Small Steps are Key for Big Changes

No doubt the start of 2021 encouraged you to make some big resolutions. After all, many of us were quite happy to see 2020 and its year of challenges come to an end.

But just wanting 2021 to be better won’t make it better. For that to happen, you have to get clear about what you want in 2021. Doing this gives you clarity, which lets you start to break your expectations down into smaller, digestible components. This is the key to a successful 2021.

As Stephen Covey so clearly shared in Habit #2 of his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “begin with the end in mind.”

So take some time to get clear about what you want this year. The guidance I offer my business and life coaching clients is to select 3 or 4 things you want to achieve. Why only 4? Because more than 4 will inspire burn out and, most likely, you’ll give up.

So choose 3 or 4 meaningful things you want to achieve and make them clear and measurable so you can assess whether you are making progress.

These things to achieve could be anything, like read 10 books this year to focus on learning instead of watching television.

It could be to lose an inch or two in waist size or improve blood pressure through better eating and exercise.

It could be to develop greater passion for work by changing jobs by the end of the year to a job that needs what you do and like best.

Get clear of your destination.

Then, build your journey. Start to create the smaller steps that will help you arrive at your goal. What is one thing you can do in January? Do it all month long to help it become a habit on which you will build stronger and better habits as you move through the year. Based on the examples above, the smaller steps could be to create your reading list, purchase your first book and start reading. It could be to stop buying crackers and cookies in your weekly food shopping. It could be taking time to get clear about what a job that inspires you could be.

Then, add to those steps. What is one more thing you can do in February, then March, then April?  Small changes consistently done can result in significant results over time. Each month builds on your success from the previous month.

As you develop the new habits and discipline, you can do more significant things to achieve your goal, such as joining a book club to increase your reading, committing to eating as a vegetarian for a month to improve your eating habits or updating your resume and submitting it to 3 job opportunities in the month.

Each step required earlier fundamental change and action to be ready for this more advanced step.

Finally, enlist an accountability partner. My role as coach frequently has me serve as my clients’ accountability partner – someone on the outside who helps them achieve what they say matters to them by regularly checking in on their progress and holding them accountable for its achievement. The same happens with fitness trainers and their clients.

But it doesn’t need to be a coach; a friend, partner, spouse or colleague all can be great accountability partners. Give them the authority to hold you to your word and to your plan. We all can find reason why we don’t want to do what we commit to doing, so let others help you stay on track.

Take Action
Small steps over time are the key to great achievements. When we start with small steps, we don’t feel overwhelmed by the step or the change. We can build it into our routine and it soon becomes our routine. Then, it prepares us to take a larger next step – to build on what we have created. And over time, we find ourselves sticking to our plan and achieving things that we wanted.

A new year doesn’t make things better. Clear goals and a reasonable plan does.

Dream big for 2021, then divide the dream into smaller achievable steps. Then the dream can become your reality.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Why Everyone Needs a Snapshot

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