Even big changes involve small steps. We’ve covered this extensively here over the years. Your window of focus is today even when your vision is much bigger. Your priority for execution is right now even while you’re patient for the change to take shape.
So while the tactic of making small, easier changes is part of the process, it rarely yields impactful results unless there is a bigger, more meaningful mission behind the change.
There are great tactics at the granular level for making small changes stick. BJ Fogg’s book Tiny Habits and James Clear’s book Atomic Habits are two useful resources on this topic.
What’s important to understand is that people don’t change until the change has meaning. Period. You can learn every routine, trick, and tactic for small habit change. It will stay fragile and easily disrupted until you make the change big enough in your mind and heart to give it deep personal meaning. It becomes part of who you are and who you’re becoming.
That’s why big change is so powerful. Combine it with a well executed process of small daily choices and actions along the path of change and you’ll have a reliable recipe for success.
Let’s say I decide to overhaul my health and get in the best shape of my life (BIG change). I do it because I want to feel good in my body, do more fun and fulfilling activities in the world, and extend the quality of my life way above average (deep personal meaning).
Well I need to workout and eat differently. But where do I even start? (Uncertainty—that could feel intimidating).
I’ll start today by throwing away all sugary snacks in my house except for one treat. I’ll replace one meal a day with a healthier alternative or I’ll fast instead. These are single decisions that can be made immediately and quickly each day.
In the mornings while I wait for the coffee to brew I’ll do 20 pushups. Any time I’m in my house, if I want to watch TV I have to do 20 pushups before I turn it on. I’ll think of it as a toll payment.
Big meaningful change supported my small choices and actions that support the bigger meaning.
It’s not a matter of motivation or small habits or public commitments.
It’s a matter of what the change means to you.
Everything is training for something. Do the work.
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Brian Kight is a multi-industry leader on the topics of leadership, culture, and behavior. He provides simple systems that produce exceptional results for organizations, teams, and people.