Small is Big for Making Changes

December 21, 2015

by Kim Childs, CPPC

In my Positive Psychology training, I learned about the Japanese word kaizen, which kaizen1means continuous improvement and represents how Japan rebounded from the devastation of the Second World War. I believe in the power of small and sustainable changes toward any new goal we have. It keeps the brain from signaling “Danger, danger!” and triggering sabotage as we try to stretch beyond our comfort zone, no matter how positive the new direction.

That’s the thing about change. It’s rarely comfortable, so “Easy does it” helps.

In my own efforts to be healthier and happier, kaizen has shown up over the years as: a daily green smoothie habit that helps me to consume more veggies, morning journaling for clarity and self-knowledge, regular walks for exercise and stress reduction, and the practice of pausing to notice, question and adjust my thoughts when they’re headed downward.

In the New Year I’m trying on 2 days of weight training a week and 8 minutes of meditation each day (it’s just one of my favorite numbers).

While I’ll likely get to other agendas and improvements in 2018, these modest goals set me up for success. I’ve seen this in students and clients, too, as they make small changes that are easy to sustain and lead to bigger rewards. One client of mine has found that just 20 minutes of reflection and reading in the morning leads to a better day.

It’s helpful to attach new habits to existing ones, by the way. Examples include: composing a gratitude list while walking the dog, reciting positive affirmations when looking in the mirror, listening to inspirational teachers on the daily commute or in the kitchen, and practicing mindfulness in traffic.

The idea is to make small changes in favor of what really nourishes and inspires us, versus resolving to demolish bad habits, which can feel punitive. When we keep those changes small and enjoyable, we can maintain and build upon them more easily. This fuels our confidence and motivation to keep going, and that just feels so much better.

It’s also easier to rebound from slips when the change is small, and to get right back on track.

“As you know, most New Year’s resolutions are worse than useless; they don’t lead to real change and we feel bad about not sticking to them,” says my favorite neuropsychologist Dr. Rick Hanson. “But if you think of this as feeding yourself, being good to yourself, giving yourself a big wonderful gift each day, nourishing something that will pay off big for you…well, it sure is a lot easier to keep treating yourself well in this way.”

I wish you big rewards from small changes in 2018. May you devote more of your precious time and energy to what truly nourishes you and cherish your life one day, and one tiny change, at a time.

And if you want to share your small change below, know that I will be cheering you on!

Kim Childs, CPPC, is a Certified Life and Career Coach specializing in Positive Psychology, Creativity, and Midlife Transitions. Click here to learn more and schedule an initial consultation.




  • Laighne

    Kim, you always rise from the ashes to inspire us with your wisdom of lessons learned through a deep commitment to be present, feel, learn and move forward. Thank you for sharing so articulately along the way. Be well and love with all your heart!

    • Kim Childs

      Aw thanks so much, Laighne! Takes a pilgrim on the path to know a pilgrim on the path…xo

  • wendy

    Thanks Kim,
    I always enjoy reading your posts. I read this one yesterday – which prompted me to reread a section of The Gift of Change by Marianne Williamson. With New Years coming up, I’m setting my intentions, and your words remind me to see and take small steps.
    Change is in the air.

    • Kim Childs

      Wonderful to hear all of that, Wendy! I wish you big rewards from those small steps and appreciate you being in my life! Blessings to you and yours at this time and always…

  • Daren Chentow

    Just what I needed to be reminded of, and just when I needed to hear it…. love and miss you.
    Always grateful for your clear, point on insight. Sorry to learn of your losses.
    Much Love

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *