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Learn to start with the small to gain the big

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Learn to start with the small to gain the big

Scott Miker

Adjusting your habits to help you reach your goals can be a great way to succeed but too often people ignore that method to reach for the stars.  “Shoot for the moon so if you miss you will still be among the stars,” they say.

So we start out with enough motivation to fill a house.  We sit on our couch and talk ourselves into a dream and assume we will just breeze past adversity when it shows up.  Why not, we feel the motivation now so we assume we will have it when we need it.

But then obstacles start getting in the way.  Adversity starts up and we start to waver in our commitment.  Our motivation evaporates and we fall back on old habits.

What if we took a different approach?  What if we didn’t come with such an expectation of major, instant success?  What if we just started with a small victory and built on that? 

Most people would say that is settling.  They would argue that small goals don’t matter.  In order to be successful we need huge goals.  We need tremendous effort.  We need a willingness to sacrifice.  We need willpower.

Those habits that came back and took back power from you didn’t start as powerful as they became.  They actually started by making a decision one time.  Then we make that decision again.  Then again.  Then a similar situation comes and we make it yet again.

Soon enough, every time we are faced with a similar decision, we choose the same option.  In fact, we started to do it without even thinking about it.  It just sort of happened.  We didn’t need to think about doing it, we just did it.   

Starting small may seem like a weak attempt at improvement, but when we focus on doing it over and over again we start to build something incredibly powerful.  We start to build habit. 

We can start small and turn minor adjustments into major successes.  But we have to understand the leverage points.  The leverage points are time and consistency.  Over time, by doing the same thing consistently again and again, we will start to build the repetition required for us to use our autopilot mode – aka habit. 

David Goggins is a Navy SEAL who has accomplished some great things while overcoming major obstacles.  In his book, Can’t Hurt Me, he breaks down changes in his mind over time.  He started out with a weak mind and over years and years of challenges and hard work developed a hardened mind. 

He speaks directly to looking for small victories and their importance in building greater and greater success.  He says, “The engine in a rocket ship does not fire without a small spark first.  We all need sparks, small accomplishments in our lives to fuel the big ones.  Think of your small accomplishments as kindling.  When you want a bonfire, you don’t start by lighting a big log.  You collect some witch’s hair – a small piece of hay or some dry, dead grass.  You light that, and then add small sticks and bigger sticks before you feed your tree stump into the blaze.  Because it’s the small sparks, which start small fires, that eventually build enough heat to burn the whole fucking forest down.”

So find small victories and start to build the fire.  Work on adding more and more and slowly developing your mind so that you can achieve great things.  Don’t get discouraged when you don’t start with major wins, realize the biggest fire starts out with a tiny spark and that your success can start with a small spark as well.