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The Wonders of Incremental Change

Why are tiny changes so helpful in our lives?
The answer might be more straightforward than you think.

Too often, we associate the idea of change with a lot of pain and suffering. We think of bettering ourselves through sheer force of will, as though grit and determination make all the difference. While there’s nothing wrong with willpower, the problem is, we seem to have a finite source of it. In short, the more stressed and tired we are, the less likely we are to have the willpower we need to drive any positive change.

When you think of doing something in increments, you’re taking something big and might even seem unmanageable and breaking it down into smaller steps. So instead of focusing on a great big goal, which tends to need more giant steps to accomplish, you’re looking at smaller goals that require less of a leap.

Not sure how this works? Consider these two scenarios:

  • You want to eat healthier, so you make a goal to have a salad for dinner every single night for the next two weeks, entirely replacing whatever it is you usually would have.
  • You want to eat healthier, so you make a point to replace something on your dinner plate with a vegetable every night for the next two weeks.

Which one would you find easier to stick with?
If you said the second, you’re probably right. In the first scenario, you’re trying to change your entire dinner with something you wouldn’t normally eat and then keep it up night after night. In the second, you get to eat about what you usually would with one addition – a vegetable instead of something else.

But wouldn’t the salad be healthier?
Not necessarily.
Think about this: with the salad idea, you’re going to get tired of the same thing night after night. Even if you stick it out for a few weeks, you’re going to find yourself leaning toward cheating. You might even snack after dinner to ‘compensate’ for what you might see as a meal that isn’t interesting or filling.

Unhealthy Eating

In the second scenario, you’re doing two positive things. You’re eating more vegetables, which is always good. You’re also replacing something else on your dinner plate, which very likely means fewer calories, sugars or trans fats.  

Healthy Eating

What’s the benefit over time? 

With the salad in the first scenario, you’re likely to quit at some point.

With the second example, since you’re finding it easier to stick to it, you’re going to grow accustomed to eating more vegetables. You’re also going to start looking for ways to add in those vegetables naturally without much thought.

In fact, by the end of the month, you’ll be adding in those vegetables by force of habit and will be ready for another incremental change. For example, you might want to keep with the veggies and now try a meat-free main dish a couple of nights a week. With your vegetable habit already in place, this wouldn’t be a hard leap to make.

Are you starting to see where incremental change can start adding up to massive results over time?

Here is the true beauty of these small changes: they become routine so very quickly you hardly notice them at all. Yet, the overall impact of this change is incredible.

Significant results do come from a small change.
The key is knowing which changes to start with for the most significant impact.


baby steps, incremental change, just do it, paradigm shift, power of small

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