Small Actions = Big Results

Small Actions

That awkward conversation

The one we’ve all had: “ I’d love to freelance as a writer”. To which most people reply, “ you should, you would be great”. To which they reply “ …I know, but I can’t because of X “.

We’ve all been there. It gets awkward quickly, so we change the topic and move on. Let’s look at what we know about the situation before we move to the next bit:

  1. The person is unhappy/keen enough to tell you about it (which means they are pretty d@mn unhappy/keen)
  2. They want better (who doesn’t?)
  3. Something will always stop them from making the change, even if we offered them a clear path forward.

It’s the third point I want to zoom in on today. Why don’t we change when it’s so clear we’re unhappy? Why not take that first step?

Two main reasons: the devil we know is better than the one we don’t, and the path is like climbing Everest (it feels insurmountable).

Here’s how you can create momentum for yourself or someone else who is struggling to take the first steps towards a better tomorrow.

A time where we learned that the devil we knew was not better

Like so many others, I had a massive fear of public speaking (years ago). Whenever I had to present at a client gig to an executive team, something I often passed on to other team members, I would feel sick. I’d have a nightmare about it the night before and up to that point had always decided that someone else should do it. On one such occasion, my heart rate spiked to the point where my Fit-bit literally said “you’ve entered workout heart rate” …oy vey. All this, while sitting in a chair waiting to present.

It was time for a change.

To get to a better place before my next gig, I took one small step. I started by practising a small part of my presentation in the mirror. I did this for several days. Once I got comfortable with this, I took the next step and recorded myself presenting, but didn’t re-watch it. Then I took another step and moved to re-watching it (cringe) and adjusting based on my own observations. Then I took another step and presented to someone who had no idea what I was talking about (out of their depth). Finally, I took another step and moved to presenting to the team.

This all took several weeks, but it got easier every day as I built momentum.

By the time I presented to the client, it was a piece of cake. I didn’t suddenly get better at public speaking nor did it get easier right away. I instead focused on the smallest possible step I could take to get a little bit better every single day.

I still sometimes get the weird heart rate spike before I step on stage (so to speak) but nothing like I use to and it’s gone as soon as I start speaking.

Which leads to the lesson on achieving big goals.

One small action creates big results over time

If you think about the steps I took, none of them was overly dramatic or stressful. They all were slightly uncomfortable but look at the difference in where I am vs where I began.

Growth comes from repetitive, incremental actions taken daily. Another simple example of this is running a marathon. Something I never want to do, by the way, but this one is for you fitness gurus. If you want to run a marathon you have to run 26.2 miles or 42.195 kms. That’s the equivalent of running from the Perth CBD to Alkimos. If you’re running the whole time, it’s roughly 41,920 running strides.

Feeling tired yet?

To run that marathon, you don’t wake up and say, “you know what, I think I’ll run that HBF marathon tomorrow”. It might be ‘for a reason’ but you aren’t going to finish my friend (as much as I’d be rooting for you). Instead, you need to take the first small step and repeat that action daily. That means a few kms walk around the block, then build from there over the months. You saw this applied in my public speaking example.

Closing the loop

Now let’s wrap it up with our person who wanted to freelance as a writer. To make it achievable, what one thing can we do today?

We could build a simple landing page through something like Wix (no coding skills required) and promote it on social media, writing sites, Upwork, etc. While still working at your day job (just make sure they are OK with this), you keep building content (daily) and tweaking every day. Over time, you bring on enough writing gigs that your ‘side hustle’ becomes your new ‘hustle’ meaning you can make it your day job. I’ve seen many successful X (writers, tech start-ups, etc) launch this way.

The most critical lessons in this are you MUST commit to these actions daily (every single day) and you must believe that you can achieve X by making it a core part of how you show up every day. I read a great quote once that said:

“A habit missed one day is a mistake, a habit missed two days is the start of who you will become”.

If you’re a leader facing a business challenge or someone looking to make big goals come true (aren’t we all), you must take small steps every single day. 

The payoff will be exponential, I promise you.

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