Updated: Aug 3, 2020
Ever started something where it got really hard to keep going? It may have been working your way up to run a race, trying to exercise every week, finishing a family photo album, or even just finishing a book. Although it was hard to keep going, atleast there was a clear indication of when it would be done. The challenge for us today is that the future is so uncertain and there's no light at the end of the tunnel.
We don’t have a clear sense of when COVID-19 will be 'over' and when we can go back to 'normal'. Or even when or what the next phase looks like. We have to make choices today about kids and school, our jobs, our loved ones, that we don’t know will still hold true three months from now. We’re living life day by day, doing the best we can with the information we have now.
This is challenging to say the least, but I encourage you to take a breath and perhaps change your perspective on the decisions, projects, and feelings you’re experiencing. I hope that after you finish reading this, you will feel a greater sense of control and feel emboldened to take on a daunting task and have the confidence that you will come out stronger at the other end.
JUST ONE STEP
During one of our recent SpringSpot Kids Camps, we were talking to campers about ocean conservation. The camp theme was Underwater Explorers. One camper commented that whenever her family goes to the beach, they always bring an extra bag to put their own trash in instead of leaving it on the beach. In response, another camper said “My mom told me that I can take small steps that can make a big difference.” What an inspiring way to look at life! We were thrilled that campers were sharing these types of life lessons at our camp and feeling empowered to make a difference! I cataloged this anecdote in my head and continued on with my day, feeling motivated and hopeful.
A few days later, I found myself on one of my weekly runs. It was towards the end of my run and I was at the bottom of this hill and mentally I was dreading the upwards climb. My quads were tired, my breathing was hard, and I just didn’t feel like doing it. I looked up at the top of the hill and it looked so steep and onerous. But then I remembered the anecdote from one of our campers.
Small steps can make a big difference.
I shifted my thinking and told myself all I have to do is put one foot in front of the other. I focused just on putting my right foot in front of my left, my left foot in front of my right and to keep doing that. My heartbeat accelerated, my breath became heavier, but I just kept focusing on putting one foot in front of the other. I kept my gaze down, avoiding seeing the top of the hill to remind me of how much further I had to climb, and then.... before I knew it, I’d reached the peak!
By breaking down what seemed like a daunting task, and focusing just on making small bits of progress - putting one foot in front of the other, I did it! Small steps HAD made a big difference! It totally changed my mental state during the run and it went by a LOT faster. I did a subsequent run up the same hill, and after using the same strategy of just focusing on these small steps, I ran up the hill faster and it seemed less daunting. Some day I hope to run that hill without feeling so out of breath, but I felt emboldened by this new mental shift.
MAKE IT EASY
By breaking down a daunting task into small steps you are more likely to keep at it and eventually get the change you’re seeking.
You can simplify the mental load by just focusing on one small thing and completing it.
Research from the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford University shows the powerful effect small changes can have on our lives. According to a study from Duke University, around 45 percent of our everyday actions are made up of habits. Our habits, then, are then just a reflection of who we are.
And the best way to convert our willpower into habits is by starting small. It’s a common element to every successful behavior change program. “Make it easy” is how James Clear, author of “Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones,” puts it. “The central idea is to create an environment where doing the right thing is as easy as possible,” he writes. “Much of the battle of building better habits comes down to finding ways to reduce the friction associated with our good habits.”
A couple examples:
Want to run a 10k, but haven’t run in a long time? Start by just putting on your running shoes every day. Then walk 10 minutes everyday, then try running a 1k, then a 5k. Start with something easy that you can do, then keep building on it.
Want to start learning yoga? Start by first putting on workout clothes. Then roll out your yoga mat and sit quietly for 5 minutes. Start small and and make it a habit.
The beauty of focusing on small steps is that they are much less daunting and more actionable. You can apply this to virtually any behavior you want to change.
We’d love to hear more about the lifestyle changes you’re trying to make. Drop us a note: firstname.lastname@example.org. We offer Family Wellness Consultations to help families identify their wellness goals and make progress on them. We also offer Kids Camps to help kids improve their physical, mental and emotional health. We can't wait to be your partner on you and your family's wellness journey.