With Shikha S. Lamba and Arunanjali Maria
Have you ever had an idea you want to implement or a lifestyle habit you know you must commit to or a New Year resolution you make 3 years in a row deciding this will be the year, and you don’t make it past the first month? Most of us have been there.
While there can be many reasons for people to quit, for many, it’s because the goal – from conception to conclusion seems overwhelming. Some of us get so overpowered by our fears, especially the fear of failure because we don’t see ourselves capable of completing a huge task. For an aspiring writer, this could be starting a new book; for someone, a goal of losing 10 kilos might seem difficult to achieve. From quitting smoking to diets, to exercise, starting a new business or even meditating, so many of us cannot get past the first few weeks or even begin. This is where ‘Micro- Stepping’ comes in. ‘Micro-Stepping’ is the process of breaking a large goal down into smaller achievable goals and breaking down the actions required to make them easier to implement.
I sat with Arunanjali Maria, an Executive and Life coach, to further understand the concept and learn how to incorporate Micro stepping to achieve our goals.
How would you define Micro-Stepping?
Think of Micro Steps as stepping-stones leading to your final destination.
It’s great to dream big, but the way to achieve big is to start small — through micro habits that require micro-steps. It is the process of breaking down an ambitious job into smaller, more achievable micro-steps.
What are some of the main reasons why people quit working towards their goals?
A study by Harvard Business Review states – that when presented with a problem that requires behaviour change, we pounce on it with big goals — only to find ourselves locked into a self-defeating cycle. As high achievers, we’re programmed to “go big or go home” and to “set (BHAG’s) Big Hairy Audacious Goals.” Big goals are more burdensome than they are motivational; they require daunting effort to accomplish. Instead of striving forward, we slide backwards.
For example, when it comes to leading a healthier, more fulfilling life, most of us know what we should do. And yet, all too often, we fail to act on this knowledge.
We need a little help moving from knowing what to do to actually doing it.
Society rewards for thinking big, not executing small. We might feel silly doing something minuscule, and spending any time on it might not seem worthwhile, so we talk ourselves out of doing them at the start.
Any changes to our routine and ingrained behaviour are difficult. Even incorporating a tiny shift into our routines is harder than we might imagine. The reality about significant behavioural changes is that it’s unlikely you’ll make a dramatic shift overnight — otherwise, you would have done it long ago.
How can we implement Micro-stepping in our lives?
Here are 5 simple steps that can be incorporated into any area of your life where you are looking to make a difference. Be it at work, personal growth, health or relationships.
A. Set Your Intentions
Pick the behaviour you want to turn into a habit wisely. Maybe you want to drink more water throughout the day or skip checking your email first thing in the morning. Whatever you choose, be realistic about the process. It will take patience, self-discipline, and commitment. Make a schedule & assign specific micro-steps: Block regular times on your calendar.
“There’s no such thing as 21 days to start a new habit,” Charles Duhigg, author of The Power Of Habits, says. “The amount of time it takes will varies from person to person.”
Ximena Vengoechea, a UX researcher and author, adds, “Reflect on why”.
E.g. if your goal is to be a writer, are you interested in writing a novel for fame, prestige, or money? Or is it simply because you love the craft?” Understanding “the why” will help you stay motivated.
Micro-steps to achieving the goal of exercising can be – to lay out your gym clothes the night before and wear them first thing in the morning. When you get to the gym, the next micro-step can be to walk on the treadmill for only 10 minutes each day, not an hour.
To succeed with micro habits, you must be deliberate and choreograph steps to sustain them.
B. Prepare for Roadblocks
Reflect on what has stopped you in the past? Do fear or shame get in the way? Or a lack of time? To keep yourself accountable, find an ally (or two) to share your goals with.
Research shows that your odds of success increase dramatically when you make your intentions known to someone perceived to have a higher status than yourself or someone whose opinion you value.
C. Temptation Bundling
This aims to make micro-stepping more enjoyable. The concept was developed by researcher Katie Milkman and her colleagues. Take an activity you don’t like to do and something you enjoy — and bundle them together.
Here’s what temptation bundling can look like: Package a behaviour that gives you instant gratification (checking Instagram, listening to music, or bingeing your favourite podcast series) with a beneficial but less fun activity (running on the treadmill, filling out a spreadsheet, or doing chores around the house). Only allow yourself to do the “fun” thing in tandem with the “not-so-fun” thing.
*Commit to one Micro Step a day
Common Hurdles one can face
These are some of the MOST COMMON LIMITING BELIEFS that can set you back in your progress. Which one’s do you identify with?
- “I’M UNWORTHY”
- “I’M NOT (GOOD) ENOUGH”
- Constantly seeking to prove our “enoughness”. Nothing we do feels enough.
- “I CAN’T TRUST MYSELF, OTHERS OR THE WORLD”
- Trying to do everything ourselves
- “I’M POWERLESS”
- Gaining a sense of power from external results and power symbols, e.g. a big house, fancy car, fancy job title etc. Or we act as the victim and blame everyone, “that’s not fair”.
- “I NEED TO BE PERFECT”
- Holds us back because we spend too much time in preparation and not execution.
- “I DON’T HAVE THE CAPACITY”
- We perceive our capacities as limited, e.g. time, money, mental strength. We become dependent on external resources, believing when we have all, we change our circumstances.
The reality is that any long-term change is going to take time. You must show yourself compassion. “Habit is but a long practice,” Aristotle wrote, which “becomes men’s nature in the end.” So our lifestyle is, in essence, the sum total of our habits. Change your habits, and you change your life. But as most of us have learned, unlearning bad habits and learning new ones is not so easy. Next time you have a grand plan in your head, start with micro-steps. You’ll not only move forward, but you’ll build your resilience, patience and inner strength in doing so.
Picture Credit :
Top – Photo by Gerd Altmann from Pexels
Bottom : Photo by Brett Jordan from Pexels