Think back to an amazing performance you've seen recently. Did it ever cross your mind to ask the question, how did this person get where they are when not that long ago mom and dad were changing his or her diapers? How did they do that?
“How did they do that?” is a question I ask myself regularly. About ten years ago, I heard a professional speaker deliver an amazing speech, and I thought I'd love to be able to do that! After his speech, I talked to the speaker and asked him how he did it. He told me about Toastmasters. Five years later, I finally mustered up the courage to join, and I now know how he did it; with practice and consistent feedback!
Do you believe Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, or LeBron James came out of the womb dunking basketballs? No! While they did have some God-given talents, where they took it relied on their own hard work. They came out of the womb unable to walk, just like the rest of us. They started playing basketball, missed the entire hoop at first, then played more basketball. Then they refined their skills through great coaches and played more basketball. That's what it takes to get good; you have to take steps in the right direction each and every day. Don't be afraid to fail! Michael Jordan said it well; “I've missed over 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
“I've missed over 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” -Michael Jordan
So how do you get started with a habit change? The first thing you want to do is identify what you want to accomplish and why. The why is more important than what because it is the why that will keep you going. Next, you need to take a small step in that direction. Make one small change, and only one. This allows you to focus on your new routine and make it into a habit.
Once your habit is established, then you can build another one. These layer on top of each other and function much like compounding interest. An illustration of that is below.
Small changes lead to huge growth over time! Most growth, in the beginning, is barely perceptible. Momentum builds up little by little, and then the habits allow the growth to take off and develop a life of its own. This is where the “overnight” successes come from. By the time the public has recognized their efforts, they have taken so many little steps and have built up so much momentum that they are unstoppable.
So how do I recommend making these changes? First of all, Keep it Simple Stupid!!! Habit change is not complicated, but it can be difficult if you do not follow the proper method.
Here is what I've found to work for me.
1. Write it Down
Dream up what you want to do. Ask yourself why you want to do it. Write those two answers down.
2. Break it Down
Break down your long-term dreams into phases. What do you think you need to do to achieve these? What habits do you need to create?
3. Take Action
Any plan is just a plan without action. Figure out one small thing that you can change today that will be a baby step toward what you want to accomplish. DO NOT go overboard on this! Focus on doing something so minor it hardly seems worth your time. This is your 1% step, take 10 minutes daily, put it on your calendar, and do it. Try to identify a trigger for this with one of your established habits, like I'll do this right after I eat breakfast every morning. These triggers will make your new action easier to integrate into your routine.
Do not move on until you do this without thinking about it! Once you have established the habit, then you can add another step. I suggest putting a reminder on your calendar at the beginning of each week to see if you can add in another step; it's too easy to get distracted with life otherwise. Keep walking in the right direction long enough, take baby steps, make enough little changes, and before you know it, you will be at your destination!
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I highly recommend reading the book “The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown: Here's How.” by Daniel Coyle for a deep dive into how the brain develops and how to maximize your time while developing new talents. This one was a game changer for me as it explains how the brain rewires itself when practicing in a very focused manner with lots of feedback.
This is exactly what I've been doing in recent years, and it works. I had to start out with ridiculously small steps. And I still messed up and skipped it a lot. But with patience and repetition – and tracking my results along the way – I began to see measurable progress.
It was just like you said here: at first, the growth was barely noticeable. In fact, I literally felt like I was failing in the day-to-day. It was only when I looked back over time that I could see I was actually making progress even though I was so sure I was failing.
My "aha" moment came in early 2020.
I was trying to lose weight (again) all through 2019. And I was failing, of course. At least, that's what my feelings told me. Compared to top bloggers and youtubers and influencers, I was failing. But I was also weighing myself regularly and tracking my weight in an app on my phone.
And when I looked back over the entire year, I saw that I ended 2019 at the same weight I was at the beginning of 2019. After years of gaining weight every single year, I finally leveled off. That is progress. And that lesson made me a big believer in tracking habits and taking a more long-term perspective.
I forgot to add…
Now I've lost over 70 lbs from my heaviest weight. I never lost more than a few pounds before regaining it all and then some. And focusing on tiny changes over long periods of time has been key. There is more to it, of course, but that patient perspective has been a game changer.
Nice work Chris. It is interesting how the smallest changes in our lives can lead to massive results given enough time, while I haven't lost that much, I've experienced very similar results to small changes in my life.