If you’ve ever wanted to change something – a habit, a way of thinking, your hair, sometimes even your clothes – and then thought, why bother, you understand what it feels like to give up before you begin. And sometimes that makes you feel better…for a while…but usually not for long. Because at some point you realize, you still need to make a change, even if you don’t know where to begin.
By using small, steady, incremental steps, you can stop flailing, start moving, and most importantly, keep moving toward your destination, whether that be reaching a goal, changing a habit, or simply feeling more confident in yourself.
So if you’re flailing in the proverbial mud puddle and are ready to give up, here are four reasons why incremental change may be right for you.
It Removes the Fear of Band-Aid Ripping
Remember when I said that sometimes you might try to change and then give up before you get started? This is what happens when you get stuck thinking that the only way to change is through big bold rip-that-Band-Aid-right-off action. And while some situations may call for that, many don’t.
The next time you think you need to do something grand and ambitious right out of the gate, reconsider. What are you most afraid of with your change? How can you take small steps to not only work with that fear but prepare yourself to handle it along the way? Do you have to make your change all at once or can you piecemeal it a little at a time?
It Lets You Get Organized (But Don’t Procrastinate!)
Small, consistent steps add up to big outcomes over time. By breaking change down into manageable bites, you allow yourself time (and energy) to make a plan and then make that plan happen. Things may not always go as you plan, but there’s wisdom to be learned from that (which I’ll get to shortly).
But all this planning comes with a warning; don’t let yourself get bogged down and then never take action. Planning is wonderful but planning with no execution leaves you exactly where you are now: stuck, unmoving, unchanging. Which isn’t what you want.
If you use the power of incremental change correctly, you’ll plan, execute the plan, and keep moving forward.
It Gives You Time to Digest and Learn
Our lightning-fast always-on culture places little to no value on taking time to digest life. This means it is up to you to make and take time to step back and learn from what you’re doing. And I don’t mean “learn by making a checklist of what is and is not working on your journey of change”, I mean digest and learn by getting quiet, checking in with both your heart and your mind, and then getting honest and real with yourself about what you need to do and be to get what you want. Remember that part about wisdom in the last section? This is where you tune in to that and listen to what it has to tell you.
Wisdom seeking and tuning in to deep honesty requires time and energy that we are told we should be spending elsewhere (usually doing things for someone else) so understand that digesting and learning at this level will in itself require you to shift how you operate. Trust me; it will be worth it.
Look at your growth and change journey as an epic road trip. What experiences have you had that gave you greater awareness and insight? Where did you stop and linger along the way and why? Where are you rushing when you should be lingering? Digesting your experiences, reflecting on them, and learning from them keeps you present, aware, and motivated.
It Keeps You Moving and Helps Build Momentum
One of the most powerful things about using incremental change to reach a goal or change a habit is that it keeps you moving. Whether you end up moving forward, backward, sideways, or a little of all three, you will learn. And more importantly, you’ll know you’re learning by how you feel. As with digesting, learning and progress are measured not only in checklists and tangible milestones but by sensations.
In almost all cases, moving towards a goal is not linear. It’s more like a barely controlled mess which sort of resembles a bowl of squiggly tangled spaghetti. And this is a good thing! It may not always feel good, but change is inherently messy.
So instead of thinking of your change journey like getting lost on the wrong road of your road trip, reflect on how far you’ve come. What have you done that’s moved you closer to your goal the fastest? What new skills have you mastered? What momentum have you built that you can use to keep going?
Change can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. By taking small consistent steps, you can reach your goal, and learn a great deal about yourself along the way. By removing the all or nothing fear of ripping the Band-Aid off, taking time to get organized, stepping back to digest and learn from your experience, and keeping the momentum going, you too can set off on the road to change feeling confident and ready for adventure.