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Looking to get out of a parenting rut and make a big change? Seven proven steps to a fresh start

Most of us parents have looked at a part of our life and thought: I need a BIG change. While we might feel like a big change in our life is necessary, as a professional health coach and health coach trainer (and mother of four), I can confidently say that making sudden big changes almost always backfires. We can achieve huge, positive changes in our lives, but this comes from breaking change down into seven practical steps that ensure these changes stick and stack over the long term.

Our bigger is better culture often leads us down a false path of trying to make big changes or many changes at once but then leaves us feeling like a failure when we aren’t successful. We live in an out-sized world of abundance that can totally overwhelm our brains without us even realizing it. It leads to feelings of exhaustion, shame, and disappointment when we don’t reach our goals for personal improvement.

The research and my own professional and personal experience show that trying to make big overhauls in our life backfires because we set ourselves up for anxiety and failure, frustrate those closest to us, and end up retreating back into old habits. What’s worse is that a part of us leaves those attempts at change feeling like change is impossible.

The approach we take in evidence-based health coaching is focused on making, celebrating, and sustaining small but real changes in our lives. I’ve seen firsthand how stacking small but sustainable changes over time leads to big transformations down the road.

Here’s the road map for how we achieve this:  

Step 1: Reflecting on and visualizing goals

Before ever making a single change, we want to start by understanding what we truly want to change. These three questions help us to visualize our best selves and the life we really want to create and live:

  1. What matters most to you?
  2. If you had a magic wand and could change one thing about your life right now, what would it be?
  3. What are the obstacles to making this change?

Take some time, even just 5-15 minutes, to contemplate and journal about these questions. Visualize yourself having made the change you desire. As you write, describe this change in detail using as many descriptive words and senses as you can. Really lean into this vision and act as if it has already happened and your life is different.

Then, holding this image vividly in your mind, think about and write down the 3 things you did to get to this place. These are the behavioral goals you can work on one at a time, over time, to help you achieve your bigger goal and sustainable life change.

Step 2: Tapping into support systems

Who in your circle could support you with your goals? Think of friends, family, and beyond: maybe a co-worker, neighbor, or even your favorite barista. Sharing goals with others can help some people to feel supported, while others prefer to find systems of self-monitoring such as keeping a “tah-dah” list of daily wins. Keep reading to learn more about this important step of celebrating progress along the way.

Step 3: Building  an environment for success

How can you change your environment to support your success? Can you reorganize your fridge to put more nutritious foods upfront and center? Setting out workout clothes the night before or even wearing them to bed can help to get up early to work out much easier. To make your evening and morning routines more peaceful, hanging up or folding clothes as you take them off saves time later and clothes are easier to find. Putting your journal on your pillow when you make your bed can remind you in the evening to spend a few minutes capturing moments of gratitude.

Step 4: Navigating Obstacles

Planning ahead to create workarounds for potential obstacles can really drive success. First, it's essential to understand that setbacks and not accomplishing all you set out to initially is a normal part of the life change process. Real change is rarely linear and instead has many twists, dips, and u-turns. This is completely normal and okay.

Instead of beating ourselves up, blaming, shaming, and judging ourselves, we can simply see a setback as information to learn from. There is always something to be learned from a mistake or failure to do something. In fact, it’s welcome information that we can use to evaluate what went well and what didn’t. Was the action step too big or the wrong one? We can analyze, tweak, and get back on track. This is much easier to do when we show ourselves compassion instead of judgment.

Brainstorm ways to navigate obstacles you’ve encountered before or think may arise. Thinking creatively and outside the box can help make the change process smoother and more enjoyable.

Step 5: Adopting an “all or something” mindset

If someone sets a goal to exercise 3-4 times a week for 30 minutes, they can also create a Plan B in case there is a day(s) that is especially busy or demanding. In my coaching practice, I try to help clients see that it is better to do something for just a few minutes each day or most days than for a long period of time only one or two days.

