Around this time of year, the big goals we set in excitement for the new year can feel less exciting as we feel the weight of carving out five hours a week for workouts, living on a strict diet all the time, or staying organized in all areas of our lives. As James Clear points out in his book Atomic Habits, we might be tempted to abandon our desired habits because we aren’t seeing results yet or because our new habits require so much of us that they are hard to sustain. He recommends taking a habit you want to start and shrinking it enough that you can absolutely do it consistently and then growing and optimizing it as the habit forms. For example, running each day might start with putting on your running shoes at the same time each day and jogging to your mailbox and back for a week. Perhaps the next week, you do the same thing but jog to the neighbor’s house five doors away and back. As you continue showing up consistently, you can increase the intensity a little at a time without drastically costing the rest of your life. Over time, small habits that grow yield big results the way that small financial investments over time can compound with interest into great wealth.
This idea of going small to get something big works outside of habits too. In The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, Gary Keller and Jay Papasan encourage us to work our way back from a big goal to the first, smallest step in the journey and then simply take that step. Things started are much more likely to be finished. Being more connected to a family member this year could start with sending a text message asking when is a good time to chat. Creating future financial security could start with a 15-minute conversation with a financial advisor, and getting to your dream home could start with a short conversation with me. For whatever worthy goal you have, clarify that first, smallest step and then take it. You can do it!