Improving by 1%

Coral Gables Counseling Center - Wednesday, April 10, 2019
By Emy Fernandez, MBA, Life Coach

Life and Heath Coach

Most of us look forward to the future wondering what changes we can make today – to improve what is to come, whether it be health, security, finances, careers, relationships, and so on….

So, we get gym memberships, we get life insurances, we save for retirement, we set goals, we look for promotions or career change opportunities, we swipe for dates or we schedule “date nights,” we look for work/life balance. Whew!!

Although these are all good steps towards creating a better future…it’s all very exhausting. Also, it leaves us wondering “where do I begin and when does it all end?”

The problem I see as a Life Coach is that we try to do it all at one time. Initially, we are all very motivated until we’re not. But what if we decided to take one step today towards our health and instead of getting a gym membership we gave ourselves permission to take a 10 or 20 minute walk and tomorrow increase it by another 5 or 10 minutes? Then in six months – after consistent movement and time increase – we can consider a gym membership. The likelihood of us actually going to the gym and exercising regularly after consistent movement for six months will increase exponentially. As Richard Clear says in his book, Atomic Habits, “…improving by 1 percent isn’t particularly notable – sometimes it isn’t even noticeable – but it can be far more meaningful, especially in the long run.”

I have clients that come in wanting to lose weight but also organize their home, and find work/life balance all at the same time. Can we do all three at the same time? Sure. But it won’t be sustainable. Within 2 weeks the home is a mess again; within a month, the stress of trying to balance work and life has duplicated; and in 2 months, they’ve already gained back the weight they lost.

What if instead, we choose one goal at a time? For example, let’s start with organizing the home. We could probably reach this goal in a weekend. But 2 to 3 weeks later the house is a mess again and we’re back where we started. Instead, consider starting with the master closet this weekend, and moving on to another part of the house the following weekend. This will be much easier than trying to take on the whole house at one time.

Additionally, as we make these smaller changes on the path to reach our goal, we also have to process our habits. What small changes can we make to our habits in order to create long lasting change? For example, let’s change the habit of throwing the shoes in the closet or leaving them by the door. Instead, we can go straight to the closet and put them in their place. If we don’t make changes to our habits too, as Clear says, “Achieving a goal is only a momentary change.”

In following the example above – once our client reached her goal of organizing her home, we can then move on to her goal of work/life balance and then weight loss. However, the goal is just the destination – not the path. The path or actual action items to reach our goal is what ultimately matters. As Clear says, we can accomplish tasks whether we have goals or not as long as we have action steps. The goals are just the end result. So focus on the action steps or “system” instead of the goals by following the same steps outlined above: 1) define the goal (or end result); 2) create the system (or action steps) to reach your goal; 3) and make changes in your habits so all the work you put in to reach your goal is long lasting.

We tend to set big, once in a lifetime transformational goals, but it’s the daily steps and actions we take that help us get to our transformation.

In closing, you may be thinking I’m making it sound as if changing our bad habits into good long lasting ones is a little 3-step process. It isn’t. It takes focus and being present in the moment to make changes in our habits long lasting. It’s important we know and understand what the bad habits are so we can recognize them. Sometimes it takes accountability or a change in our environment and other times it takes actually eliminating cues in our environment that trigger the return of our bad habits. And, knowing that we may fail – and if we do – that we learn from our failure, make our tweaks and start over again..

What long lasting goal do you want to reach?
What small steps can you take now to begin moving towards your goal?