Small Steps with Life-Changing Results

Small Steps with Life-Changing Results

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A few weeks ago, I wrote about two essential elements to setting goals you’ll keep and accomplish. I included a number of examples of successes I had over the course of the last year or so, and as I wrote, I noticed there was one other thing they all had in common.

It was one thing I’m not sure I would have noticed if I hadn’t also been reading the book, One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way.

All of my goal successes in the past year started with small, manageable steps.

About the Kaizen Way

One Small Step is a brilliant little book with big ideas about small steps to serious change. It busts the myth that “change is hard” through a small steps process, called kaizen.

Kaizen has two definitions.

  • using very small steps to improve a habit, process, or product
  • using very small moments to inspire new products and inventions

The author, Robert Maurer, Ph.D., distinguishes between innovation and the kaizen way, explaining that the demand for innovation – swift, significant change – can lead to fear. It can actually hold people back from suggesting any changes at all. However, kaizen – or small steps – can help people overcome their fears through seemingly insignificant changes. Added up over time, those small changes result in big improvements.

Maurer writes about six categories of small steps that include asking small questions, thinking small thoughts, taking small actions, solving small problems, bestowing small rewards, and identifying small moments.

This short book is worth the read to change how we think about the challenges in our lives – not as insurmountable mountains to overcome, but rather as a number of small, manageable rocks that we can move one at a time with great success.

Kaizen - "With small steps, fear may be faced, and even transformed." - Robert Maurer Ph.D.

What Small Steps Have Meant for Me

In almost all of my recent successes – the goals I achieved or at least accomplished part of – I employed kaizen. At the time I didn’t know I was using the strategy of small steps. I was operating on instinct – the kind that told me I couldn’t start out practicing mindfulness for 30 minutes every day, but that I could practice for 3-5 minutes every day.

In some cases, like with my novel, fear had kept me from writing it for nearly twenty years. I chose small steps by design. My personal rule was that every day in my document file, I had to write at least enough to get to the next page.

Sometimes I only wrote a sentence or a paragraph to get it to move to the next page. That was the bare minimum.

It made each day’s goal seem doable. Most days I wrote more. Much more.

On the flip side, with the 100 Days of Real Food Challenge, some weeks involved small workable steps. In those weeks, I was successful.

Other weeks involved steps that felt too big, out of reach. My brain wasn’t ready to support such big changes. It wasn’t the fault of the challenge, and I appreciated the push. Yet, in those cases, smaller kaizen steps may have led to greater success. In fact, I still have the choice to go back and make that happen.

Kaizen Steps in my Future

Now that I’ve read about kaizen, I’m being more intentional about my goals and the small steps that will get me there. For example, I have two goals in progress right now and I’m using small steps.

First, I’m conquering the chaos mountain of my office desk in one item a day. I put away or recycle or otherwise declutter one item each day. That may not seem like much, and yet you’d be surprised at how much lighter I feel every time I put a paper or file folder or pen or owl pellets (yup, owl pellets) in its rightful place. More so, I think twice before I leave something new just lying around.

My second goal? An e-book for all of you.

It’s on a similar theme, moving your own personal mountain (whatever it may be) one rock at a time. It’s about getting out of ruts, finding inspiration, and opening up to new ways of thinking. It’s about change on a small scale, made painless and fun, and taking tiny chances to explore the larger experiences many of us long for.

I’m writing a small section each day until it’s complete.

I can’t wait to share it with you.

In fact, I’m so ready to share it, that I’m starting my search for beta readers.

What are beta readers, you might ask? They’re a select group of people who will get to read my ebook before anyone else. I’ll ask them to share constructive feedback (Don’t worry! I can take it. 🙂 to help me improve it.

There are two ways to get on the list – email me or like my Acorn Oak Forest page on Facebook and send me a private message. I’ll only be accepting the first 20 individuals as beta readers, so please let me know soon.

What big challenge do you have that could be best accomplished by starting with small steps? What small steps will you use?



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6 thoughts on “Small Steps with Life-Changing Results

  1. Here’s the crazy thing. I’m doing just that! Taking tiny steps toward my long-term, and a few short-term goals, including cleaning up some of the clutter and dust bunnies in my house. The holidays always set me back, in just about every possible way. As soon as they’re over, I start getting my life back in shape, but last year didn’t work out so well in the shaping up department, so this year I’m taking it slow. I especially like your idea of taking just one piece of the clutter a day, just one. I’ll give that a try.

    Thank you, Monica. Most helpful!

    • Kathryn, Doesn’t it help so much to take the tiny steps? I think when I was younger, I had so much energy and wanted to take the world by storm. Big, dramatic steps made so much sense then. Now, I’m learning. Every now and then, dramatic is still good and it’s needed. More often, small steps get me there more surely than anything else. Thanks, as always, for the visit and comment! I’ll be in touch soon! Monica

  2. Your book sounds very interesting. One of my big goals (which may sound odd) is getting my driver’s license. I’m 35 years old and still do not have a driver’s license. Kind of sad but a lot of it has to do with fear and anxiety. Getting into a car accident about two years ago didn’t help (my husband was driving). But I’m working on it, bit by bit. At this point, it’s a matter of exposure and gaining confidence.

    • Janeen,

      Bit by bit sounds like a good way to go, especially when there’s fear and anxiety you’re already aware of. Any car accident would make it so challenging.

      I was surprised as I read the book about kaizen that small thoughts – spending a minute or two each day imagining yourself successfully accomplishing “x” task – was so powerful in building confidence. I love the idea of doing so little and having it reap such positive results. Thinking small thoughts really works and is a great place to start! Best of luck working toward your drivers license.

      Monica

  3. Before 1997, I did big things in a big way. On weekends, I’d move furniture, rearrange my space, without a second thought. Through the week I worked at my job, doing seemingly endless lists of tasks, and getting them all finished at the end of the day or week, which ever was needed. After 1997, when I had my second collapsed lung, and was diagnosed with emphysema/COPD, life had to slow down for me, which was frustrating. But in time, I learned little steps make a big difference if you practice them every day. Now I know I can’t accomplish miracles in the course of a day, and some days, I’m a bit disappointed in myself, but then I reflect that there is always tomorrow. When tomorrow comes, I begin again, taking my little steps toward accomplishing a task. I never knew the name for this process, or that it even had one. Thanks to you, now I do. And thanks to you also, I no longer feel I’ve failed if I don’t get all I want to, done in one day. Good post!

    • Nancy, Thanks so much for sharing your story. Health issues change lives like nothing else can. I love that small steps give us a way to continue to move forward, even if it’s not at the pace we’ve enjoyed in the past. The days go by fast. I feel that sense of failure at times too, and so I’m trying to focus on the most important things – one step at a time, of course – and letting the rest go. I’m sure you can identify… some days it’s easier than others. Thanks for the visit and the personal comment! Best, Monica

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