Without a doubt, many of us are thinking about New Year’s Resolutions. Big changes, huge goals, massive impact, as if this one day could really mean all that much. There are no overnight successes. If you lived on this earth for a little bit, you probably tried a shortcut or two to reach that big goal. So let’s remind ourselves about the importance of small steps as it is these tiny baby steps that can lead to massive change.
Small Changes Big Impact
There is no shortcut to success. It is the daily and consistent actions that matter. It can be a million little steps that will make the most difference.
Naturally, it is important to have a clear objective and maybe even to manifest that new you. Such manifesting gives us a sense of direction and places us on the path to success. But by itself, it is not enough to drive achievement.
It’s as if putting a photoshopped picture of the younger, thinner, healthier, and prettier you would make it possible to become that person overnight.
There is a Japanese concept that might be helpful here. It’s called the kaizen way or method.
What is Kaizen and how to Include it in Your Path to Change
Kaizen means literally “good change” in Japanese (Kai = change, Zen = good). It’s used most often in corporate settings and implies improvement on all levels of an institution or corporation.
Now, I’m not a corporate type, not even a tiny bit, but this doesn’t mean that I cannot borrow this interesting concept and apply it to other aspects of human life. More concretely, to the big change we all think about, most often around New Year’s Eve. The change to a good living – filled with health, happiness, and sense of purpose.
KAIZEN™ means improvement. Moreover, it means continuing improvement in personal life, home life, social life, and working lifeKaizen.com
The Importance of Small Steps on the Path to Kaizen
Since Kaizen stresses “continual” improvement, it is the incremental gains that prove most useful when attempting change. Why? Many reasons.
Breaking up the goal into sub-goals
First of all, small steps can help us transform ambitious ideas into consistent, daily progress. Starting with baby steps makes the goal less elusive and overwhelming.
For example, for someone who’s dreaming of losing 100 pounds to improve their health, it is a very daunting task indeed. But implementing a small change day in and day out, like cutting soda or changing white bread to whole wheat bread, can be so much more achievable.
When you are just starting a pursuit, feeling reassured that it’s actually doable is important, and achieving a sub-goal increases that sense of attainability.Shu-Chi Huang, Stanford School of Business
Building and Keeping the Momentum
Incremental gains build and allow us to keep the much-needed momentum. Let’s take starting an exercise routine as an example.
Someone who never exercised or fell out of the exercising routine for whatever reason (illness, pregnancy, life-work balance issues) will find it very difficult to restart that routine if it means committing to 60 minutes a day five or more times a week.
But, since even 10 minutes of HIIT three times a week (high-intensity interval training) can bring the same results as a daily 50-minute workout, why not start small?
With time, when exercise becomes more of a routine and not a daunting task, the increase in workout quantity and frequency is likely to come about naturally. The key is to start and to keep going.
Small Steps Make The Change More Sustainable
The majority of improvements are noticed as a whole but they often happen as the result of micro-adjustments. If you haven’t seen a friend for a year and notice how glowing and youthful they look, it’s very possible that they changed and stuck to a new and improved skincare routine and relaxation techniques for a long time. Unless of course, they got themselves a facelift, lol.
The reason small steps are more effective than big leaps is that they’re much more sustainable. When a goal is not perceived as overwhelming, we are more likely to stick to it.
Progress Instead Of Perfect
Whether using the kaizen principle or just going with the gut feeling, I believe strongly that it’s all about progress instead of perfection. This is where yoga has so much to teach us. I know that my yoga moves are far from perfect and I will probably never be able to do a proper headstand or some other pretzel-like asana. But yoga is precisely this. It’s all about practice and not about perfection.
It’s a little bit like in the so-called KISS principle: Keep It Simple Stupid.
- Start small with baby steps
- Ensure that you are not overwhelmed and instead capable of sustaining the manageable goal
- One you get the foundation in whatever area you seek improvement, progress to broaden the goal
- Keep at it and watch how the small steps lead to a massive change overtime
- Remember not to seek perfection but focus on progress instead
A Few Small Changes that Can Lead to Big Impact
Start or end each day by jotting down just one thing you are grateful for. It can be as big as the love of your partner or family or as small as the ray of sunshine on your face
If you not caring for yourself with a little time reserved for yourself yet, please start now. Find a few minutes every day or a longer chunk of time a few times a week to cater to your needs. Put on a face mask and relax, go for a walk and recharge your energy, take a bath and listen to your favorite tune. Or, go for a spa night. You’re so deserving of it!
