One small step at a time
by Laina Shulman
Change. Most of us dislike contemplating the concept because it means giving up our comfort zone. Here is the good news: small changes over time lead to large results. Think of small steps working together in the same way as compound interest.
We have all heard that putting away small amounts of money each week can lead to greater wealth over time. In fact, we may not notice the small, incremental changes to our bank account until we check the balance and wonder how we managed to save so much money!
The same principle of accumulated improvements applies to your level of wellness. When you decide to make one small change, you will begin to feel the results and become inspired to make more. The transition will seem natural, yet one day you will wake up and realize that you are experiencing a new level of health.
This transition occurs partially as a result of how small changes affect our self-image. Have you ever noticed that when you begin to work out, eating junk food seems less appealing?
Sure, part of the reason for this is that you don’t want to sabotage all of your hard work. However, your new self-image has a great deal to do with your new choices as well. You now think of yourself as a “person who works out,” and that is reflected in your self-talk and, therefore, your actions.
Small but Cumulative
Many experts suggest that a slow, steady route to health is reflected in much more predictable long-term results. Imagine if you told yourself that you were going to start a walking program. You could make a plan to walk five minutes, three times per week and add two minutes every walk. Within a month you would be walking over 20 minutes!
If you decided to cut out one soda per day, you would eliminate 150 calories from your diet. Studies show that this simple step would significantly decrease your chance of developing type 2 diabetes.
You could also choose to burn 150 calories per day simply by walking for 30 minutes. You don’t even need to walk all 30 minutes at the same time; 15 minutes of walking at lunch and 15 minutes after work will have the same effect.
Action steps such as these seem simple to implement, but how much will they really affect our health in the long-term? If you simply committed to one simple 150-calorie change every day, in one year you would lose 15 lb (6.8 kg)!
We tend to be hard on ourselves, putting great emphasis on the days we didn’t follow through while paying little attention to our successes. Creating a ritual of writing down three successes for the day will shift your focus. You will become someone who celebrates his or her accomplishments, and will begin to realize that you are a successful person.
This ongoing list will also become valuable on days when you didn’t feel motivated to follow through. Looking back on past accomplishments makes you realize how far you have come, propelling you further along the path.
Just as your bank balance may surprise you with compounded interest over time, you will be richly rewarded by the cumulative benefits of incremental, small changes to your lifestyle.
Here are some small and simple steps to get you started on your quest for change.
- Decide what motivates you to achieve your larger goal; smaller steps are easier to take when you are clear on why they are important to you.
- Choose a single step that will get you started; for example, if you want to eat healthier, a simple action step might be to include one vegetable or fruit at each meal.
- Notice how your self-talk changes and how that spills into other areas of life. When you take steps that support your goals, you build up self-esteem, providing you with confidence that you can use to make changes other areas of life.
About the Author
Dr. Laina Shulman, co-founder of Pure-Health, is a chiropractor, consultant, writer, and speaker residing in London, Ontario. pure-health.com