Small Actions Lead to Sustainable Change

By Jay Forte, Coach, Author, Educator

With the arrival of a new year, many of you have likely committed to make improvements in various aspects of your work and life. Bravo. Every day provides opportunities for continual development and improvement.

Frequently, however, our goals are overly ambitious. Though the end result would be amazing – stopping smoking, exercising more, being kinder, raising your engagement at work, saving more money –  changing habits and actions just take time.

My guidance? Pace yourself. Give yourself smaller, more reasonable goals. With the success of one, add another to make more progress. Over time, you will make great strides that didn’t feel so painful and resulted in meaningful behavioral or attitudinal changes.

Here’s an example.

Many of my clients want to improve their physical health by eating better. Because they want great results, they overcommit to expansive goals, then quickly feel intimidated by their commitment. So consider this approach:

With regard to your physical health and eating, what is one small thing you will start doing combined with one small thing you will stop doing today?

Start doing:

  • Walk instead of taking an elevator.
  • Read the packaging on food products so you become more aware of what you are eating.
  • Add one more vegetable or fruit to your main meal.
  • Serve your meals on smaller plates to limit your portion size.

Stop doing:

  • Stop eating your lunches out; bring them from home instead.
  • Stop the twice-a-day coffee run and bring it down to once a day.
  • Stop having your afternoon soda; replace it with sparkling water.
  • Stop walking through the cookie and cracker aisle when you go through the grocery store to remove temptation.

Small, incremental actions can make meaningful sustainable changes.

I have always found that it is more difficult to simply give up something to get better. Instead, combine things you stop doing with things you now start to do. Make them work together. End something and replace it with something, but make both of them small. They will add up quickly to help you achieve the goals or behaviors you want or need.


Consider reading You Can’t Improve on Something You Don’t Measure

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