Small Changes Actually Work

Why Making Incremental Shifts Better Lead to Lasting Change

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In my previous post, I wrote about making smaller changes in your life for bigger results. I thought I’d practice what I preach in that article by breaking down the different components that I talk about in the article, starting with the key concept of why small changes actually work.

If you look back on your life, the small or seemingly simple changes you made incrementally were far more likely to result in a tangible shift than those high-velocity leaps that lasted for a few days but didn’t stick for the long term.

Step-by-step change works a lot better than the kind of sweeping “life renovations” we may try to make after a whirlwind weekend retreat, for example. Now, you’re going to meditate for an hour every day, journal afterwards, do some yoga and only eat fresh and healthy meals. Every day!

Is this degree of change really reasonable or sustainable? And for how long?

Now think about how we generally approach change in our lives. Big or small, the changes that prove to be meaningful often start with asking ourselves: What isn’t working for me in my life?

This is a really helpful question, and the right one to ask. Yet many of us answer it with an entire area of life, like:

My job.

My marriage.

Where I live.

While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to restructure an entire area of your life, the truth is, you can’t take on everything at once. And when you try to, you’ll become overwhelmed and quit before you even start.

Think of it like this: Imagine you made a very large order of something you needed and wanted, and it ended up being more than you’d anticipated. So much more, in fact, that it arrived in a thousand-pound pallet of boxes in your driveway. Now, would you try to move the entire pallet inside your house or garage, or wherever you intend to store these items in just one go?

Obviously not. You’d take in one box at a time. And if the boxes themselves were too heavy, you’d open each one and take from it only as much as you could reasonably carry.

What Isn’t Working In Your Life?

So, to come back to the question of “What isn’t working?” If the answer is an entire area of your life, look more closely at the different “boxes” that comprise that part of your life. It may be that you will change where you live or change your job at some point. But what are the simple changes you can make, right now, that will make your life more peaceful?

For example, maybe your work environment is toxic at times. But let’s say that in addition to the challenges this toxicity presents, you hold yourself to incredibly high standards. When you examine it more closely, you might realize that your job becomes most stressful when your perfectionism dictates how you deal with it. You realize that when you’re bent on doing the impossible, a moderately stressful job situation suddenly becomes untenable.

So, what small change could you make as the first “box” you carry toward making your work environment more peaceful for you? Is it setting priorities so you tackle the most important tasks first? Is it abiding by a set schedule of working hours, after which you go home and attend to the rest of your life? Maybe it’s having better boundaries so you don’t add more to your plate unnecessarily.

Make your first small change, and then take a look at what else in your life either supports you in continuing to move toward your goals, or prevents you from having the energy and space to do so.

Take good care :)

Meg

If you found this tip for approaching change helpful, you can also check out my free Practical Pathways to Inner Peace videos here.

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