The Importance of Taking Baby Steps
We’re counting down to the last days of 2019—a time when we inevitably start thinking about the many ways we’ll change come January 1. We want better habits, stronger relationships, more fulfilling careers. You get the point. But putting all of this undue pressure on ourselves just sets us up for failure. It’s why I stopped making New Year’s resolutions a long time ago. By the end of each January, I was disappointed in myself and back to the old habits I’d promised to kick in the new year.
I’m certainly not alone in this. According to this , 45 percent of Americans make these resolutions in any given year, but only 8 percent actually follow through. It’s not simply that their resolutions are unattainable; it’s just too much change for one person to make—and too focused on changing behaviors, which is a challenge in itself.
That’s why I feel it’s important to take when making any type of change—New Year’s resolution or no. The idea that we’ll magically wake up one morning and be completely different is unrealistic, not to mention extremely stressful both emotionally and physically. While it’s not always easy to take these baby steps (especially if you’re impatient like me!), there are ways to make these small changes stick.
Make a list
Yep, make a list, check it twice, you get the gist. But be sure to make your list realistic. Truly think about what you want to change in your life, then write it down. If you’re aiming for January 1 changes, now’s a great time to start. It gives you a few weeks to let your goals sink in (and a few weeks to change them if needed).
Take your time
Many of us end up trying to do too much at once: Eat better, exercise more, make more time for friends and family, save for retirement. This results in way too much pressure, and in most cases an abandonment of everything we’re trying to achieve. Instead of wiping the slate clean and trying to be an entirely different person with entirely different behaviors, try one goal at a time, and be patient with yourself.
Make it a habit
Some say it takes three weeks to make anything a habit, while others say it’s more like . In either case, it’s important to be patient and persistent with that one goal. If you tackle them one at a time, you can focus 100 percent on that one goal and nothing else until it sticks. Trying to eat better? Focus only on that. Once you’ve made eating healthier more of a habit, you can start your next goal of incorporating more exercise into your daily routine.
Taking these baby steps—and reaching your goals one at a time—can be empowering. It can also organically lead to a new habit that wasn’t originally on your list: Make small, positive changes for a big, positive impact!