Taking small steps each day can help us achieve our big dreams.
Slow and steady wins the race in the achievement of our hopes and dreams
I ran across a quote on social media that really caught my attention…
“It’s the small habits. How you spend your mornings. How you talk to yourself. What you read. What you watch. Who you share your energy with. Who has access to you. That will change your life.” ~ Michael Tonge
It got me thinking about the interplay between big dreams and small actions and how both have a role in productivity and making a life that matters. Where’s the balance between dreaming big dreams and making big strides, and taking small steps little by little?
You’ve probably heard the story of the tortoise and the hare. Both had the same goal: to win the race. The winner wasn’t the one who made the big splashy start, but the one who persisted in taking small steps. Slow and steady wins the race.
Big dreams – many of us have them. Maybe it’s to start a business, get a degree, or write a book. Perhaps we want to run a marathon or take that dream vacation. Or maybe even build a house, build a family, build a career.
Dreams, big or small, are an important part of a meaningful life. Eleanor Roosevelt is quoted as saying,
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
“Dream big dreams! Imagine that you have no limitations and then decide what’s right before you decide what’s possible.” ~ Brian Tracey
“When you cease to dream, you cease to live.” ~ Malcolm Forbes
- We reach our big dreams by small habits.
James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits (discussed in TPW230 as part of our recurring Productive Reading series), says in a post on his website: “Your life today is essentially the sum of your habits. How in shape or out of shape you are? A result of your habits. How happy or unhappy you are? A result of your habits. How successful or unsuccessful you are? A result of your habits. What you repeatedly do ultimately forms the person you are, the things you believe, and the results you enjoy. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making better decisions on a daily basis. The daily choices we make shape our teams, our societies, and ourselves. Change your habits and you’ll change your life.”
- Bold steps and audacious actions are great and can kickstart our progress toward our goals, but are not sustainable.
Most of us have multiple commitments (mom, friend, caretaker, employee, wife) and cannot regularly allocate to one goal or dream the time, energy, and attention it takes to make huge leaps. One article put it this way:
“The truth is, nothing that can be acquired immediately is sustainable, and if you want to make a true impact on your life, you have to put in the work that is required. If this weren’t true, everyone in the world would be physically fit, rich, and happy.”
- Small steps, taken consistently, get us where we want to be.
“Even if you can’t just snap your fingers and make a dream come true, you can travel in the direction of your dream, every single day and you can shorten the distance between the two of you.” ~ Douglas Pagels
In a New York Times article from a couple of years ago, Arianna Huffington talks about “microsteps”: “These are small, actionable and science-backed steps you can take to make immediate changes in your daily life. It’s the idea that if you make the steps small enough, they’ll become too small to fail. And as research has shown, starting small makes new habits more likely to stick.”
She goes on to say that “making even very small changes in our trajectory can, over time, lead us to a very different destination. By making our microsteps too small to fail, we can make those first, small changes on which we can begin to build a new and healthier way of living and working.” The article suggests several of her favorite microhabits that she says can improve the quality of our lives.
“Just like your investments compound with time, so do your everyday habits. If your habits are positive, they will take you in one direction, and if they are negative, you will follow a different path. Your habits are the “compounding interest” that lead to your personal development. Just like money accumulates through positive compounding interest, the impact of your habits increases as you repeat them. However, it is only when you look back months or years later that you can recognize the valuable impact of your habits or the cost you have paid.” [from Change My Life: 40 Small Habits that Have a Big Impact]
- Identify your dream and admit it to yourself.
Describe it in as much detail as you can. Ask yourself: What kind of person lives that dream? Who is she, and how does she live her days. What does she do habitually?
- Identify your current habits.
What do you currently do habitually? Which of those habits match up with the person you described before, and which don’t. Choose one or two small changes that you can implement.
- Consider an accountability partner as you create and nurture the small habits that will get you where you want to be.
The road doesn’t seem as long when you have someone to travel with.
- Remember, it’s never too late to dream, and to achieve what you dream of.
“Dreams are renewable. No matter what our age or condition, there are still untapped possibilities within us and new beauty waiting to be born.” ~ Dr. Dale E. Turner.
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” ~ C. S. Lewis
Dream big. Let your imagination run wild with the possibilities. Protect your dreams (from others and yourself), and then do the work, one small step at a time. The smallest steps, taken consistently and persistently, will get you there. But don’t get so busy looking at the path that you forget to look up once in a while. Enjoy the view of the horizon, and celebrate how far you’ve come.
Remember the quote we started with, the one that inspired the thinking that led to this episode: “It’s the small habits. How you spend your mornings. How you talk to yourself. What you read. What you watch. Who you share your energy with. Who has access to you. That will change your life.”
As Arianna Huffington says in the NYT article, “There’s nothing wrong with aiming big — but we can help ourselves by starting small.”
What do you think?
Resources and Links
- 30 “Dream Big” Quotes That Will Motivate You Now | Reader’s Digest
- 3 inspiring women who achieved their big dreams — Murielle Marie
- What Happens When Women Dream Big And Act Boldly?
- How Small Habits Can Lead to Big Changes – The New York Times
- The Surprising Power of Small Habits – James Clear
- Change My Life: 40 Small Habits that Have a Big Impact
- 7 Tiny Habits That Lead to Huge Results | Inc.com
- Atomic Habits by James Clear
- The story of the tortoise and the hare
TPW episodes about habits
- Developing Healthy Habits, with Bridgit Danner – TPW082
- Habits That Help – TPW216
- Habits to Consider for this Year – TPW226
- Productive Reading: Atomic Habits – TPW230
- Healthy Habits for Productive Living – TPW318
It’s never too late
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