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Celebrate Small Steps for Big Changes

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All too often we expect big changes, and big changes right away. Losing weight, quit smoking, wherever it is a change is welcomed and wanted, and it is quite common for the expectations of big changes to fall short, and then people will give up, and this can be for a number of reasons, but most commonly, because the big change they wanted to see, has not come. 

There is a popular saying when it comes to situations where big changes are needed or wanted, and the approach to them, and it is; there are two people asked to move two mountains of similar size, shape everything they are identical, one of the people gets a pen and paper and starts to work out the size of the mountain, and the shape and working out to best way to move the mountain, the other person, picks up a bucket and starts to put stones, rubble etc into it, and moves it to where they agreed, and carries on doing this, the other person sees this and laughs, and says it will take forever that way, and carries on working out how to move the mountain.

Some time passes, and the first person is still standing there and has written all over the place and has not been able to work out how to move the mountain, and starts to think it can’t be done and wants to give up. The second person however has successfully moved the mountain from where it was to where they agreed, a bucket at a time. The message i always take from this saying is no matter how big a problem, a change, etc, make a start and tackle it a bit a time, to give a more real world example, quitting smoking, for example someone smokes 20 a day, and wants to quit, rather than looking at i want to get to 10 a day in a week, focus on missing one a day, instead of reaching for a cigarette reach for a book, a mobile phone, etc. This one small change will become a habit, and then do the same for another cigarette, may not take a week, but it is a slow gradual change, and may become easier to quit. This approach can be made for anything that is seen as a challenge in life, including learning new things, as well stopping old habits, 

I feel that it is also important to celebrate the little success in life, and not just leave it to the bigger changes, using the example above, if someone does manage to omit one cigarette that day, celebrate this little success this will release dopamine and make them feel good, and add in a little treat as well; favorite chocolate bar, a pampering bath, it can be anything, but something personal that gives that feeling of yes i did that today, and i am proud of myself, and this too will motivate to do it all again the next day and the next, and soon the “mountain” will have moved and will have seemed effortless, and the small changes will build up new bigger habits, and the changes are more likely to be more permanent.

It is also important to state that some days this may not happen, and the little change couldnt be done that day, this too should be accepted, and acknowledge that this will happen. I feel that it’s important not to be hard on yourself, and understand, these can be habits, or big new things we have never encountered before, and therefore we still deserve a pat on the back and acknowledge we are doing this, there could be other factors that also played a part in that day, and these won’t always be there, they are like a passing storm, they will pass, and change can, and will continue to happen. 

There are so many sayings such as “Rome wasn’t built in day,” but when faced with a big change or challenge this may not help, and may be received with an eye roll,and i’m not trying to build Rome. But taking that first step, if its writing an essay, dissertation, etc even opening up a word document, or getting a pen and paper out can be the first step that day, and it will gradually build from there, and sometimes it can be surprising how quick the first little step can be a whole completed stage.

Dale Burden is a mental health advocate. He holds a dual honours degree in psychology and neuroscience from Keele University.

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