“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” ~ Confucius
“A body in motion will remain in motion.” ~ Newton’s First Law of Motion. I was doing wonderfully well. I was getting up and going through my morning routine — physical activity, meditation, journaling, and planning — consistently for weeks. I felt really good. I felt productive. I was making good progress! “A body at rest remains at rest.” ~ Newton’s First Law of Motion But then . . . I missed a day. Oops. My momentum slowed. Then I missed another day — turned off my alarm and slept in. I decided I needed some time off so I took off a couple more days. Before I knew it, more than 2 weeks had gone by and I was completely out of my routine. The more I missed, the less I felt like starting back. I had completely lost all momentum. I had stopped.
Keep moving forward.
Can you relate to my predicament? It is said that after only 1 week of skipping physical activity, your body begins to lose the improvements you’ve made from exercise. My experience tells me that we begin to lose improvements in other areas where we are working to build and grow. The obvious secret is to, in the words of Steve Chandler, “stop stopping”. Obvious, but not so easy to do. If it were, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. The key to “stop stopping” is this: Keep moving forward. But how? Here are some suggestions.
Take tiny steps
The concept of taking small steps leading to small, steady progress and improvement has its basis in the word incremental. The concept is one of accrual — small gains add up, over time, to major growth and development.
Small gains. Nothing that by itself will have a big impact, but taken again and again over time, they can be life-changing. The keys are incremental growth and consistency. Taking one small step, in and of itself, will not make any difference. The change must be incremental – small increases over time, and consistent – done every day. Consistency is key. “Character”, says Hyrum W. Smith in The 3 Gaps, “simply stated, is doing what you say you are going to do.” You are not only making small improvements in your life, you are building your character.
If you are stuck in place, making no progress, or can’t even get started, forget innovation – making a huge, drastic lifestyle change. Instead consider incremental and consistent — take a tiny, seemingly insignificant, step. Then take it again. And again. And again.
Floor and ceiling
Mike Dooley, (aka The Universe) said, “Little tiny dreams require little tiny thoughts and little tiny steps. Great big dreams require great big thoughts and little tiny steps.” Sometimes I find it hard to take even the tiniest step. Consistency eludes me. To make matters worse, once you know this stuff, it’s difficult to reconcile your behavior with your beliefs. Cognitive dissonance sets in – which can be VERY uncomfortable.
What do we do when it seems impossible to take even a small step? How can we cope?
One way that works for me is to have a “floor” — the absolute minimum thing I can do that is still moving me forward, even if only by a tiny, tiny, tiny, baby step. If I find even that is too daunting on some days, I make it even smaller . . . “stupid small” is what Stephen Guise, author of Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results, calls it — too small to fail. Go slowly, but don’t stop! Even the tiniest of tiny steps keeps your momentum going. Stop, and you’ve got to expend a large amount of energy just to get going again . . . and sometimes it requires more energy than we can muster and we fall back into old unhelpful, unhealthy habits.
“Be the person with embarrassing goals and impressive results instead of one of the many people with impressive goals and embarrassing results.” ~ Stephen Guise
Stephen Guise is an authority on creating habits. After starting an exercise program by doing 1 push up per day, Guise was intrigued by the way he was able to leverage this “mini habit” into making exercise a part of his daily routine within months. He began looking at other ways to make small changes to his life using mini habits. Here are some of the principles he discovered to use mini habits to make big improvements.
- Don’t depend on will power to make yourself work on your goal. Start one small, easy activity and make it a habit.
- We form habits over time by repeatedly performing a behavior. Pick one small behavior and do it every day until it becomes a habit.
- Make your habit “too small to fail”, “stupid small”. And commit to do it every day. Consistency is key. If you can’t do it every day, make it smaller.
Don’t cheat. Celebrate when you succeed. Give yourself rewards. Stick with your routine. Step back and go smaller if it gets too hard. It’s OK to pick a smaller step . . . it’s not OK to miss a day.
Don’t stop the momentum.
Newton’s First Law of Motion states: “A body at rest remains at rest unless an outside force acts on it. A body in motion at a constant velocity will remain in motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an outside force.”
If you are stuck in place, making no progress, or can’t even get started, forget making a huge, drastic lifestyle change. Instead focus on incremental and consistent — take a tiny, seemingly insignificant, step. Then take it again. And again. Let’s go slowly if we must but never, never, never stop. That is living the Excelerated life!
Excelerated productivity — improving efficiency and effectiveness — is one step in creating your Excelerated life, a life of well-being, meaning, and purpose.
Guise, Stephen. Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results. CreateSpace Publishing. 2013
Smith, Hyrum W. and Richard L. Godfrey. The 3 Gaps – Are You Making A Difference? Oakland, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2015