I often write about the life changing power of tiny changes. In this post, I want to give you a technique for personal change that is actionable. It follows the principle of small changes. It also helps you build a winning habit in the area of life you would like to be different.
As well as giving the action plan, I’ll show you how to apply it to four different areas of life. You can then see how it works in practice.
The Action Plan
The research suggests that if we do something consistently over many days, it becomes a habit. The brain put it in the autopilot drawer and no longer spends mental energy on them.
We all have these autopilot activities in life. Compare an experienced driver to a learner. The experienced driver is no longer thinking too much about it.
When I work with clients, there is often a satisfying point in our work together. They report doing something that represents the change they wanted in their lives.
I ask how they did that and they answer “Oh I don’t know. It felt natural. I didn’t even think about it.”
At that point, I can see that the change they wanted has become embedded. It is second nature to them now. From being the person who wanted to do that, to the person who did it with some effort, to being the person who just does it.
I designed this action plan to help ensure that your winning becomes second nature too.
Bear in mind, this is not THE way to do this. It’s .one way. You likely have some great ideas of your own too.
So that said, here it is.
1. Set a target for something you’d like to be doing daily eg walk 10,00 steps; spend half an hour meditating; write daily or whatever.
2. Break it into units eg 10,000 steps; 30 minutes; 600 words.
3. Divide it by 30
The number you have represents each Unit Of Change. (Don’t worry if this seems a bit unclear right now. Some examples are on their way.)
On Day 1, start with that amount. It will be small enough to reach and get your first victory. If for any reason it doesn’t happen, start again tomorrow.
On Day 2, move forward another Unit and do that. Again, it’s still small and you’ll get another win.
Keep going, adding an extra Unit each day.
Every time you win, add a Unit. Every time you don’t, lower the goal by a Unit tomorrow until you start winning again.
By the end of your journey, you’ll be doing your goal daily. It’ll take around a month to a month and a half.
In that amount of time, you’ll be in the habit of winning in that area of life. That’s a big deal in itself. You’ll also be in the daily habit of doing what you aimed for.
Example 1: Exercise
It is recommended that we all do 10,000 steps per day to keep us healthy.
So let’s say you decide to make that your goal.
Get your calculator out and divide 10,000 by 30. It’s 333 (and a few decimal points). So 333 steps is your Unit of Change.
On Day 1, you don’t need to attempt the full 10,000 steps. Just get winning. A win is 333 steps.
On Day 2, move forward by the same amount. You’ll now do 666 steps.
On Day 3, you can do 999 (or even round it up to 1,000)
If you don’t make it, no problem. Next day go back to 666 again.
If you win again, you’re up to 1,333.
Of course you don’t need to limit yourself to these numbers. The point is to reach them.
If a friend invites you out for a stroll, you don’t need to say no so as to keep small.
It’s a target not a limit. As long as you reach that target you’ve won. Enjoy that feeling of mastery.
By the end of the process you’ll have gradually got yourself to the point where
a) you’re a winner when it comes to exercise
b) you’re walking 10,000 steps per day
Example 2 : Meditation
Let’s say you’d like to meditate each day for 20 minutes.
Let’s break it down again. 20 minutes is 1,200 seconds.
So divide it by 30 and your Unit of Change is 40 seconds.
On Day 1, all you need to do is to meditate for 40 seconds. Put your timer on, set it to 40 seconds, close your eyes and just be.
Your alarm will beep on 40 seconds and you’ve won.
Next day, do 80 seconds.
The day after? 2 minutes.
If you don’t make it to 2 minutes, come back to 80 seconds again.
Don’t beat yourself up for not winning on some days. The method is designed to drop the need for perfection.
By the end of the process
a) you’re a winner when it comes to meditating
b) you’re meditating for 20 minutes a day
Example 3: Creativity
Perhaps you have a novel in you that you’ve always wanted to write, but never actually do it.
You decide that you would like to write 600 words every day. That’s two pages of a book.
So how can you get to that point?
Do the same process. 600 words divided by 30 is just 20 words.
So your goal on Day 1 – just write 20 words. Once you hit 20 words, you’ve won!
On Day 2 – write 40 words. Day 3? 60 words.
Any day you don’t make it, go back 20 words and start winning again.
If you get on a roll on any given day and keep writing, fine. Like the other examples, it’s a target not a limit.
Once you hit your target, you’ve already won.
By the end of the process
a) you’re a winner at turning up and writing
b) you’re writing 2 pages of your novel every day
That’s powerful because you’ll be writing a chapter every 5 days. That means your first draft completed in just 3 months.
All from a start of just 20 words. The power of tiny changes.
Example 4: Weight Management
NOTE: This example is only helpful for those who are above your clinically healthy weight. It is not intended for anybody else. If you are below your healthy weight, apply the examples above.
I want to use weight managment because many of us struggle with it. It also gives a common example of how it works when you want to do less of something rather than doing more.
Say you currently consume 3,500 calories a day. Your weight keeps going up. You want to be at 2,000 calories a day instead, as recommended.
But when you try, it’s difficult to dive straight into that. You find it hard to keep to, you get dispirited and put the weight back on. It’s affecting your physical health so you want to change it and eat healthy.
Your goal in this case is to reduce your daily intake by 1,500 calories.
1500 divided by 30 is 50 calories.
So on Day 1, instead of 3,500 calories, aim for no more than 3,450 and get your first win.
On Day 2, aim for a maximum of 3,400.
Any time you win, progress by another 50 calories.
Any time you don’t, no problem. Just add 50 calories to tomorrow and get winning again.
By the end of the process you will
a) be a winner at eating well
b) be eating a healthy 2,000 calories a day and able to maintain it
You can use this method on other things you want to reduce too, such as time on Facebook or whatever else you’d like less of.
The Power Of Starting Small
As you can see, we don’t need to start big to reach big. Starting small is powerful. It doesn’t take long to get there, and it builds a winning habit in the area you want to change.
Your identity and sense of self changes too in the process. The label of failure no longer fits. You think of yourself as a winner and have the evidence to prove it. You go from “I can’t” to “I do”.
Imagine what other changes that shift makes possible too!The Liverpool Psychotherapy Practice