The Value of Small Steps


“When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. When you improve conditioning a little each day, eventually you have a big improvement in conditioning. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens – and when it happens, it lasts.”

-John Wooden

As the US Olympic track and field trials wrapped up this past weekend in Oregon and the US Olympic swimming trials begin this week in Nebraska, I couldn’t help but contemplate how far each of these amazingly trim, toned and talented athletes had come to reach such an opportune chance to compete in the upcoming Olympic games in London.

If we were to rewind the tape which captured their lives which led up to their  physical capabilities to be at their zenith, we would come across them first crawling as infants, then walking as toddlers, running as children, etc, etc.

Nothing great, nothing worthy of attaining occurred with the snap of our fingers (except in Cinderella). I have written many different times about the need for small, steady steps toward goals we wish to accomplish (here and here just to mention a few) to ensure success. And while many of us are not destined to compete in the Olympics, there are so many simple things that we can create in our lives when we decide to adhere to the philosophy of persevering with the approach of making small steps.

But first, why is it that making small steps rather than big ones works better in attaining goals?

1. Eliminates paralysis.

“All changes, even positive ones, are scary. Attempts to reach goals through radical or revolutionary means often fail because they heighten fear . . .” -Robert Maurer

As the quote suggests when we look initially at a tremendous task – writing a novel, becoming a U.S. ambassador, earning a PhD, building a house, saving $1,000,000 for retirement – it can seem daunting. So daunting in fact, that we talk ourselves out of believing we are capable of attaining it.

So by choosing to focus on small steps – writing 30 minutes each day, earning stellar grades, finding the right contractor, setting aside $100 a month – the fear is decreased, if not eliminated entirely because, while you have a long term goal, you are focused on what you can do now – little by little.

2. Doesn’t require as much time – more feasible

Small steps are much easier to fit into your already busy schedule. If your goal is to reduce the clutter from your home and become more organized, begin by picking up after yourself when you leave each room and resolve to leave it neat and tidy. Slowly but in good time, all the items in the house will be given a home or be eliminated, and the overwhelming task of doing it all in one day or weekend won’t zap all of your time.

10 Amazing Results Possible by Taking Small Steps:

What I’d like to show you now are a handful of examples that not only will enrich your life, but will endure due to the patient approach of making small steps thereby creating habits throughout your daily life that help create a more serene, balanced, and fulfilling life.

1. Healthy, pleasurable eating

There are many amazing meals, foods and treats that are available to us to enjoy, but if we indulge too often, they become our Achilles’ heel. By choosing to welcome healthful habits into our daily eating habits, reducing/eliminating processed foods, cutting out soda/pop, eating mindfully, and listening to what our body needs versus what it wants, we gradually begin to fuel our bodies efficiently resulting in more pleasurable living without eliminating all that we love.

2. A healthy body

Reaching our ideal weight can cause some to try drastic measures that will help them those weight immediately, but if one don’t create habits in their daily lives that can be followed regularly throughout the rest of their lives, the body, and therefore, one’s mind, will never be at peace. Work to find an exercise regimen that you can regularly stick to – simply walking 20 minutes every day can produce amazing results after an extended period of time. And while many may say, “I can’t wait that long!”, know that once you begin to see results, you will have fully formed your habit, enabling you to be more likely to stick to your schedule and incorporate it into your daily way of living for years to come.

3. A bountiful and beautiful yard and garden

Beautiful things take time to create. And because they take time, they are appreciated that much more. Like a home, a garden/yard takes time to reach its full potential. Plants need time to mature and be pruned, trimmed and carried for, climbing vines need years to cover the trellis that will welcome guests into the garden, and perennials take years to reach their potential size and foliage. By tending to your garden/yard each year, eventually you will be surrounding by the bounty that Mother Nature is capable of providing.

4. Strong relationships

Emotions can expedite some relationships, but that doesn’t necessarily make them strong.  Relationships which are given time to develop, grow and reveal to either person involved the true character of the individuals, stand a far better chance when tumultuous storms come rolling in.

5. Elimination of debt

The benefits of having good credit affect so many aspects in our lives that we take for granted we deserve the following: a roof over our heads, a means to begin a business, a job, a healthy relationship, etc.  By gradually paying down your debt and getting into the fiscal habit of only spending what you have in your bank account, not what remains on your credit limit, you put yourself in control as much as possible to create the life of your dreams.

