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  • Writer's pictureSue Morris

Why thinking small is the way to go

Updated: Mar 7, 2019

As humans, we have an unfortunate bias to over-estimate our capacity for change. Just think of the grand scale New Year’s resolutions we often make, where we plan to rebuild our identities and “turn over a proverbial forest”.

In my experience coaching executives, it is actually the one small leaf at a time approach that seems to be the only one that really works. Our glamorous fantasies of losing 10kg or building a new life in Paris (when we don’t speak any French) are often just too big for us to comprehend. Alternatively, these big ideas can key into our fear of failure and ironically make us retreat rather than creating forward momentum. Small goals that are achieved, allow you instead to build on success.

Because we are part of a complex, chaotic natural system that does not adhere to simple cause and effect, we must understand that a tiny change somewhere in the system can create a profound and enduring change somewhere else. Natural systems favour evolution over revolution, and so it is with humans, change is a process and not a one-off event.

“Small changes can produce big results – but the areas of highest leverage are often the least obvious.” Peter Senge

Bite sized chunks

Without negating the importance of big shifts that support leaders to become more effective, here are three bite-sized practices that may seem simple, but hold the power for bigger change:

1. Use your breath. In times of stress when you are faced with a problem or are noticing anxious thoughts, become aware of your breath. Follow the breath in and out of your body, counting each inhale and exhale until you get to ten. Problems can’t be solved instantaneously, and your body, your brain and your team will thank you for this.

2. Find an anchor. If you are wanting to introduce a new behaviour, for example, a positive affirmation or gratitude practice, find a way to attach it to something you already do every day without thinking. Use the time when you are brushing your teeth, walking the dog, or having a cup of tea, to link in your new behaviour. It will have a much higher chance of becoming a habit.

3. Change your posture. Somatic work can result in profound change. In this context, I encourage any body movement that expands the chest: sitting upright, stretching or a fake yawn. Because this can be applied any time, it can help to bring a new awareness and energy that you might need to move things forward.

Bank and share your progress

Look for the patterns of progress that you are experiencing with your small goals and notice these as this will provide the platform for further change. Share your progress with your loved ones and teach these ideas to your team.

It may not be immediately obvious what the impact of your bite-sized practices is. A helpful metaphor is a ship’s captain that makes a small adjustment to the wheel and keeps it there, resulting in a completely different trajectory and destination over time. While a big adjustment to the wheel could result in the ship capsizing, a conscious, gentle adjustment is all that is required.

With dedication to thinking small, adjusting the little things we do every day amid the stresses and complexities of life, we may find ourselves in Paris, speaking French, without even knowing it.

If you are interested in exploring how you can make some small changes with big impact in your life, please get in touch with us to schedule a complimentary coaching session via Skype or Zoom.


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