Start Small to Make Big Change

In the last few years, my son has become an avid climber. He loves to scale the indoor climbing walls as well as make his way up to some actual mountains. Of course, I found this terrifying as his mother. One look at the heights and steep climbs and I was scared. He took me once to an indoor climbing gym and I watched as he took one small part of the wall at a time, sometimes trying the same foothold and spot multiple times. I found this to be an intriguing and valuable lesson. One mistake I often make in my life is that when I want to make a change, I start with a BIG idea or vision and leap in with lots of energy trying to get directly to my end goal. As I watched my son practicing securing each foothold, I realized that he was teaching me something important. Starting small is the way to reach your goal. Start small to make big changes that stick and that are transformative. Through many years of teaching young children, raising my own kids, and running a Lower School, I have learned the lesson of starting small. Practice. Reflect. Improve.

James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, writes about small changes that will change your habits and transform you. In a conversation on The Dare To Lead podcast with Brene Brown, he talks about establishing a small reachable goal or task and then using that to get you to the next level. These small attainable goals are both easy and satisfying and are the footholds to the larger vision, to reaching the top of the climb. 

Some tips for starting small:

  • Create reachable, attainable mini-goals that get you closer to your bigger vision. Use each foothold to create a space for a new opportunity or mini-goal.
  • Reward yourself when you reach these small goals so that you feel good and want to repeat this. Positive reinforcement is important.
  • Build your capacity before you take on more goals. Just like in climbing you start with smaller climbs and work your way up.
  • Reflect at each foothold. What worked? What didn’t? What was surprising? What do you wonder?

Keep your big vision. In order to achieve it, narrow the scope and create smaller, step by step achievable ways to get there and reward yourself along the way. The small stuff matters. Build momentum. Take one foothold at a time instead of trying to race to the top of the climb. Practice. Reflect. Improve. Start small and you will make a big and lasting change while reaching your vision.