January 15

Little actions lead to big changes…


Little actions repeated relentlessly result in big change. Don’t underestimate the importance of little multiplied by often.  (David Hieatt)

This (the third week of the year) is apparently the week when most of us fall off the resolution wagon. Life takes over, crises appear at work, and somehow we just can’t get to the gym for our spin-pilates-weights-swim-sauna routine we promised ourselves we’d do. 

A personal trainer I know said this is the week he looks forward to – one where it gets back to normal and he’s back to working with the serious ones. Not that the resolution-falterers were not serious, you understand. They just go all-in until the minute when something else gets in the way and go all-out.

Low interest rates

The quote from David Hieatt (of Hiut jeans fame…) is nothing new to any of us, is it? We all understand the principle of compound interest - little actions lead to big changes. In just the same way that investing becomes unappealing when the interest rate is low, so often in life the tiny daily steps don’t feel like they make any impact on moving us towards our goals, and so we easily discard them.

Is the problem to do with the size of the returns, or the size of the goal? Both probably. But mainly the goal. Yes, it must be ‘towards motivated’ rather than ‘away from’. Yes, it must be something we truly want for ourselves, and yes, we must be clear on how we’ll recognise progress. 

The goal itself is wrong

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That’s a lot of ‘musterbation’ as Albert Ellis puts it! But there's something that's more significant than all of these. It’s that the goal itself is wrong. It's focussed on what we want to have (a finely tuned physique, for example!) or do (holiday in the Maldives). These goals don’t light the fire, not really.

Better to be

What is better, and more effective to work on is who we need to be in order to do and have what we want. It may seem harder work initially but could actually turn out to be more straightforward.

If you have read "The Resilience Toolkit”* then you’ll be aware that I’ve done a lot of running in my time. Not so much recently, but to a good standard once. This year, I’m starting to work towards a significant new running goal. But I’m not focussed on getting the training runs in (though a commitment to RED January is helping). I am not focussing on my leg strength, or times for my runs or my resting heart rate. 

Instead I have changed my language and thinking to “I’m a runner”. Now, the daily question is a simple one – “what would a runner do?”,  “When shall I get my training in today?” And “What does a runner have for a snack?” (certainly not another mince pie – though there is one left for a treat after todays session and then that’s it until December… sob…) 

This focus has meant that I went out in the dark and midst of a biblical-scale rainstorm the other night. Because that is what a runner does. Run. And if the day is packed (eg a recent workshop to deliver in Croydon required an early train to London) I worked out that I could get my 45 minutes by cycling to and from the railway station – which I was not thrilled about when I got back at 8:30 pm to find it raining!

Knock-on impact

These are small changes. It’s not been hard to make. But its already having an impact. Yes, my resting heart rate has fallen a bit, but I’m seeing that as a happy by-product of the focus rather than the goal itself. What is interesting is how being disciplined in one area is having a knock-on impact in other areas of life. Such as being able to get down to, and focus on, bigger tasks within my work. And it forces subtraction and this moves me towards the essential few key tasks, activities and behaviours mentioned in the last article.

So, rather than just stopping your drive towards that new year resolution, focus instead on who you want to be in this year and beyond. And keep it as small and simple as possible while just showing up every day as the new you-to-be. Before long you’ll do and have what you started off wanting, and probably more besides. 

Who are you going to be? Let me know, comment below…

That's all for today. If you've questions or comments, drop me a line below or get in touch.

Please note: A *indicates a link to an external site from which I may receive a small referral fee. You won't pay any extra though. You may be able to find a 'standard' link instead if you prefer.



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