As enrolment in fitness studios, weight loss clinics and quit-smoking programs spike in January, it’s useful to look at why many determined individuals drop out within a few weeks. A common reason is the “too” syndrome: too much, too soon, too often. For most of us, making huge changes quickly tends to backfire. The challenge seems too difficult, the “withdrawal” symptoms too painful, or the aches and pains from a sudden burst of exercise too much to handle.
Balanced Leadership recognizes the value of incrementalism – small, gradual changes that bring you closer to your goals.We call it the Goldilocks Principle – not too much, not too little, just right.
This was brought home to me years ago during my long distance running days. My goal was the coveted, standard 26.2 mile marathon but I seemed to be stuck around 15-16 miles for months (years!). The advice given to me from a veteran marathoner seemed hopelessly simple: when I get to my usual mileage limit, just add a few more steps each time. The wisdom of that advice soon became clear. When your body is screaming for relief, running another ten miles seems impossible. But adding a few more steps – I can manage that! A few more steps this time, a few more next, and before long I was going the distance.
When I was boasting about my incremental improvements to a mathematically inclined colleague, he nodded then said, “Ah yes, the aggregation of marginal gains!” He was reminding me that minute, ongoing changes can add up to a big change over time. He was also inferring that making massive, instant changes tends to be a less effective way to sustain improvements.
This is a positive attribute of the fear based world. Fear gives you an early warning as to what you need to do to be productive or assure safety. Setting a goal enables you to shape the outcome to something that is advantageous to you, thus reducing the fear. The way to successfully reach your goal is to make things measurable and track your progress towards that goal in small increments. As long as you continue moving forward, expanding your boundaries little by little, you will win the day. Notice how hard you are working and the progress you are making. Be proud of your progress! And don’t forget to set a few interim rewards for yourself. Carrots are important, in both the long AND short “run.”
Again, may all your resolutions stick!