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 means 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.