When you make changes in your life, how do you fare? Is it easy to show up every morning for your new meditation practice? Do you gracefully roll out of bed and into your running shoes? Are you able to find the right amount of time each day to write your first book or craft a blog? If so, then congratulations and this post isn’t for you.
If you’re anything like me, new practices or personal changes take a certain level of willpower and dedication. They require alignment, honesty, and integrity. And they demand small, dedicated changes over a period of time. There are many elements to consider when wanting to make lasting changes in your life. But this last point is what I most want to touch on today.
I want to note that this particular tool applies no matter what new practice or discipline you’re interested in initiating in your own life. It doesn’t have to be some deep longing or calling, although it could be. These tools apply to small and large changes alike. They apply to anything you’re interested in beginning in your life and integrating as a regular, consistent practice.
Change can occur in one blustery flash of a moment or in one small step at a time. What’s more likely? Statistically, it’s more likely that you’ll bring about change in your life through small, dedicated actions on a consistent basis. You could spend your whole life waiting around for the big bang of change to occur in your life without any luck.
Plus, when those types of moments do occur, they’re often shockingly disruptive. Many aren’t accustomed to handling such occurrences. And you risk reverting to old behaviors if integration turns sour. Therefore, it’s a wise choice to approach life changes at a gradual pace through small, dedicated actions. And that’s what this post is about today. Small, dedicated actions.
Last spring I started again the discipline of showing up for my writing. As you may or may not know, I’ve been in tango with my writing practice for many, many moons now. Each time I got started in a regular writing practice there would eventually be something that would deter me. It was usually one of a few things. For example, I’d get swept away in trying to turn my writing into a business, I’d fall into existential life purpose crises mode, or I’d succumb to the shame spiral of being seen as my true self.
These monsters got me every single time. But I reached a point where I didn’t want to repeat the cycle anymore. I wanted to initiate the practice of writing not just as a discipline that I’m forcing or contorting myself into like a form of sick punishment but, rather, as a soul-guided discipline.
I knew to my core that writing was a calling from within. And as the saying goes, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”I had reached the point where I knew that I was slowly destroying myself. I was ready to save myself instead.
With so many failures in the books, how could I recover my sense of integrity and self-trust? One extremely small, extremely easy step at a time. While the program I initiated to bring about the change with my writing worked with many more elements of change than this one, this is the small piece that I’ve taken with me as a foundational habit for initiating many other new practices.
It’s the piece that brings me closer and closer to integrity with myself and my desires. It’s the thing that gets me living close to consistency on a regular basis. And it’s the piece that quiets the nagging voice inside that says it’s too hard or too much. You can’t argue with extremely small and extremely easy.
For example, when it came to regaining, or gaining for the first time, my writing discipline, I made the goal extremely doable. One post on my website every other week, and it could be anything as short as one word. I just had to post. Talk about leeway! It was so easy I couldn’t not do it. So, what happened? I got it done. I did it consistently for three months. And at the end of that three months, I set a new goal that raised the bar but still felt achievable.
Eventually, I got to the bar where I’m at now which feels great to me. It’s the “enough” place where I’m doing what I feel called to do on a consistent basis now for almost a year. This may not be where I stay forever. I have the ability to change and be flexible. But for the purposes of healing my self-trust (keeping my word to myself) I’ve achieved that. I can trust myself to show up when I say I’m going to write and actually do it.
Too often we’ve failed too many times to make changes that we’ve developed an internal complex that makes it then even harder to overcome our inner hurdles. It was hard before, obviously. But now it’s even harder because we’ve failed to keep our word to ourselves so many times.
It’s these small steps that lower the bar, keep your inner demons at bay, and make it possible for you to show up for your desired changes. And once you achieve your desired change, you regain the confidence and self-trust you had lost over the years to multiple failed attempts.
Remember that this practice works for large, difficult changes; things you’ve been wanting to change for a long time. But it works incredibly well with starting any new change, even small ones.
Maybe you want to start a new prayer practice to infuse your day with a greater connection to Spirit. Start small. Simply wake up and acknowledge Spirit. Over time, embellish your acknowledgment with more. One small addition at a time.
Maybe you want to start exercising more often because you feel the call of your body craving more movement. Start small. Commit to a walk down your block every three days or one minute of stretching while you wait for your coffee to brew each morning. Do this for a period of time. Then re-evaluate and adjust the commitment. Rinse, repeat.
How you do it and what you do is ultimately up to you. Of course, choosing what to change is a whole topic unto itself. As integrity and timing are crucial factors, too, among other things. But, if you’re anything like me, then this one small piece of wisdom can go a long way towards initiating and maintaining new practices in your life – small or large. Make changes last with one small step at a time.