Cumulative Effect of Tiny Steps


Success seems to be about making your time count. It is not necessarily about squeezing more into the time you have. This means you do not have to be stressed out and time-pressured to make great progress. You just need a great goal and great steps.

Begin by effectively defining your overall goal. You need to have a sense of what you don’t know and what is realistic. In other words, you can definitively identify the gap between where you are now and where you want to go: With an understanding that you cannot become a world-class athlete if you have never worked out.

Next, you need to be motivated to engage. Your plan should include opportunities to put what you are learning into practice and get some kind of feedback that allows you to adapt. This is where the steps you identify are critical.

When you are consistently good at selecting your goal and breaking it down into what needs to be implemented, you move forward in leaps and bounds. The cumulative effect over time is easily seen in developmental outcomes in children. For example, those with a goal of reading exposed to word and picture books early show greater vocabulary and language comprehension.

The Impact of the Type of Goal

Some goals are about maintenance or upkeep, and others are about achieving something, and some are a combination of the two. For example, your goal could be to have a certain level of healthy fitness. To maintain this, you might commit to exercise that raises your heart rate up for 40 minutes at least 3 times a week. If instead, you switch this goal to achievement, you could commit to running your first half marathon and work out a training schedule running 3 times a week to be prepared for race day. Once you have run that race, you can pick out another one.

Achievement goals are easier to keep than maintenance because there is a tangible outcome or reward beyond just staying healthy. Some people add another type of reinforcement to their commitment by agreeing to do it with someone else. This social pressure can help to keep you on track on days where you might have been tempted to miss. In this way, you can combine the goals of social connection and fitness.

Think about whether your goal is one of maintenance or achievement and how it could be adapted to include elements of both or be combined with other goals.

Measuring Progress

Progress is frequently the result of many small actions that accumulate into large outcomes over time. It is said that mastery takes about ten years. Every person who attains mastery is at some point a beginner and makes a commitment to building over the long term. The level of commitment required and the gap between a beginner and a master can seem too great and this can undermine motivation. Breaking the ultimate vision down into much smaller steps can give you more immediate short-term goals that provide markers for progress and move you from being overwhelmed to considering what is possible.

Sometimes a step can be a single action that you complete and move onto the next thing. Frequently, however, a step can comprise many similar repeated actions. Data is an important feature of these repetitive behaviors. There are many ways to track this. You can keep a log or use an app that records your progress. (You can check out a previous post about these apps here). This is especially helpful for maintenance goals such as getting enough sleep or hydration.

Logging progress may also be helpful for a long-term goal that requires creating something such as writing a book or computer program or music composition or artwork. In these instances, you have to add to your work consistently over a period of time. Think about the different ways you can measure the steps you are taking. You can log periods of time, sections of work or new skills as you acquire them. These records help keep you motivated and on track.

Break your Goal Down into Small Actionable Steps

Every skill acquired and breadth of understanding attained often takes many years. We can begin new areas of expertise at any time in our life, but oftentimes our willingness to engage as a beginner drops as we get older and this limits us. A commitment to growth is supported by being ok with the challenge of being a newbie and taking it one step at a time. Paths can quickly diverge when one person is taking steps consistently and another isn’t. Large projects can be completed by breaking the task apart into units or spaces. The steps could be as small as completing a single question or stanza, or even a single word or note! Or perhaps one item of household stuff such as a piece of clothing or item of furniture.

If you are having trouble completing a step – make it smaller. New behaviors such as public speaking often provoke anxiety. If so, identify the smallest test behavior that would move you forward. It might be giving your presentation to one trusted person.

Using Steps to Plan

Steps provide structure to working towards your goal. They also help you with estimating how long it will take you so you can add deadlines. The ways in which steps are related can guide your planning. Steps that are dependent on one another will have to be carried out in order and those that aren’t can be tackled in parallel. (As per the Gantt chart in this estimating time exercise.)

The bottom line is that it is worth taking the time to:
1) identify the goals that are paramount to your growth
2) carefully consider the smallest practical steps that will support you in attaining them

Having a clear goal and well-outlined steps leads to greater motivation, better planning, and more progress making success more or less inevitable!

let me know below the smallest steps you have taken 😃.

Image by ar130405 from Pixabay

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