Did you know that most of the people that you consider successes didn’t become successes overnight?
- Bill Gates founded Microsoft in 1975, but didn’t land a contract with IBM until 1982
- Tom Cruise’s first role on IMBD was in 1981, but he didn’t land Top Gun until 1986
- J.K Rowling was said to have written her first book at aged 6. She went on to write the Harry Potter series, the first book being published in 1997 when she was 32.
Their success was built on a firm foundation of deliberate practice and consistent action. The Japanese call this process kaizen. Kaizen is a business philosophy developed in the 1980’s that is simply a practice of continuous improvement. The basis of Kaizen is that “big results come from small changes accumulated over time”. Malcolm Gladwell wrote about this in his book Tipping Point, and Anders Ericsson quantified it when he developed the 10,000 hour rule.
So how can small changes change your life?
Well, the brain can handle small changes. When you try to change too much, all at once, the brain can’t handle it as well.
The frog analogy
I remember being on a Change Management course year ago and being given the analogy of cooking a frog. If you boil and pan of hot water and try and put a frog in it, he’ll sense the heat and jump off, however, if you put him in a pot of cold water, and increase the heat slowly, then he doesn’t notice the change and adapts to it.
I don’t know if that’s how you cook a frog, but I’ve noticed that developing one small habit at a time allows it to become embedded and automatic.
The porridge habit
In December last year, whilst working with my peer coach, I wanted to develop the habit of eating breakfast each morning. The benefit of having breakfast each morning has been well documented, and yet each morning I’d run around organising everyone else and missing breakfast myself.
So with my peer coach, we looked at this from every angle and came up with an action plan for me to develop the porridge habit. It doesn’t take long to make, but you do need to have some porridge oats in the cupboard and milk in the fridge! So the first action was to ensure that everything was ready for the morning. Then, it was a case of simply taking action.
Each morning, after I’d had a shower and gotten dressed, the first thing I did was make the porridge. It wasn’t until mid-February that I realised that I was doing this automatically.
Why the brain loves habits
Positive psychology has found that the brain is very elastic and can learn new things. When you develop a habit, a new neural pathway develops and the more that you do the same thing, the more that the brain recognises this and goes straight to that pathway, strengthening it each time, until it becomes automatic.
When a habit becomes automatic, the brain has to work less, and it takes less energy to do as a result. Win, win.
Being more by doing less
It doesn’t matter what your goal is in life, or what your dreams are. If you want to be successful at them, then you need to build daily habits that will enable this:
- if you want to be a writer, then write every day
- if you want to run a marathon, then develop the habit of running
- if you want to lose weight, then develop one healthy habit at a time
Whatever you want to do or be, you have it within you to try. And don’t stop trying. The difference between success and failure is trying. You don’t scrap your car when it get a flat tyre. You change the tyre, and if you don’t know how, then you get help. You don’t get a bicycle instead! If you miss one day, then try again the next one. Don’t expect to be perfect.
Choose your small change
Small changes have the power to change your life if you let them.
Choose one small change today and try it for the next week, then the following week, and the one after that.
- Make it as easy as possible to achieve.
- Remove as many obstacles as possible from achieving your habit.
- Then take action.
- And keep trying.
Good luck and let me know how you get on.
Take care for now