Exercising, eating healthier, learning a language, quitting smoking. If we want to change something in our life to be or be better, the ideal is that we go step by step. Setting goals that are too optimistic leads us to failure and this makes us think that we are not capable of achieving them.
We all go through moments in which we intend to make some significant change in our lives of greater or lesser importance: dieting to lose weight, learn a language, stop smoking, change jobs, meet more people.
In this desire to change, sometimes we set goals that are too daring, too complex, or beyond our capabilities. As, finally, we do not achieve our goal, our self-esteem is diminished, which devalues the concept we have of ourselves or ourselves. Then, without almost realizing it, we start a dialogue of self-criticism that weakens us. We enter a situation of hopelessness that hurts us: “Well, why do I try, if I am not going to be able to”.
No one can do everything at once. The way to move forward, to change, to gain ground to our problems or shortcomings, is to take short and determined steps. Steps that contribute to increasing a battered self-esteem, diminished by inflated expectations. Small goals reduce fears of great challenges, give a sense of security for progress. The trifle breaks locks. Thus, in the long run, success is the result of accumulating simple and modest habits.
THE WAY IS MADE BY WALKING
In this historic era, we are living in, fast and effortless success is sold to us everywhere: “Lose weight fast”, “Win clients the easy way”, “Learn English in a few weeks”… We want to reach the goal from scratch, and now. But the quickest approach to failure is impatience. It is like wanting to reach the top of a mountain the day after trying and without adequate preparation or equipment. That guarantees failure, reducing our strength and making us small.
In my psychotherapeutic practice, when a person comes for a consultation, we always – sooner or later – end up working on the aspect of the power of small actions to achieve the achievements or objectives that we are setting ourselves. It occurs in all cases: when a person feels sad and without resources to stop being sad; when you are unable to lose weight or feel lonely and unable to enter into new relationships; when you have agoraphobia and are afraid to leave the house; if your fears make you feel unable to take an exam because you have started having panic attacks.
All people start out in a “can’t” position. They feel unable to make any changes, feeling that there is no possible solution. The healthy goal is seen as so impossible, unattainable or unattainable, that they feel that they will never achieve it. However, recognizing their limitations in the long run makes them stronger: they look capable.
WHAT STEP ARE YOU GOING TO TAKE TODAY?
Our ability to learn little by little is a very powerful weapon. The trick is to invest with brief practices long enough until, in the medium term, it becomes a habit. You don’t have to do a lot at once, but you do have to do something every day.
- Calculate well where to take your first step. The desire for change is sometimes an oversized chimera. We must start from a planning of small steps, where each one of them, especially the first one, always takes place from the point where each one is, not from where others start. Ask yourself: “What is the first step I can take right now to get closer to my goal?” For example, for a person who is in severe depression, his first step may be simply to raise the blind in his room a little.
- Try to dose your energy. Taking a big jump or sprinting will end up exhausting us and perhaps that will prevent us from reaching our destination. To move forward, we must measure our strength and graduate what we can do each day.
- Sometimes you have to go back. The evolution usually occurs in the form of mountain peaks. There are moments of adjustment and mismatch, of rise and fall. This, far from being negative, is an opportunity to reflect and learn from mistakes. It helps us not to lower our guard and to remind ourselves that we must continue making slight modifications or strengthening those already undertaken.
- Be clear about the direction, not the goal. Errors help us to be clearer about the direction to follow than the specific objective. Placing ourselves in our reality at each moment frees us from the weight of the goal, helps us to redefine those steps and to adapt them towards a chosen line.
- It is better to be a tortoise than a hare. As in the fable, if we are the turtle, we will eventually discover that success is achieved with the small daily acts that accumulate, grain by grain or step by step, until, without realizing it, we manage to climb the mountain. We must not be carried away by the fantasy of what we can achieve. Let’s not be like a trusting hare. Any process of change is a long-distance race, not a race of speed. Impulsiveness often leads to disappointment. Constancy and patience are our most valuable allies. When you least expect it, you will look back and you will realize everything you have achieved.