If life throws curveballs (and it will), a 5-15 minute workout is better than no workout (and might even be just as good). Even a few minutes of doing a new behavior allows our brain to wire this behavior, laying down or reinforcing the new neuronal pathways needed to create a new habit or sustainable behavior change. Adopting an” all or something” mindset instead of an “all or nothing” one helps the brain to more quickly and effectively wire new behaviors.

Step 6: Begin with Small Steps

Kaizen, a Japanese word that means small steps for continual improvement,  become a philosophy for both industrial and personal improvement. Small steps circumvent the brain’s built-in resistance to change or new behavior. This system of taking small steps instead of making big changes helped to accelerate American and Japanese manufacturing capacity post-WWII.

In his book, One Small Step Can Change Your Life The Kaizen Way, psychologist Robert Maurer describes “how small steps become giant leaps” by “unsticking” creative blocks, helping us to bypass the fight-or-flight response, and creating new neural connections needed in the brain for sustainable change. Mauer shares examples of how removing one object from the shopping cart can help to stop overspending or doing a 5-minute tidy-up in one area of the house can help to keep a cleaner house.

What one small step could you begin taking this week to move toward 1 of the 3 things you identified earlier that helped you to visualize yourself having attained your goal and living your life as you desire?

Step 7: Celebrate Small Daily Wins

Celebrating your small wins might seem like something easy to skip past.  But it’s vitally important to pause to acknowledge your small daily wins, no matter the size. This literally reinforces the neuronal pathways in your brain that are the physical basis for sustainable life change. It also builds a sense of self-efficacy (“I really am good at this!”) which is the foundation of self-confidence. Self-efficacy is our belief in our ability to do something and self-confidence is a measure of this.

Over time,  small (not large) rewards build intrinsic motivation for making life changes. Maurer writes that large rewards actually limit our internal drive for change because a part of our brain will come to expect a big external payoff for doing the new behaviors. And once the big, fancy rewards go away, so will our motivation.

Acknowledge and celebrate your small daily wins in whatever ways make sense and support you the most. Some people like to write them down on a “Tah-dah” list; others learn to simply pause for a few seconds or half a minute to think about something they accomplished, even if it was seemingly insignificant at first glance or to others. Like anything, this takes practice. Some people set up a reward chart and after a certain amount of wins, they can engage in a special activity or maybe purchase something they desire.

Progress not Perfection

Focusing on the process of sustainable life change and the journey along the way will get you to your goal faster than focusing solely on the big goal or final outcome. It’s so easy to get caught up in focusing on the final outcome, and not realize this is overwhelming our brain’s need for small, consistent changes. Small steps are more comfortable to take than big ones, and we build self-efficacy and success as we can take them more consistently. This drives more intrinsic motivation to keep going and take on new steps at the right time. Remember to welcome setbacks as opportunities to learn and calibrate your next steps. Self-compassion and a growth mindset will lead to success more quickly than you think!

Looking to get out of a parenting rut and make a big change? Seven proven steps to a fresh start

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Looking to get out of a parenting rut and make a big change? Seven proven steps to a fresh start

Family Thrive Expert Shelby Garay shares tips on how parents can make healthy changes in actionable, achievable ways.

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Key takeaways

1

Looking to make a change? Shelby Garay, NBC-HWC, FMCHC offers parents actionable and achievable ways to make that happen.

2

Shelby goes over how to set yourself up for success so you can achieve your goals.

3

She also shares how to stay motivated so you can keep up the great work!

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Most of us parents have looked at a part of our life and thought: I need a BIG change. While we might feel like a big change in our life is necessary, as a professional health coach and health coach trainer (and mother of four), I can confidently say that making sudden big changes almost always backfires. We can achieve huge, positive changes in our lives, but this comes from breaking change down into seven practical steps that ensure these changes stick and stack over the long term.