6. A life full of blessings and appreciation

Quite some time ago, Oprah suggested having a gratitude journal and writing down a handful things we are grateful for at the end of each day. Some of you most likely already do this and are well aware of the benefits, but for those of you who are contemplating welcoming this practice into your daily life, consider after having done this for one full year – 365(6) days of three things you are grateful for leaves you with more than a thousand things to reflect on. Imagine how blessed you would feel. Imagine how much you would have to appreciate. And wouldn’t such a life be something to revel in as you realize you have an amazing life?

7. An organized home

An organized home, especially when you share it with others takes time to create, but it is possible. First, gradually begin tackling each room and eliminating anything that is not useful or beautiful. Then create a place for everything – keys, newspapers, dishes, mail, dirty clothes, remotes, phones, coats, etc. Create habits when it comes to cooking. When should the dishes be done, how should each room be left when it is done being used? Where do toys go when they aren’t being played with? Where do recyclable items go? Coupons?

Gradually, once you begin to create systems for your home that help its inhabitants function better and feel more relaxed, these systems will become habits, but it all begins with small steps.

8. Retirement savings

Compound interest. That term alone should be reason enough to begin slicing $50, $100 or more off of your monthly paycheck to a 401K, Roth IRA or TSA account (speak to your human resources department to see what is available at work, as well as a financial adviser to determine what is best for your situation) .  The sooner you begin and the younger you are when you begin, the more opportunity you give your money to grow, and it all begins by investing a little bit each month. Before you know it, you will not miss it from your paycheck, and you will thank yourself down the road for the peace of mind it will provide as you plan your retirement with excitement in your step, instead of dread.

9. Beautiful skin

The best time to begin taking care of your skin is when you think your skin already looks fabulous. In other words, begin yesterday. And since no one can go back in time, begin today. Beautiful skin in our thirties, forties and certainly in our 50s, 60s and beyond doesn’t just happen. While yes, our genes have a small hand, we have more control than we realize by choosing to take care of our skin every single day – reduce sun exposure, use 30spf or higher (I use 50spf) when you do go outside, moisture, weekly at home facials, salon facials when you can afford them, eat well, don’t smoke, drink in moderation, get good sleep regularly, body massages, reduce stress and exercise.

10. A hopeful, optimistic attitude

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
― Mahatma Gandhi


Every day we have a choice when we wake up to believe in ourselves, believe in the opportunities that we are working so hard to take advantage of when they arrive, and to believe that we do make a difference. And when we accept that we do make a difference, make sure the difference you are making is a positive one. A hopeful, optimistic attitude is not only contagious to those we encounter, we become affected by it as well. So choose wisely what your thoughts will be each and every day.

As you can see, making small steps each and every day can have a profound effect on the quality of your life. Choose to be aware of the possibilities consistent, small steps can make, and be confident in the knowledge that you are building the life you desire.

Images:  (1) pinterest 

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Comments

  1. You’re so right about the baby steps. I really really need to learn how to do that.

    Also, how heartbreaking was Thomas Finchum’s final dive? I cried when he cried. He tweeted his retirement.

  2. I have been successful in so many aspects of life and have accomplished much. I know that I could do so much more if I want to, but for the most part I find myself thinking ‘I don’t want to”.
    I put it down to thoroughly enjoying the journey of life, and not fixating on one destination. I want to (and have) experienced so much that I resist pursuing one goal with any passion or enthusiasm. Living MY life is my passion, and perhaps that is where I am most successful.

  3. You totally hit the nail on the head with healthy eating. In my profession we often see clients who make great long term goals, but need help with the in between steps to make it sustainable. Losing 50 pounds is about the small changes we make each day.

  4. Thanks for taking the time to discuss that, I really feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic.

  5. Utterly fantastic! All of these are spot on!

  6. I recently started writing out my steps to my goals, because I was getting to hung up on not meeting my goals quickly. But, you can’t enjoy life if you are in constant aggressive pursuit of some goal and don’t appreciate the little things it takes to get there.

    <3

  7. This article really resonated with me. I am experiencing a lot of change in my life right now (new job, new city), and my exercise routine has fallen way off. I have been feeling frustrated and overwhelmed by how physically slowed I feel right now. After reading your article, I was reminded to just restart with baby steps – go on walks to explore my new neighbourhood, and slowly rebuild my strength in my new home. I have stopped thinking about what I have lost and am focusing on what I can gain in this new setting. Thanks for sharing this – it was very helpful.

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