In the previous post I identified six principles of change that I think are important to know if we are looking to make any sort of meaningful change in our lives. If you missed the last post, you can find it here: Creating Meaningful Change — Part
1 To recap, the six principles I described previously are:
Change is actually quite simple…but it is NOT easy.
Change is incremental.
Change is S.L.O.W.
Change doesn’t happen without some discomfort.
Change requires having or adopting certain personality traits.
If you put one foot in front of the other, you can’t help but get to where you want to go.
So, What is Incremental Change?
Think baby steps. I’m always amazed when a client comes in with a defeated look on their face and tells me that nothing is changing in their lives. I listen to how hard it is to change and how goals will never be reached. Then in almost the same breath, without even batting an eye, I hear mention about something the client has done that I find absolutely phenomenal and that I know will lead to helping this person get unstuck and move forward with creating change. My job is often times to help clients realize that their speedometer is in reality inching up, but the problem is they’re dying to go from 0 to 100 in no time flat.
Each and every inch up that speedometer is an incremental change. Here are some examples of incremental change: You pick up the phone and make an appointment with a therapist. You get a gym membership. You create a monthly budget. You eat two cookies instead of the whole bag. The list could go on and on. The point is, while buying the gym membership hasn’t made you fit, yet, or making the appointment with a therapist hasn’t alleviated your depression, yet, these are all steps in the direction towards a goal by doing something positive, and just by taking the step you are implementing change.
The problem that I see so often with many of us, is that we practice all-or-nothing thinking. Do you? We see ourselves as either a success or a failure, which can almost guarantee that we will not meet our long-term goals. For most of us, it took many years to get where we are today and creating meaningful change will also probably take many years. But each day, with each opportunity we have to make a choice, we can make incremental change.
So, how do we do it differently? They key is to acknowledge every tiny change and to make a big deal about it. Consider praising yourself to the skies for each and every minuscule move you make in a positive direction. I will often times assign clients homework that includes writing down five things they did well that day, even if it is as simple as taking a shower or making the bed. This is a really foreign experience for many people, my guess is you’re probably used to minimizing your progress and maximizing your mistakes. You probably notice what you’re doing wrong more often than what you’re doing right.
Incremental change demands that we pay attention to and take in each and every movement forward, no matter how small your thinking wants to tell you it is.