Our bigger is better culture often leads us down a false path of trying to make big changes or many changes at once but then leaves us feeling like a failure when we aren’t successful. We live in an out-sized world of abundance that can totally overwhelm our brains without us even realizing it. It leads to feelings of exhaustion, shame, and disappointment when we don’t reach our goals for personal improvement.

The research and my own professional and personal experience show that trying to make big overhauls in our life backfires because we set ourselves up for anxiety and failure, frustrate those closest to us, and end up retreating back into old habits. What’s worse is that a part of us leaves those attempts at change feeling like change is impossible.

The approach we take in evidence-based health coaching is focused on making, celebrating, and sustaining small but real changes in our lives. I’ve seen firsthand how stacking small but sustainable changes over time leads to big transformations down the road.

Here’s the road map for how we achieve this:  

Step 1: Reflecting on and visualizing goals

Before ever making a single change, we want to start by understanding what we truly want to change. These three questions help us to visualize our best selves and the life we really want to create and live:

  1. What matters most to you?
  2. If you had a magic wand and could change one thing about your life right now, what would it be?
  3. What are the obstacles to making this change?

Take some time, even just 5-15 minutes, to contemplate and journal about these questions. Visualize yourself having made the change you desire. As you write, describe this change in detail using as many descriptive words and senses as you can. Really lean into this vision and act as if it has already happened and your life is different.

Then, holding this image vividly in your mind, think about and write down the 3 things you did to get to this place. These are the behavioral goals you can work on one at a time, over time, to help you achieve your bigger goal and sustainable life change.

Step 2: Tapping into support systems

Who in your circle could support you with your goals? Think of friends, family, and beyond: maybe a co-worker, neighbor, or even your favorite barista. Sharing goals with others can help some people to feel supported, while others prefer to find systems of self-monitoring such as keeping a “tah-dah” list of daily wins. Keep reading to learn more about this important step of celebrating progress along the way.

Step 3: Building  an environment for success

How can you change your environment to support your success? Can you reorganize your fridge to put more nutritious foods upfront and center? Setting out workout clothes the night before or even wearing them to bed can help to get up early to work out much easier. To make your evening and morning routines more peaceful, hanging up or folding clothes as you take them off saves time later and clothes are easier to find. Putting your journal on your pillow when you make your bed can remind you in the evening to spend a few minutes capturing moments of gratitude.

Step 4: Navigating Obstacles

Planning ahead to create workarounds for potential obstacles can really drive success. First, it's essential to understand that setbacks and not accomplishing all you set out to initially is a normal part of the life change process. Real change is rarely linear and instead has many twists, dips, and u-turns. This is completely normal and okay.

Instead of beating ourselves up, blaming, shaming, and judging ourselves, we can simply see a setback as information to learn from. There is always something to be learned from a mistake or failure to do something. In fact, it’s welcome information that we can use to evaluate what went well and what didn’t. Was the action step too big or the wrong one? We can analyze, tweak, and get back on track. This is much easier to do when we show ourselves compassion instead of judgment.

Brainstorm ways to navigate obstacles you’ve encountered before or think may arise. Thinking creatively and outside the box can help make the change process smoother and more enjoyable.

Step 5: Adopting an “all or something” mindset

If someone sets a goal to exercise 3-4 times a week for 30 minutes, they can also create a Plan B in case there is a day(s) that is especially busy or demanding. In my coaching practice, I try to help clients see that it is better to do something for just a few minutes each day or most days than for a long period of time only one or two days.

If life throws curveballs (and it will), a 5-15 minute workout is better than no workout (and might even be just as good). Even a few minutes of doing a new behavior allows our brain to wire this behavior, laying down or reinforcing the new neuronal pathways needed to create a new habit or sustainable behavior change. Adopting an” all or something” mindset instead of an “all or nothing” one helps the brain to more quickly and effectively wire new behaviors.

Step 6: Begin with Small Steps

Kaizen, a Japanese word that means small steps for continual improvement,  become a philosophy for both industrial and personal improvement. Small steps circumvent the brain’s built-in resistance to change or new behavior. This system of taking small steps instead of making big changes helped to accelerate American and Japanese manufacturing capacity post-WWII.

