Micro-steps are the building blocks for what you desire to achieve. You are the architect.
- • Do you sense the “need” to do something, but feel deep resistance to follow through?
- • Do you distract yourself by justifying “doing” productive activity, versus slowing down to reflect on how you truly feel?
- • Do you beat yourself up because you have developed unhealthy habits that you know aren’t good for you?
- • Do you find yourself getting frustrated, or paralyzed because you can’t seem to follow through on a lofty goal?
Whether looking for a new job, or career, learning or creating something you have desired, or creating a healthy habit, we can often feel a sense of overwhelm, anxiety, or even depression when we create goals that are unrealistic without a sustainable plan to get there. We tend to focus on the “all or nothing” approach, and then find ourselves stuck or depleted. As a result, we can develop unhealthy patterns of thought, and behavior that have a negative impact on our wellbeing and mental health. We justify or deny our unhealthy habits by filling our days with distraction, moving fast and furious to a high level of productivity, without achieving what we truly desire. We tend to beat ourselves up and can feel paralyzed with guilt that we have not accomplished what we set out to do, and then it becomes a backwards spiral where our confidence erodes. Sometimes, we attempt to interrupt the spiral by making lists and lists of what we “need” to do, the list becoming so long that we can’t realistically accomplish them with our daily rhythm, and that feels heavy and burdensome. Then we can feel resentful, disengaged and drained. Sound familiar? I have recently gone through this cycle in my life, and have been amazed at how many others between friends, and clients have experienced the feelings of being burnt out, stuck, or beat themselves up for not following through at some point in their lives.
After much recent research and practice, I have found a way to manage this cycle is through creating what I call, achievable micro-steps that can become rituals or habits changing the blueprint of the brain. These micro-steps are the building blocks for success. Micro-steps allow for the opportunity to develop the feeling and “flow state” where you feel focused, creative, and a sense of accomplishment. These steps allow for achievement over incremental periods of time. This process helps to create a positive rhythm of follow through in all aspects of your life.
There was a long period of my life and career where I was feeling overwhelmed and disappointed with myself because I had trouble following through on my goals. For example I started to write my book, The ReSoul Revolution. I had gained a lot of momentum and over the course of a couple of years had a couple hundred pages. I took a step each day to move forward and just started to write. Then, I got increasingly more busy, moving, building a house, focusing on “other” work, and I lost steam. The book has sat for months without me touching it. I found myself beating myself up, “What is wrong with me?”, “Why can’t I follow through”? “I have to get it all done soon”. And most importantly, the imposter syndrome overwhelmed me with “Who is going to read it anyway?” I also find myself making excuses like, “I have to prioritize my “ real work”, or the house build before I can actually sit down and do my book. I realized that I was doing exactly what I have coached people around what NOT to do. I felt a heaviness, as if there were chains around my body that prevented me from actually looking at the book. I was focused on the problem, versus my potential, and used language to myself that was demotivating and demoralizing and eventually the pattern eroded my self confidence to move forward.
After talking to friends, clients, and other coaches, I was reminded that these feelings of resistance and overwhelm are common.
The more research I did on the neuroscience of the brain and why and how people actually achieved what they set out or desired to do, I realized we talk a lot about goals and how to achieve them, but less about the habits and mindset that pave the way for sustainable and inspirational accomplishment. I found that it is critical to create incremental “micro-steps” that become the building blocks for success and are daily rituals that become a habit in how we move through life. As importantly, it is becoming aware of how we talk to ourselves when attempting to accomplish what we set out to do, and the WHY we are actually doing it in the first place.
Micro-habits. It’s a process.
Creating micro-steps that become rituals alleviates overwhelm, moves you away from the “All or nothing” lens, and creates momentum, flow, self-confidence and creativity. This process becomes a blueprint and has been one of the most transformative new habits of my life. Know that each day is a new opportunity to follow through on a positive micro-step and this action creates the mindset to step forward with focus, while allowing space for creativity, strategy, and drive to accomplish what is core to your values, and desires.
Micro-step one: Slowing down, it’s a superpower, not a weakness. It is an essential discipline for achievement and the success you uniquely desire. This is about not running to the next thing. Taking time to really slow down and be present is a discipline. It is difficult when we create a lifetime of doing and often are rewarded for activity and working harder. When operating in this pattern we miss critical pieces of information that help us make decisions, or the questions that need to be asked. We combat the opportunity for clarity or creativity, putting our performance and well-being more at risk because we feel drained or unsuccessful. Creating time for reflection, a few minutes to close your eyes and breath, and getting really honest about how and why you are not doing something different are the first steps.. Slowing down, even for 2 minutes to focus on nothing is an opportunity for rejuvenation and a fresh lens. You are able to see the complexity issues with more clarity. Reflection can include planning for your day, prepping for a meeting, scheduling time for mindfulness and exercise. Schedule time to go to bed at an earlier hour, get up in time to create time for 15 minute reflection. All of these are small incremental micro-steps, eventually becoming habits.