We all breathe of course, but do we really know how to breathe? Ever since I listened to Dr. Weil’s tape on Breath Work, I realized how important it is to consciously and really breathe at least once a day. It will literally change your life. It can relax and energize at the same time. It’s like magic!
Leave the Phone Out of the Bed
I am still working on this one myself since I rely on sleep meditations and stories from my phone to fall asleep (should change that!). With the growing knowledge about the dangers of blue light and the transmitted frequencies through the phone, it makes perfect sense to learn the new habit of keeping the device out of the bedroom.
Unplug Two Hours Before Bedtime
Which leads me to this next point. It’s not a new mantra but it really can bring about a big impact on quality of sleep and general health by extension. Personally, I’m trying my best to have all my computer-related work completed before dinner and stop watching anything on any screen for a couple of hours before bedtime. Use that time for self-care, reconnecting with the partner or family, reading, gratitude, journaling, gentle yoga… the possibilities are endless. Unplugging can change your life.
Drink Enough Water
It’s much easier to keep the needed water intake in the summer, I find. During the colder months, I tend to sometimes forget about the rule – between half an ounce and an ounce of water for each pound you weigh, every day.
Limit Your Meat Intake
As a colon cancer survivor-thriver, I am very conscious of the risks associated with too much meat intake. Still, I tried to become fully vegan and it was not for me. But plant-based diet does not mean that we have to give up on animal protein completely. Here again, the smell steps come to play. Personally, I gave up animal milk and dairy products and limited my meat intake to only a few times a week. It’s perfectly doable even for a carnivore;)
Start Your Day with a Few Sun Salutations
I mentioned yoga before. Starting to practice has brought so many benefits for me. I am more flexible, more even-keel, more relaxed. It is a perfect stress-reliever.
It took me several attempts to actually stick to it. Originally, I went to try out yoga classes as part of a Big New Year’s Resolution. Signed up for a way to advanced classes, got discouraged and intimidated, quit after a few attempts.
The most recent attempt was small and it stuck. I am now doing daily morning sun salutations and when the mood strikes I’ll do an additional full-length practice with more advanced asanas. But starting your morning with just a few sun salutations can be very beneficial. Give it a try. It takes literally 5 minutes of your time.
Make Someone Smile
As with gift-giving and receiving, many times giving is much more rewarding than receiving. Same with making someone’s day. Give one person a genuine compliment, help a stranger on the street, make eye contact and smile. Even when wearing a face mask, the eyes that are smiling are clearly visible as smiling. It will make not only their day but also yours much brighter and happier.
Laugh Your Heart Out
Do not forget to smile and laugh. Laughter has been scientifically proven to help overcome many obstacles in life and is even helping people with serious ailments. Most importantly, it keeps us young and connected. So, watch a fun show, tell a few jokes, don’t take life(and yourself) all that seriously.
Add a Serving of Vegetable or Fruit to Every Meal
A total overhaul of a diet is an admirable but very daunting task. Taking small steps toward improved nutrition is much more doable. Start with adding veggies and fruit to your diet. Once this is accomplished, you can then move toward removing all that is less optimal (refined sugar, processed foods, deep-fried foods, too much animal protein, etc.)
Now for the food for the mind. I feel that as a global society, people are reading less and less. It might be because we are becoming an increasingly screen-dependent culture, thriving on visual cues for knowledge and entertainment.
But re-discovering books – actual physical books – is not a bad idea. It takes you away from the screen, lets you unplug, allows you to forget the woes of the day, it can make you laugh or it can relax you. So many benefits! Start small, set a goal – say, one book per month – and if you like it, you can always go bigger.
There are more small steps toward improvement: starting a small but consistent fitness routine, consciously seeking more connection with friends and family, starting a new hobby, and so on…
Whatever you do, big or small, just get started. The rest will come the Kaizen way.