In his book, One Small Step Can Change Your Life The Kaizen Way, psychologist Robert Maurer describes “how small steps become giant leaps” by “unsticking” creative blocks, helping us to bypass the fight-or-flight response, and creating new neural connections needed in the brain for sustainable change. Mauer shares examples of how removing one object from the shopping cart can help to stop overspending or doing a 5-minute tidy-up in one area of the house can help to keep a cleaner house.

What one small step could you begin taking this week to move toward 1 of the 3 things you identified earlier that helped you to visualize yourself having attained your goal and living your life as you desire?

Step 7: Celebrate Small Daily Wins

Celebrating your small wins might seem like something easy to skip past.  But it’s vitally important to pause to acknowledge your small daily wins, no matter the size. This literally reinforces the neuronal pathways in your brain that are the physical basis for sustainable life change. It also builds a sense of self-efficacy (“I really am good at this!”) which is the foundation of self-confidence. Self-efficacy is our belief in our ability to do something and self-confidence is a measure of this.

Over time,  small (not large) rewards build intrinsic motivation for making life changes. Maurer writes that large rewards actually limit our internal drive for change because a part of our brain will come to expect a big external payoff for doing the new behaviors. And once the big, fancy rewards go away, so will our motivation.

Acknowledge and celebrate your small daily wins in whatever ways make sense and support you the most. Some people like to write them down on a “Tah-dah” list; others learn to simply pause for a few seconds or half a minute to think about something they accomplished, even if it was seemingly insignificant at first glance or to others. Like anything, this takes practice. Some people set up a reward chart and after a certain amount of wins, they can engage in a special activity or maybe purchase something they desire.

Progress not Perfection

Focusing on the process of sustainable life change and the journey along the way will get you to your goal faster than focusing solely on the big goal or final outcome. It’s so easy to get caught up in focusing on the final outcome, and not realize this is overwhelming our brain’s need for small, consistent changes. Small steps are more comfortable to take than big ones, and we build self-efficacy and success as we can take them more consistently. This drives more intrinsic motivation to keep going and take on new steps at the right time. Remember to welcome setbacks as opportunities to learn and calibrate your next steps. Self-compassion and a growth mindset will lead to success more quickly than you think!

Most of us parents have looked at a part of our life and thought: I need a BIG change. While we might feel like a big change in our life is necessary, as a professional health coach and health coach trainer (and mother of four), I can confidently say that making sudden big changes almost always backfires. We can achieve huge, positive changes in our lives, but this comes from breaking change down into seven practical steps that ensure these changes stick and stack over the long term.

Our bigger is better culture often leads us down a false path of trying to make big changes or many changes at once but then leaves us feeling like a failure when we aren’t successful. We live in an out-sized world of abundance that can totally overwhelm our brains without us even realizing it. It leads to feelings of exhaustion, shame, and disappointment when we don’t reach our goals for personal improvement.

The research and my own professional and personal experience show that trying to make big overhauls in our life backfires because we set ourselves up for anxiety and failure, frustrate those closest to us, and end up retreating back into old habits. What’s worse is that a part of us leaves those attempts at change feeling like change is impossible.

The approach we take in evidence-based health coaching is focused on making, celebrating, and sustaining small but real changes in our lives. I’ve seen firsthand how stacking small but sustainable changes over time leads to big transformations down the road.

Here’s the road map for how we achieve this:  

Step 1: Reflecting on and visualizing goals

Before ever making a single change, we want to start by understanding what we truly want to change. These three questions help us to visualize our best selves and the life we really want to create and live:

  1. What matters most to you?
  2. If you had a magic wand and could change one thing about your life right now, what would it be?
  3. What are the obstacles to making this change?

Take some time, even just 5-15 minutes, to contemplate and journal about these questions. Visualize yourself having made the change you desire. As you write, describe this change in detail using as many descriptive words and senses as you can. Really lean into this vision and act as if it has already happened and your life is different.

