The Power of Small Steps

Habit is habit and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.
— Mark Twain

I was loading up my bins with good stuff from the bulk aisle at the grocery store yesterday when a woman approached me saying, “Excuse me, but do you know how to use any of these grains and things? I’m trying to eat healthier but I don’t know what to do with any of these.”  So I proceeded to geek out sharing ideas for quick and yummy things to do with bulgar, red lentils, oats, and more.  “Oh, that sounds delicious and so easy!” She said at one point.  Ahhh, be still my geeky little nurse heart!  I love these moments.  

I love food, and eating, and not feeling crummy or getting sick—like most of us do. 

And I super love helping folks to use that love of food and eating (and other things they love) to fuel feeling better and being healthier.  

I’ve taken care of so many folks over the years suffering from problems like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure/cholesterol, who have had a stroke or heart attack- or whose loved one has— and it breaks my heart because often, usually, it’s so preventable or improvable with simple things like eating and moving well, getting enough sleep, managing stress, drinking enough water (or non-sugary beverages), connections with other supportive people, time outside in nature, etc.  The answer is rarely a pill or a procedure, it’s almost NEVER a diet, and DEFINITELY not deprivation. 

Pills and procedures have a time and place, for sure, AND…

… to get to the root cause of what ails us almost always comes down to these simpler things that actually start to heal the problem, not just mask or manage the symptoms.

But simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy, right?  It can feel SO overwhelming to know where to start, how to start, and who to believe.  Or to find the time to do the thing we know we should do and want to do.  Or to just get off the couch and do it (speaking from very personal experience here!).  Or to build skills to do the thing— like my new friend at the store who knew she should be eating more whole grains and legumes and “eating better,” but had no idea how to use these foods, or how to use them in a way that fit in her busy life.  

If this sounds familiar in any way— YOU’RE NOT ALONE!  

One step at a time

One step at a time

And the sweet magic of it is in the little things—

the small steps, the tiny changes, the short bits of time spent that all add up, steadily, into a positive upward synergy.  Each little thing builds momentum, breeds little successes, confidence, feeling a little better.  Little steps like learning one recipe with one new healthy ingredient, going for a 5 minute walk, doing the next “right” little thing.  

These little steps have an exponential effect on our well-being, building a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts. 

So if you feel worn out, as I do,  just hearing people online talking about New Years’ Resolutions and “taking massive action,” “creating your best year ever,” or the new diet or system they’re using to try to get there…. YOU’RE NOT ALONE!  It’s no secret that New Years’ Resolutions almost always peter out by February.  Because “massive action” rarely works.  It’s intimidating, strenuous, exhausting, and unsustainable for most of us.  It’s not only not realistic long term, it’s a recipe for burnout.  

But those little steps matter. They add up, because they are DOABLE.  

So I encourage you to be gentle with yourself if you’re feeling any ought-to’s, shame, guilt, or stress around any Resolutions you’ve made but not kept up with, or not started yet, or think you should make but know you won’t, etc.  

Instead, I invite you to release the grip on the idea of “massive action” and consider what’s one TINY thing that might help you feel better, be healthier, move toward how you want to be?

And make it something that’s delicious, or feels good, is relatively easy and quick to do.  Something you enjoy

tiny steps will get you there

tiny steps will get you there

And I do mean TINY.  Try one new ingredient, or adding in one vegetable or fruit.  Sharpen your kitchen knife so it’s safer and easier to use. Go for a 5 minute walk.  Do some deep breathing or leg flexing exercises sitting on the couch.  

I know, I can hear some of you out there thinking, “Yeah right.  How could those things actually matter or make a difference!?”  Trust me—I’ve seen it over and over again over the last 10 years working with folks as a nurse and a health coach.  This stuff adds up, people keep going with them because they’re little and doable and not overwhelming and most importantly—enjoyable.

So, what’s your first one tiny thing?

It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward
— Old Chinese Proverb


Want some help sorting out your next steps? Let’s chat.