This is the time of year when we all feel the pressure to reflect on the past year and identify areas of our lives where we want to make changes. Overall, this is a healthy habit for those that seek to continue learning and growing as individuals. However, all too often it seems that the soaring ambition of planning soon gives way to the cold reality of execution and we quickly begin to feel the pressure of failing the lofty promises we made to ourselves. By mid-February (if we last that long!) we are overwhelmed and over it and we have abandoned our goals for any subsequent change we had hoped to make. There has to be a better way!
Fortunately, there is. A colleague once told me that his focus was to be 1% better each day. This focus allowed him to make major changes in his life over time by reframing his expectations. What if, instead of focusing on the big changes we want to make, we focus on smaller, incremental changes we can actually accomplish, that move us in the direction of our big change? As with any goal, the key is to make sure the goal is clearly defined and measurable but that doesn’t mean it has to be overwhelming.
As we look at those things in our lives that need to improve, what would it look like if we all focused more on incremental changes toward our goals?
Instead of “read 20 books this year”, focus on reading 10 pages each day. (Incidentally, this would average out to just over 18 200-page books in a year.)
Instead of “expand my professional/personal network”, create a goal to reach out and schedule a coffee meeting with someone new each month.
Instead of “lose 25 pounds this year”, set an expectation to get to the gym 4 days a week.
Instead of “become a better parent”, make a point to sit down for dinner with your family once a week.
The great thing about incremental changes is that they often turn into habits and these habits usually have compounding effects. For instance, if I develop a habit of going to the gym 4 times a week, I am probably going to make other, ancillary changes that serve my overall goal of personal health such as improving my diet and getting more sleep. If I develop a habit of scheduling a coffee meeting with someone new each month, often that new connection will have one or two other people “you should really meet” and that compounding affect will grow your network exponentially beyond your original goal of one per month.
Bottom line? There is power in incremental change due to the fact that it is more accessible and achievable for most of us while keeping us consistently moving toward our ultimate goals.
So how about it? What small, incremental changes will you make for 2022? Let’s select a few and see how they all add up by this time next year.
Go small or go home!