Effecting Change: Small Steps Are the Key to Success


     “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”- Lao Tzu

This is one of my favorite quotes and has been ever since I first heard it in my World History class in 10th grade in high school. Lao Tzu was a Chinese philosopher who is credited with writing the Tao Te Ching and is the father of Taoism. This quote, though simple in its wording, is full of a great deal of truth. And it’s one that I’ve held close to my heart on my journey to change my life and the lives of others over the past 6 years.

Recently, I’ve seen many people on social media talking about wanting to make changes in their lives. I guess it may just be the time of the year – summer is here and thoughts turn to visits to the beach or the pool. I think we all have those types of thoughts this time of year. 

I have a friend who has been talking about making significant health changes though for some time. This friend talks about all the changes that will be made and has set some very unrealistic goals. I try to be the voice of reason when possible but I’m afraid that my advice falls upon deaf ears.

Let’s face it. There are certain aspects of our lives that we would love to change. I know I would. There are things about my professional and financial lives that I would love to change and I am working on them. But so often we forget that we did not get where we are overnight and we are not going to be able to change things overnight.

So what’s the key? Well for me the key has been my “small steps” philosophy. When I tried to lose weight in the past I would change everything all at once. I’d set an unrealistic weight loss goal and set off on my journey. I’d change all my eating habits and start exercising relentlessly. And that “gung-ho” philosophy would work for about 2 months. And then I’d self-destruct and wipe out all the gains that I’d made, usually in just a few days.

But this time I decided to do things differently. I focused on small things that I could change. One at a time. I swapped out unhealthy food choices for healthy ones. I started walking on a daily basis and gradually built up to running. The amazing thing was that as I started achieving these small goals I started to feel more confident about my journey. And as my confidence grew I kept setting bigger and bigger goals. But I always maintained my focus on the small steps believing that eventually I’d traverse the distance and reach those goals. And I have. And I continue to do so today.

So what about you? Are you an “all or nothing” kind of person? When you want to change something in your life do you change everything all at once? Has that worked for you? If so, congratulations. But my guess is that for most of you it hasn’t worked. And if you feel defeated, or as if you’ve failed, I have hope for you: small steps.

I want to challenge you this week to identity something that you’d like to change in your life, whether it’s your health, finances, relationship, or some other area of your life. Take a moment and write your end goal down. Where would you like for this journey to take you? Now after you write it down, look at it for a few moments, commit it to memory, and then throw it away. That’s right! In the trash.

Then take out another piece of paper and write down one small goal that you can achieve this week that will lead you toward that end goal. Hold onto that piece of paper. Look at it every day. And each day do all that you can to achieve that small goal. And then next week do the same thing. Before you know it you’ll be well on your way to achieving your goal.

     Your journey of 1000 miles awaits you. Take that first small step today!

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