Small Victories: How to Make Changes One Step at a Time

making change a step at a time
We’ve all tried to make improvements in ourselves at one time or another.  Sometimes you’ve had set backs and sometimes you want to change something that you’ve struggled with for quite some time.

It is possible to change your behaviors, such as eating unhealthy foods, smoking, overspending or self-injury.  Even when you’re stuck in a rut and not living the life that you want to live, you are still capable of change.  Most of us have goals to do better, achieve more or improve ourselves in some way, but many of us feel stuck by our problems and our circumstances.

Small victories are those moments when you have taken a step or moved in the direction of your target goal or behavior.  Say you eat a fruit instead of an ice cream Sunday, call a friend, instead of surfing self-injury web sites or do something different to get out of your rut, such as taking or new route home from work or walking to the convenience store instead of driving.  These small victories may not be your ultimate goal, but they are actions or intermediary steps in the direction you want to go.

We are lucky, as humans, that our behavior is so inconsistent.  You may feel that you never get any nearer to the person you want to be or the life you want to live, but no matter how far away your ultimate goal, you can always find some intermediate goal or something that you are currently doing that is a first step.  When you do find that one thing, consider acknowledging, celebrating and rewarding yourself.

Once you begin to notice and celebrate small victories, you may want to consider what methods you will use to make progress.  The importance of a method—I will stop smoking by using Nicotine Replacement Therapy and Acupuncture—is that it can provide you with well established methods to accomplish the change you’re trying to make and steps to follow.

The following principles can help you decide when and how to celebrate small movements towards your goals:

  • Acknowledge and reward what you’re already doing, before requiring more of yourself.
  • Raise the criteria for celebrating a victory in a small enough increment, so that you always have a chance of success.
  • Focus on one behavior at a time.
  • Don’t expect to be perfect before giving yourself a reward.  When you do something near the limit of your current abilities, reward yourself.

Photo by Jekert Gwapo, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.

One Reply to “Small Victories: How to Make Changes One Step at a Time”

  1. I have been making small changes since October. I started working with a trainer in December. It makes him crazy that besides being in 100% better physical shape, I haven’t had too many improvments you can see. I explained to him that I have to follow my own timeline on this. Now my eating habits are not perfect, but they are MUCH better. Soon, I hope to be able to start seeing changes, but I never could have done it all as fast as he wanted. The changes I’ve made so far are permanent.

Leave a Reply

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