Then, holding this image vividly in your mind, think about and write down the 3 things you did to get to this place. These are the behavioral goals you can work on one at a time, over time, to help you achieve your bigger goal and sustainable life change.

Step 2: Tapping into support systems

Who in your circle could support you with your goals? Think of friends, family, and beyond: maybe a co-worker, neighbor, or even your favorite barista. Sharing goals with others can help some people to feel supported, while others prefer to find systems of self-monitoring such as keeping a “tah-dah” list of daily wins. Keep reading to learn more about this important step of celebrating progress along the way.

Step 3: Building  an environment for success

How can you change your environment to support your success? Can you reorganize your fridge to put more nutritious foods upfront and center? Setting out workout clothes the night before or even wearing them to bed can help to get up early to work out much easier. To make your evening and morning routines more peaceful, hanging up or folding clothes as you take them off saves time later and clothes are easier to find. Putting your journal on your pillow when you make your bed can remind you in the evening to spend a few minutes capturing moments of gratitude.

Step 4: Navigating Obstacles

Planning ahead to create workarounds for potential obstacles can really drive success. First, it's essential to understand that setbacks and not accomplishing all you set out to initially is a normal part of the life change process. Real change is rarely linear and instead has many twists, dips, and u-turns. This is completely normal and okay.

Instead of beating ourselves up, blaming, shaming, and judging ourselves, we can simply see a setback as information to learn from. There is always something to be learned from a mistake or failure to do something. In fact, it’s welcome information that we can use to evaluate what went well and what didn’t. Was the action step too big or the wrong one? We can analyze, tweak, and get back on track. This is much easier to do when we show ourselves compassion instead of judgment.

Brainstorm ways to navigate obstacles you’ve encountered before or think may arise. Thinking creatively and outside the box can help make the change process smoother and more enjoyable.

Step 5: Adopting an “all or something” mindset

If someone sets a goal to exercise 3-4 times a week for 30 minutes, they can also create a Plan B in case there is a day(s) that is especially busy or demanding. In my coaching practice, I try to help clients see that it is better to do something for just a few minutes each day or most days than for a long period of time only one or two days.

If life throws curveballs (and it will), a 5-15 minute workout is better than no workout (and might even be just as good). Even a few minutes of doing a new behavior allows our brain to wire this behavior, laying down or reinforcing the new neuronal pathways needed to create a new habit or sustainable behavior change. Adopting an” all or something” mindset instead of an “all or nothing” one helps the brain to more quickly and effectively wire new behaviors.

Step 6: Begin with Small Steps

Kaizen, a Japanese word that means small steps for continual improvement,  become a philosophy for both industrial and personal improvement. Small steps circumvent the brain’s built-in resistance to change or new behavior. This system of taking small steps instead of making big changes helped to accelerate American and Japanese manufacturing capacity post-WWII.

In his book, One Small Step Can Change Your Life The Kaizen Way, psychologist Robert Maurer describes “how small steps become giant leaps” by “unsticking” creative blocks, helping us to bypass the fight-or-flight response, and creating new neural connections needed in the brain for sustainable change. Mauer shares examples of how removing one object from the shopping cart can help to stop overspending or doing a 5-minute tidy-up in one area of the house can help to keep a cleaner house.

What one small step could you begin taking this week to move toward 1 of the 3 things you identified earlier that helped you to visualize yourself having attained your goal and living your life as you desire?

Step 7: Celebrate Small Daily Wins

Celebrating your small wins might seem like something easy to skip past.  But it’s vitally important to pause to acknowledge your small daily wins, no matter the size. This literally reinforces the neuronal pathways in your brain that are the physical basis for sustainable life change. It also builds a sense of self-efficacy (“I really am good at this!”) which is the foundation of self-confidence. Self-efficacy is our belief in our ability to do something and self-confidence is a measure of this.

