Do you have a big change you want to make in your life?
A change that actually makes you break out in a sweat when you think about how hard it's going to be to make it happen...yet, at the same time, puts a huge smile on your face at the mere thought of accomplishing it?
Maybe you want to change your diet from cheeseburgers and fries to one that's loaded with good-for-you foods, helping you lose those excess 30 pounds and finally fit back into the jeans you wore in high school.
Or perhaps you want to go from your current salary that's barely enough to pay the bills to a six-figure income with more than enough cash to cover all of your regular expenses...and fund retirement...and have a little fun too.
How do you make absolutely massive changes like this?
How We Normally Make "Big" Changes
Most people take the approach of completely overhauling their lives. They set out to make several changes--all at one time--in order to get whatever it is they want...the "all-or-none" approach.
Using the diet example, this means that you'd probably go to the grocery store, spend hundreds of dollars as you load up on all of the healthy foods you can. At the same time, you swear off that local burger joint, telling yourself that you can't go there for lunch anymore...even though all of your friends and coworkers still do.
And you decide that this would be a perfect time to start working out, helping you lose those extra pounds even faster. So you sign up for a brand new gym membership, telling yourself that instead of going home after work and sitting on the couch like you normally do, you're going to put in at least 60 minutes of solid exercise each and every night.
Certainly, you have great intentions...but then what happens?
By the middle of day one, you're already feeling the pinch of your new "better" habits.
Everyone is having lunch at the local diner, enjoying their greasy, fat-laden meal, and you're sitting at your desk. Alone. With a salad. That tastes like the lawn because you didn't even allow yourself any dressing.
And as the end of your work day approaches, a time you used to look forward to because it meant you got to go home and relax, you start to feel dread instead.
It's like you're on a bicycle and backpedaling, trying your best to talk yourself out of the gym.
You tell yourself that you can't go work out because "I forgot about that thing I had to do..." or "I think I feel a pain in my leg, so I probably shouldn't push it..."
You begin to make excuse after excuse as to why your new "lifestyle" won't work and...in the blink of an eye...you're back to eating cheeseburgers and fries at lunch with your coworkers while beating yourself up because the 20 (or more) changes you tried to make didn't stick.
What happened? Where did you go wrong?
Why We Often Fail With Big Changes
The good news is, you're not alone (or entirely at fault) for taking this approach as MIT and Harvard researcher Ben Waber points out "...we're conditioned to believe that the only way to get big results is to make a change that's on the same order of magnitude."
We're conditioned to believe that the only way to make big changes is to, well, make big changes. Even though it doesn't work. But why doesn't it work?
Research has shown that the reason this all-or-none style approach isn't effective because it limits the amount of attention (and willpower) you can devote to reaching any single goal.
By doing too many things at one time, you're spread so thin that you're not able to tackle any one of changes with enough energy and focus to succeed...so you fail at all of them.
Luckily, we can reprogram ourselves to take a better approach. One that actually works.
According to the American Psychological Association the best way to make lasting, positive lifestyle and behavior changes is by taking small steps. This involves breaking your one big goal down into a bunch of little goals, increasing your chances of success.
Little Changes Lead to Big Results
Think about it as if you're the captain of an ocean liner.
If you decide to completely change course...you're going one way and then you want to go 90 degrees a different way...there are two different ways that you can accomplish this.
Option A: You can just stop. Stall the engine, stop the ship's forward momentum, and then turn left or right.
But that big change, that giant change, means that all of that momentum you just had is completely stopped...because you had to actually stop everything.
Option B: Use can use the forward momentum that you already have and then just incrementally change course. You change your direction little by little.
Taking this approach allows you to use the ship's momentum to effect the change to get to where you want to be.
And you wind up doing it faster and with greater ease.
While it may seem like one little thing isn't going to do anything for you, blogger Tim Enochs shares how his friend, a retired Air Force pilot, says that, "...for every single degree you fly off course, you will miss your target landing spot by 92 feet for every mile you fly."
Still think that small changes don't matter?
They do. And they do in a big way.
Make Continuous Improvements
Whatever your goal, commit to making continuous improvement each and every day. Not "giant improvement" or "massive improvement"...simply commit to "continuous improvement." Small, incremental change.
Instead of overhauling your entire diet, eat just one more serving of veggies than you normally would. Then, next week, add one more.
Pretty soon, you will have replaced your cheeseburger and fry habit with salads and other healthy foods.
Darren Hardy, author of The Compound Effect, sums this up perfectly with a simple formula:
"Small, Smart Choices + Consistency + Time = RADICAL DIFFERENCE"
Now get out there and make your own radical difference. One small, smart choice at a time.