The Power of Incremental Change

The Power of Incremental Change

Or why “go big or go home” is terrible advice.

Today is the first day of the last quarter, and around here, I’m reviewing progress I’ve made on my many goals for this year. How about you? Have you looked at those new year’s resolution lately? No? Well, its not too late. Let’s talk about the power of incremental change.

Many years ago, when I was much thinner, I joined Weight Watchers. I believed I had to lose 10 pounds. (rolls eyes at younger self.) The first week was great. I stuck to the suggested meals like stubborn pounds to a thigh – 2 pounds down. The second week was my brother’s birthday… I only lost half a pound and I was furious. The nice lady cheerily told me that half a pound down was great! While my brain understood that many half pounds would add up, the rest of me wanted results now. I practically stopped eating the third week, and promptly gained 2 pounds. Now, I promise this will not become a diet blog. But there was wisdom in that weight watchers lady, and it applies to those new year’s resolutions.

Say your resolution was to save for retirement. You planned to stick your entire tax return in a high-yield investment in March. But then the car needed tires, and the kids needed shoes, and now, on the first of October that IRA is just a dream, and the ambitious goal is now impossible. What would have happened, if instead of going big, you simply saved $1 every single day? Some smart people did the math and came out with $23,646.79 over 50 years with a 1% return. While that will not fund your retirement, it will fund more than the imaginary IRA.

Wanted to exercise? Many elaborate routines have gone by the wayside, but the 7 minute circuit I added as part of my morning routine has stuck around. If you do 20 crunches and push ups every morning, it is a 140 push ups a week, and that has to be better than an elaborate plan you cannot consistently do.

Want to organize your house? Marla Cilley (Flylady) has build an entire empire on shining your kitchen sink and decluttering just 15 minutes a day. For that matter, just look around you and put one thing away every time you leave a room.

What about relationships. How would your relationship with your spouse or children change if you paid attention to what they did well, and gave them just one very specific compliment, or thanked them for one specific action every day.
“My big boy, I saw you help your brother when he got frustrated with the train set today. That was very helpful.”
“Thank you for changing the paper towels in the kitchen this morning – I was so busy helping the kids and it really helped me.”
“I really liked what you said about [topic] – it made me consider a different option.”

So here’s what I challenge you to do:

What was on your list? What tiny (and I mean tiny) step can you take towards that goal?

We have 91 days left in 2016. That could be 91 compliments, 1,820 push-ups, 91 reasons to be grateful.