Over time,  small (not large) rewards build intrinsic motivation for making life changes. Maurer writes that large rewards actually limit our internal drive for change because a part of our brain will come to expect a big external payoff for doing the new behaviors. And once the big, fancy rewards go away, so will our motivation.

Acknowledge and celebrate your small daily wins in whatever ways make sense and support you the most. Some people like to write them down on a “Tah-dah” list; others learn to simply pause for a few seconds or half a minute to think about something they accomplished, even if it was seemingly insignificant at first glance or to others. Like anything, this takes practice. Some people set up a reward chart and after a certain amount of wins, they can engage in a special activity or maybe purchase something they desire.

Progress not Perfection

Focusing on the process of sustainable life change and the journey along the way will get you to your goal faster than focusing solely on the big goal or final outcome. It’s so easy to get caught up in focusing on the final outcome, and not realize this is overwhelming our brain’s need for small, consistent changes. Small steps are more comfortable to take than big ones, and we build self-efficacy and success as we can take them more consistently. This drives more intrinsic motivation to keep going and take on new steps at the right time. Remember to welcome setbacks as opportunities to learn and calibrate your next steps. Self-compassion and a growth mindset will lead to success more quickly than you think!

Most of us parents have looked at a part of our life and thought: I need a BIG change. While we might feel like a big change in our life is necessary, as a professional health coach and health coach trainer (and mother of four), I can confidently say that making sudden big changes almost always backfires. We can achieve huge, positive changes in our lives, but this comes from breaking change down into seven practical steps that ensure these changes stick and stack over the long term.

Our bigger is better culture often leads us down a false path of trying to make big changes or many changes at once but then leaves us feeling like a failure when we aren’t successful. We live in an out-sized world of abundance that can totally overwhelm our brains without us even realizing it. It leads to feelings of exhaustion, shame, and disappointment when we don’t reach our goals for personal improvement.

The research and my own professional and personal experience show that trying to make big overhauls in our life backfires because we set ourselves up for anxiety and failure, frustrate those closest to us, and end up retreating back into old habits. What’s worse is that a part of us leaves those attempts at change feeling like change is impossible.

The approach we take in evidence-based health coaching is focused on making, celebrating, and sustaining small but real changes in our lives. I’ve seen firsthand how stacking small but sustainable changes over time leads to big transformations down the road.

Here’s the road map for how we achieve this:  

Step 1: Reflecting on and visualizing goals

Before ever making a single change, we want to start by understanding what we truly want to change. These three questions help us to visualize our best selves and the life we really want to create and live:

  1. What matters most to you?
  2. If you had a magic wand and could change one thing about your life right now, what would it be?
  3. What are the obstacles to making this change?

Take some time, even just 5-15 minutes, to contemplate and journal about these questions. Visualize yourself having made the change you desire. As you write, describe this change in detail using as many descriptive words and senses as you can. Really lean into this vision and act as if it has already happened and your life is different.

Then, holding this image vividly in your mind, think about and write down the 3 things you did to get to this place. These are the behavioral goals you can work on one at a time, over time, to help you achieve your bigger goal and sustainable life change.

Step 2: Tapping into support systems

Who in your circle could support you with your goals? Think of friends, family, and beyond: maybe a co-worker, neighbor, or even your favorite barista. Sharing goals with others can help some people to feel supported, while others prefer to find systems of self-monitoring such as keeping a “tah-dah” list of daily wins. Keep reading to learn more about this important step of celebrating progress along the way.

Step 3: Building  an environment for success

How can you change your environment to support your success? Can you reorganize your fridge to put more nutritious foods upfront and center? Setting out workout clothes the night before or even wearing them to bed can help to get up early to work out much easier. To make your evening and morning routines more peaceful, hanging up or folding clothes as you take them off saves time later and clothes are easier to find. Putting your journal on your pillow when you make your bed can remind you in the evening to spend a few minutes capturing moments of gratitude.

