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How to Succeed at Making BIG Change

Posted Jan 07 2010 7:17am

One of my biggest philosophies is “Small changes for big impact.” I really believe in this mantra.  When it comes to creating change in our lives, even positive change, it can be really hard.  Let’s be honest: The older we get, the more difficult habits are to break.   The more we have done something one way, the more difficult it is to do it another way.  And, the longer we have a perspective, the harder it is to change the way we see things.  This is human nature.

So, why do we assume that when we want to create a change in our lives that it should be easy and that we can succeed within only a few short days?  Well, that is human nature too.  Many of us suffer from a need for instant gratification and when something takes too long, we give up or move on.

Unfortunately, when it comes to creating change in our lives, however, the instant gratification we yearn for is the last thing we should be expecting.  The secret to making big changes that last is to realize that change takes time and that every big change requires many small steps.  Here’s why:

  1. Big Goal (a.k.a. Many Small Goals): In reality, there is no big change that doesn’t require many smaller steps.  For instance, which of these two goals have you heard people say more often: I want to lose weight or I want to eat more fiber?  Most likely, you’ve heard the latter more.  We tend to look at a situation in our lives and want to change it all at once.  In truth, to really lose weight, there are a lot of things you can and probably need to do.  To ultimately “lose weight,” you probably need to 1) cut out unhealthy foods, 2) reduce portion size 3) eat more fiber, 4) drink more water 5) be more mindful of your emotional needs, etc.  Lesson Learned: When you want to make a big change, carefully assess all of the smaller changes that the big change requires.
  2. Extremes Never Work: When people try to create major change in their lives, they often go from all to nothing…or vice a verse .  For instance, let’s say Bob has never gone to the gym and wants to start exercising.  As a result, he makes a pact with himself to exercise every day.  Within a few weeks, he burns out and never goes back.  If Bob eased into the gym…maybe going twice a week for a couple of weeks and then working his way up to three times a week for a few weeks and so on and so on, he would probably have had a better chance of sticking with it and more importantly, of the change lasting.  Lesson Learned: Ease into big changes so that they don’t seem so overwhelming.
  3. It Feeds Our Need to Succeed: If we set out to make a big change in our lives without looking at the small steps to get there, we tend to feel like we haven’t succeeded until we successfully make the BIG change.  However, if we make small changes and are successful at mastering each one, we feel as though we are making progress.  This, in turn, motivates us to forge ahead with small change after small change, ultimately helping us to master the big change in the end.  Lesson Learned: Celebrate your small successes so that you feel a sense of accomplishment.

Making big change in our lives takes time.  Be kind to yourself and allow yourself to make mistakes, slip up, regress, etc.  Just remember to get back on the change wagon so that you can make the real progress you deserve!

What changes have you taken on recently?  Did you take the small step approach?  Did it work?


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