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Start Small

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.  

Start Small

Scott Miker

Following the systems and habits improvement techniques often means starting with very small steps.  Some people see this as pointless.  They assume that we should ‘go big or go home.’

But there is good reasoning behind starting small.  Starting small makes it much easier to keep going and not get discouraged and quit.  Why would you quit if it were really easy?

This gives us a great way to build new habits.  We don’t challenge our current habits head on hoping that we have enough willpower to succeed.  Instead, we find some very small step that we can do over and over again until it becomes habit.  Then we can add more and more, little by little until it builds into something big.

But there are other key aspects to starting small. In the beginning of a new goal we don’t really know that much about the goal and what it will take to accomplish it but as we head down the road towards our goal we learn a lot about what it will take. 

I tend to underestimate the work that it will take when I set goals.  This means that as I set out to accomplish something and start working towards it I assume the results will come quicker and easier than they do.  This makes the insight gained along the way priceless for me. 

It isn’t until I’ve done it for a long time and built up some new habits that I start to realize how long and hard it will be.  But by the time I realize that, I am part of the way there.  Despite the fact that in the beginning I thought I would be there by now, at least now I am already on the way.

That helps keep my motivation going so I don’t stop.  Stopping is the worst thing we can do because any benefit that we have gained will disappear. 

The other benefit to starting small is that we can be more flexible.  Starting a business by investing millions of dollars in an idea will build the structure around the initial business idea.  If that idea is slightly off, the business will likely fail and not be able to adjust.

But if we start very small we can learn about the market and test the idea before we invest too much money and create a rigid structure. 

The same thing is true of the personal goals we set.  If we say we are going to start running to lose weight and sign up for a marathon in 6 months, we are locking ourselves into running or bust.  It doesn’t give us flexibility to try out different fitness routines until we find one that we really enjoy and can keep doing.

Whatever it is you want to achieve, start to think about the small steps that you can take to start moving you towards the goal.  Focus on making progress through small steps and forming new habits and routines.  It may not feel like you are moving fast enough but the benefits of doing this will surface after you spend enough time building those small habits.  Then they start to multiply and build on each other and success starts to snowball. 

So keep the words of Confucius on your mind as you set goals, “The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”