Step 4: Navigating Obstacles

Planning ahead to create workarounds for potential obstacles can really drive success. First, it's essential to understand that setbacks and not accomplishing all you set out to initially is a normal part of the life change process. Real change is rarely linear and instead has many twists, dips, and u-turns. This is completely normal and okay.

Instead of beating ourselves up, blaming, shaming, and judging ourselves, we can simply see a setback as information to learn from. There is always something to be learned from a mistake or failure to do something. In fact, it’s welcome information that we can use to evaluate what went well and what didn’t. Was the action step too big or the wrong one? We can analyze, tweak, and get back on track. This is much easier to do when we show ourselves compassion instead of judgment.

Brainstorm ways to navigate obstacles you’ve encountered before or think may arise. Thinking creatively and outside the box can help make the change process smoother and more enjoyable.

Step 5: Adopting an “all or something” mindset

If someone sets a goal to exercise 3-4 times a week for 30 minutes, they can also create a Plan B in case there is a day(s) that is especially busy or demanding. In my coaching practice, I try to help clients see that it is better to do something for just a few minutes each day or most days than for a long period of time only one or two days.

If life throws curveballs (and it will), a 5-15 minute workout is better than no workout (and might even be just as good). Even a few minutes of doing a new behavior allows our brain to wire this behavior, laying down or reinforcing the new neuronal pathways needed to create a new habit or sustainable behavior change. Adopting an” all or something” mindset instead of an “all or nothing” one helps the brain to more quickly and effectively wire new behaviors.

Step 6: Begin with Small Steps

Kaizen, a Japanese word that means small steps for continual improvement,  become a philosophy for both industrial and personal improvement. Small steps circumvent the brain’s built-in resistance to change or new behavior. This system of taking small steps instead of making big changes helped to accelerate American and Japanese manufacturing capacity post-WWII.

In his book, One Small Step Can Change Your Life The Kaizen Way, psychologist Robert Maurer describes “how small steps become giant leaps” by “unsticking” creative blocks, helping us to bypass the fight-or-flight response, and creating new neural connections needed in the brain for sustainable change. Mauer shares examples of how removing one object from the shopping cart can help to stop overspending or doing a 5-minute tidy-up in one area of the house can help to keep a cleaner house.

What one small step could you begin taking this week to move toward 1 of the 3 things you identified earlier that helped you to visualize yourself having attained your goal and living your life as you desire?

Step 7: Celebrate Small Daily Wins

Celebrating your small wins might seem like something easy to skip past.  But it’s vitally important to pause to acknowledge your small daily wins, no matter the size. This literally reinforces the neuronal pathways in your brain that are the physical basis for sustainable life change. It also builds a sense of self-efficacy (“I really am good at this!”) which is the foundation of self-confidence. Self-efficacy is our belief in our ability to do something and self-confidence is a measure of this.

Over time,  small (not large) rewards build intrinsic motivation for making life changes. Maurer writes that large rewards actually limit our internal drive for change because a part of our brain will come to expect a big external payoff for doing the new behaviors. And once the big, fancy rewards go away, so will our motivation.

Acknowledge and celebrate your small daily wins in whatever ways make sense and support you the most. Some people like to write them down on a “Tah-dah” list; others learn to simply pause for a few seconds or half a minute to think about something they accomplished, even if it was seemingly insignificant at first glance or to others. Like anything, this takes practice. Some people set up a reward chart and after a certain amount of wins, they can engage in a special activity or maybe purchase something they desire.

Progress not Perfection

Focusing on the process of sustainable life change and the journey along the way will get you to your goal faster than focusing solely on the big goal or final outcome. It’s so easy to get caught up in focusing on the final outcome, and not realize this is overwhelming our brain’s need for small, consistent changes. Small steps are more comfortable to take than big ones, and we build self-efficacy and success as we can take them more consistently. This drives more intrinsic motivation to keep going and take on new steps at the right time. Remember to welcome setbacks as opportunities to learn and calibrate your next steps. Self-compassion and a growth mindset will lead to success more quickly than you think!

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