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The Power Of Small Changes

Updated: Jul 12, 2023

Most of us have a gap between where we are in our lives and where we want to be. It’s natural, and healthy. Humans are goal driven creatures. It’s part of our nature.

  • The goal of having food available when we needed it drove us towards agriculture.

  • Goals for better living conditions led to the development of modern housing.

  • Wanting to live longer and healthier led us to modern medicine.

Goals are important in improving our lives, but reaching them necessitates changing the actions we are taking. Sometimes with big goals, we are tempted to create massive or sweeping changes to our activities. This can work, for those with extreme self discipline and an exceptional support system like a strong coach or an accountability partner, but there are challenges and risks to this and it isn’t always the best way to approach it.

A piece of fabric with a patch that says "GOALS"

Risks of massive or sweeping change

First off, I keep on saying massive OR sweeping changes. What’s the difference? Massive changes would be a major change in one area, sweeping changes would be changing lots of different things simultaneously.

Massive change:

  • “I’ve never run before and I signed up for a marathon in 2 weeks. To prep, I’m going to run 10K every day”

  • “I’ve never hired an agent before so I’m going to hire 6 agents at once”

Sweeping changes:

  • “I want to lose weight, so I’m going to go to the gym, change the way I eat, change my sleep schedule and try a new diet every 2 weeks to see what works”

  • “I’m not getting the results I want from my lead generation, so I’m going to try a new lead generation activity, swap up my scripts, do it at a different time of day and put out new marketing”

The challenge with massive change is that it’s easy to burn out, break something, or fall off later on because the plan was unrealistic. Sweeping changes make it really hard to understand what’s actually going on because you can’t attribute the new results clearly to any one of the changes you made, it dilutes everything and makes the source of the change ambiguous.

A burnt bus at a bus stop

I’m not saying that changes like these are always bad, sometimes people need to cut out the garbage and get their shit together. What I am saying is that once you have things moving a little, you’re better off to avoid major changes and instead make smaller and more frequent adjustments.

I’m an aviation geek, I always have been. About 8 years ago I got my pilots license and, as you imagine, navigation is a significant part of the training. In life, most of us have some kind of an idea of where we are and where we want to go to. I hope at least… The thing with navigation is that it involves more than understanding where you are and where you want to go, you also have to have a plan for how to get there and how you will course correct along the way.

In aviation, there is one variable which is incredibly difficult to predict, affects you at every point in your journey, and frankly, can kill you.

Even with our deep understanding of all the factors at play and centuries of study, we will never be able to completely predict the weather, and in aviation, it is a constant factor. So the only way to be sure you are going to reach your destination is to not only understand where you start and plan to finish, but also how you will get there INCLUDING how you will measure and adjust your path as you are pushed off course by the wind. In training you literally draw “drift lines” on either side of your intended route to show where you are likely to be when you come off course. During your flight you make small changes constantly to move yourself back to your centre line so you stay on track with your goal destination.

With a clear plan, an understanding of how to measure and adjust and many small adjustments, the airline industry has been able to create an almost impeccable record.

If you don’t have a plan on how you will adjust when the weather in your life moves you off your track, how can you expect to reach your goals?

Small changes are easy (and fun) to make:

a block of blurred text with a focus on a piece of text that says "very tiny"

Instead of going from zero to hero, start with something small.

  • Instead of running a 10K if you are totally out of shape, just get out the door every day after work and run for as long as you feel like it.

  • Instead of completely changing your lead generation commitments, set a baseline you can maintain and protect it at all costs.

Over time, your muscles will grow along your personal discipline and it will naturally get to be something you look forward to doing more of. Trust me, when I first started exercising I couldn’t make it around the block and when I first started door knocking, it was a challenge to get in front of 10 people. Throttling up over time is rewarding and you’ll enjoy both the process and the gains more when you are able to see progress.

No matter what, the important thing is to make sure you keep it up. Make a commitment you are certain you can keep up and then raise the bar from there.

Tony Robbins famously said most people overestimate what they can do in a year and underestimate what they can do in a couple decades. Massive accomplishments don’t happen over night. Ongoing commitment and constant never ending improvement are foundational to success.

  • Massive changes are a shift in how you act.

  • Small changes are a shift in who you are.

If you want the most for yourself, it needs to come from the core of your identity, not from a challenge you gave yourself. Massive changes can’t be transformational by definition, because they are changes. They aren’t who you are, they are something you did. Instead, make a commitment that you will constantly and neverendingly pursue improvement. Monitor your progress and make small adjustments periodically to continue developing yourself to be the best version of yourself that you can be.

It’s rewarding, fulfilling, and not for the least of it, the results are incredible.


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