to simply do my small step. The prize I keep my eye on is the weekly goal. That might simply be “get your small step into each day this week”. I know… it might sound like something so small can’t make such a big difference but if you could create a new habit or break an old one in a month without willpower or backsliding wouldn’t it be worth it?
Being mindful of the way your steps are adding up will help you continue them and prevent you from taking on too much. Small sustainable steps will create long-term, consistent habits and change that will get you to your goal a lot faster than drastic, unrealistic expectations and change.
5. Be Your Biggest Cheerleader
Who doesn’t like feeling proud of themselves and accomplished? I’m pretty sure we all do! Creating small steps you can stick to is the perfect way to build momentum and make progress toward your goals. Rather than feeling frustrated with the slow-moving change focus on the permanence of the change. You are creating a new you, a new life and most importantly you’re doing it in a way that allows you to stick with it. That’s something to be proud of. Even if the small step you’ve chosen doesn’t have the results you want. Your small step is still beneficial to your life. Be proud of that. Keep in mind that making changes using small steps indicates that you CAN do it. You CAN stick to it!
Cheer yourself on to take on more and more small steps. Each step gives you the opportunity to stretch your comfort zone and prove your affirmations. YAY you! Celebrate yourself and your small step wins!
6. Get Support
Getting support and accountability can be a game changer especially when you’re first starting out using small steps. Whether you lean into a friend or family member or find a community that will encourage you and cheer you on, getting support makes all the difference. We all have days we just don’t feel like it or when we doubt our progress. The people we surround ourselves with can help us stay focused and motivated. In addition, like minded individuals can help us identify small steps we need to take and how we can fit them into our already busy lives.
I share proven small steps and tools for incorporating them every week in my Facebook Group. Joining this community is an excellent small step to get you on the right path.
Whatever you do… just be sure to get support on your small step journey!
Getting started with small steps can be a challenge because it is our natural tendency to take on too much. That’s why it’s so important to reassess your small steps. Ask yourself these questions to determine if your small step is right for you…
- Is my small step just barely outside my comfort zone?
- Does my small step help me change my habits or mindset?
- Could it be broken down into smaller pieces? (if so, break it down)
- Is it something I can do at least once a day?
- Am I able to create reminders to do it? (stacking, alarms, scheduling, environment change)
- Does my small step contribute to my long-term goal or growth?
- Do I feel confident about my small step?
You’ve Got This!
One of the greatest benefits of using small steps is that it’s so sustainable. You can easily change your habits and mindset and achieve your goals if you take it one small step at a time. And if you do happen to fall off track you always have that small step to go back to.