Micro-step two: Interrupt distraction. Distraction is a real phenomenon. It’s a form of numbing out without being honest with how you are really thinking or feeling. There is constant availability of distraction, whether it is social media, looking at your phone, TV, spending time on meaningless, repetitive activities that only inhibit physical and mental health, yet we can justify it as relaxing. When we stop and create a ritual or microstep of pausing, asking yourself where your time is going and if it is perpetuating your inability to accomplish, then you can start to change behavior, leveling up your game, focused on the right stuff that feeds you, giving you the energy to step forward with confidence and ease.
Micro-step three: Know your WHY, and what you value helps you identify how you want to contribute to the world. I know that when I know my WHY I take inspired action and I am motivated and engaged. Define and articulate what you value. What your natural talents and gifts are, and how you feel when you are doing it. Write it down, live it, visualize and feel it. Do this each day to remind yourself how you want to contribute to the world, and your purpose. When you wake up each day, state your WHY, and then it provides context of what you want to achieve in the day. Even with the seemling mundane tasks, like the administrative aspects of a role, if we know the bigger picture, and how this task supports our WHY, it is much easier to follow through each day.
Micro-step four: Clean up your language. Feel into your resistance. When you are feeling angst, anxiety, stuck, or lack of motivation, what is it that you are saying to yourself? Changing the language from try, or strive which feels lofty, to “I aim”, or I have the “potential to follow through on bite size chunks each day” feels much more attainable and the words feel less overwhelming. We can change one neuron at a time in your brain for a better pattern of thought by changing one word at a time. Changing your language, changing your thoughts, and ultimately your beliefs about yourself, and what you can achieve. You are worthy of success, can forgive yourself for not following through, and have the capacity, and the ability to shine.
Micro-step five: Creating TIME in your day creates space for reflection, inspiration, motivation and rejuvenation. These are ways that Jay Shetty talks about in his book “Think Like a Monk.” Thankfulness: Boosts mood and immune system. It is difficult to feel uninspired when you are grateful. I wake up each day and have created the micro-step of writing down three things I am grateful for and share it with an accountability partner. Inspiration: Start each day with a quote, an inspirational video, before jumping into email, phone, news, or your day of “to do’s”. This starts the day off in a positive mindset. I receive the Daily Om in my inbox. Meditation: Spend time with yourself for at least five minutes every day by doing NOTHING. There is nothing you have or can do wrong in a space with nothing. Staring at a flower, or wall works. This practice reorients the brain to focus, and shift perspective. Exercise: Everyday, no question. Moving your body builds confidence, rejuvenates, brings clarity, insight and creativity and makes you a better person to work with and be for family and friends. Period.
HOW do I create this discipline? It feels overwhelming!
Identify your “micro-steps” and make it a follow through game— Turn your “Core micro-steps” into “micro-rituals” — Make it a time during the day that you create space and ritual for completing your chunk. Chunk out little by little what you think you can reasonably accomplish and in what order so that you can achieve what you set out to do. Eliminate long lists. Look at the step, versus the entire thing you want to accomplish. Commit to the step, try, then reassess if you find yourself not following through. For example, I commit to writing at 7:00am for half an hour. When you follow through, the brain is more motivated and committed to doing it again, and then again, for even longer. Then you not only have developed the momentum, but also the confidence to continue. Ask yourself did I make an unreasonable chunk, am I tired or get interrupted at the location that I have chosen? How can I shift both time and location so I am most likely to achieve? Find an accountability partner. Verbalizing what you set out to do, schedule it.
Celebrate your incremental daily victories—Focus on the positive incremental wins every day. Give yourself grace if you do not accomplish what you wanted to do, then reevaluate by creating a more reasonable goal that aligns with your daily rhythm and when/how you do your best work. For example….
By following the process, you will feel the power and see a clear path that will move you forward with momentum and confidence! Schedule it, follow through, and make it a habit, for 7 days, 14 days, 21 days until it is a discipline. Set the condition for your family and work colleagues that this is what you do. Be the model for self to give permission to others to do the same.The more you create positive micro-rituals you can easily accomplish, no matter what they are (5 minutes of meditation, 15 minutes of stretching, 10 minutes of writing), you are more likely to follow through on attainable goals across the board. Then you look back and be proud and shocked of all of the added accomplishment and impact you have created.
Have patience with yourself and think of this process as a marathon, not a race. Having been a marathon runner in the past, what kept me going was not thinking of the overall goal needing to finish the entire marathon, but each day I created a small goal that helped me meet my goal that allowed me to be present in each moment and knowing that each step forward was a bit closer. Then one day, I ran the entire race, and viewed the journey of training as the small incremental impact that created the accomplishment of the whole. Creating a small “soul” step each day you are able to realize and experience the huge accomplishment.
Let 2023 be an opportunity to create a new discipline of micro-steps that become your micro-rituals. This practice will become the foundation that will make way for a life-long discipline that creates more sustainable impact and accomplishment for 2023 and beyond. You don’t have to go it alone and having an accountability partner is key. I would love to help you get clear on your path and realize your potential.