Say you're dissatisfied with your job. It's going nowhere, you think. Plus, it's boring and unrewarding. You need to make a change. What do you do?

If you're like most people the answer is, you sit at your desk and daydream about a big change -- that artisanal food business you've always wanted to start, the book you could write, that round-the-world trip haunting your bucket list, or the career-transforming master's degree you really should pursue.

And then, after all your daydreaming about some massive life change, you probably do nothing. Flipping your whole world upside down is terrifying, after all, and it's hard to muster the momentum to get started on this sort of life transformation given the scariness factor. So are you at an impasse? Are you stuck with your mediocre life?

No, say a couple of thought-provoking recent blog posts. You just need to start thinking much smaller.

Think pilot projects not major upheavals

The first of these posts is an interview with former Google career coach turned author Jenny Blake on Fast Company. In her new book, Pivot, Blake argues that the key to finally transforming your life is to forget about paralyzing leaps into the unknown, and instead to focus on running many small "pilot projects" instead.

The key, Blake tells writer Laura Vanderkam, is to ask yourself: "What are small experiments I can run right now that will not drastically shift my day-to-day life, but involve skills, or test a new hypothesis of something I'm interested in?"

So if you want to write that book, start with a penning a guest post on the topic. If you dream about teaching English abroad, sign up to tutor a foreign student for a few hours a week. Not only will these experiments provide you with valuable feedback on whether you'll really enjoy that new life you're eyeing for yourself, but they're also mercifully small and doable -- it's hard to tie yourself up in knots of fear and procrastination when the initial step is so tiny.

Just make sure you don't obsess over any one pilot. "By running several small pilots concurrently, you can see which are going to emerge in the lead," Blake advises. "The whole point is to take the pressure off any one having to work."

The incremental approach to improving your life.

And what if you're not looking for a new career or a new life, but just to do a bit better in the one you already have? Than another post by Jeff Rodman, co-founder of $2 billion communications equipment company Polycom, on the HBR blogs has similar advice for you.

Like Blake, he argues that whatever your aim, whether it's improving your business's bottom line, innovating your products, or even improving your life habits, the best approach is incremental experimentation and improvement -- or, in other words, to think small.

"Zeroing in on small innovations leads to big breakthroughs," he claims. "Instead of becoming obsessed with big, ask yourself questions like, 'What's the smallest change we could make in our product, our delivery, our distribution, our organizational structure, or our communication?'" Those little adjustments can add up to billions in business, he personally attests.

And what works in business, also works in life. "It's the small habits that count. These can be simple things like watching the game with friends, getting a full night's sleep, putting the date at the top of every page of notes. Even thinking about the day ahead while in the shower can be a small habit with big payoff," he insists.

The bottom line seems to be the same whatever the change you want to make -- be it a huge career about-face, a new wellness routine, or an update of a stale product offering -- don't focus on the end goal, but instead on the small experiments that will start you on the the journey there.

What small change could you make today that would get you one tiny step closer to your goals?

Published on: Sep 21, 2016
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