Three simple steps to positive change

January 21, 2018

I’ve never met anyone – client, family member, or friend – who doesn’t want to live vibrantly.  But sometimes we get stuck and we need to shake things up.

Change isn’t always easy.  But after years of working with clients (and myself) around change, I know that it doesn’t have to be as hard as we sometimes make it.

The most critical feature of lasting change is beginning from a place of clarity.

Here are three simple steps — pick/face/do (PFD) — to create clarity and move you through the process of change with as little discomfort as possible:

  1. Pick a problem:  Pick something you’ve been avoiding or putting off because it’s too big, too complicated, or too silly.  It sits in the back of your mind like an earworm – those annoying tunes that lodge themselves inside your head and repeat on an endless loop.
  2. Face it:  Look it in the face.  Stand up to it.  Tell the truth about it.  Make a commitment to yourself that you will no longer let a feeling – anxiety, embarrassment, discomfort – deprive you of an opportunity to live more vibrantly.
  3. Do it:  Identify one small step that will get you moving.  Make it as tiny, uncomplicated and do-able as possible.  That means you can complete it without adding two or three steps in between.

A L E R T!  Easy to get side-tracked on number 3.  You realize there are a couple things you have to do before you can do the first step you picked. It starts to feel overwhelming.  You decide to think about it tomorrow.

Stop!  Take the identified problem and put it on a list entitled Problems I Want to Tackle.  (You can use the Notes App on your phone to maintain the problem list.)  Underneath the problem add the additional steps that you found.  Pick a new, tiny step 1.  It will replace the step you thought of first.

The idea is to find the tiniest first step that requires as little effort as possible..

Here’s my story as an example of how it works:

  1. Pick a problem:   I have a hard time calling myself a writer.  I want to find out if I am a writer.
  2. Face it:  Of course I’m a writer.  The truth I’ve been avoiding is discovering whether or not I’m a good writer.  So now I would go back to step 1 and change my problem title to:  Finding out whether or not I’m a good writer
  3. Do it:  My tiny, relatively effortless first step is committing to putting my blog posts on Medium (a platform for writers) for the next three months to see if I get any traction.  I already know how to post there, so this one’s easy.  Last year I started posting a few of my blogs on Medium.  I chickened out and stopped because I didn’t really understand how it worked and I didn’t become an over-night success.

A L E R T!  I addressed the potential problem of deciding on a first step by piggy backing on something I had already set up.

Other steps that came to mind were finding other platforms for my writing, educating myself about what makes for a successful writer, and exploring whether or not Medium is the right platform for my writing.  But none of these was the first step.  The first step was pretty easy.  Capitalize on what I’d already done.

Once I took the first step, I’m noticing that I’m fired up to decide on the next one..

BONUS STEP:  forward this email to one person, ask them to read it, then ask them to be your buddy in facing one small change each of you wants to make.  Check in with each other at the end of each week.  When you’ve taken the first step, then pick a next step for the problem or pick a new problem.  I currently have two clients who have been doing this for a few years and have achieved more together than they ever achieved on their own.  And they live in different states.

I’ve actually taken my own advice and I have a new accountability buddy and it feels great.

I just thought of my next step.  I’m going to ask you to post in the comments section below.  I want to know if this post moves you to action.  You can be specific about the change you want to make, or just share how you did with the exercise overall.  We all need encouragement because none of us is immune to getting stuck!  Let’s encourage each other.

By the way, one small step, the tiniest step possible, isn’t a new idea.  It’s from the Japanese philosophy of Kaizen which embodies small steps to achieve big changes.  If you’re interested, you can read about it here.

Much love,

16 comments

  1. Vicki Mills says:

    Hi Robyn, Yes, I have experienced exactly what you are talking about –in fact in the very same subject! I wanted to write a book, and did take the first steps to start, kept working at it in little bits of time, then joined a group also writing books — and we met regularly to check in on each other’s progress! Thanks for the encouragements and tips — they work!

  2. Sandy F. says:

    Thanks Robyn. I’m still recuperating from a bout with the flu, and have had too much time to brood over choices I’ve made and things that I haven’t done. over the years. And I feel an accompanying “panic storm” brewing that threatens to scatter my energies in too many directions at once. This was a good reminder about how to stay focused and move forward.

    • Robyn says:

      Thanks Sandy. I’m struck by a sense of camaraderie. I think a similar sense of panic is what prompted this post. Once I realized I only needed to take one step, it felt almost like I feel after every meditation session. Brought me back to myself in one sitting. I want to remember that I can repeatedly come back to myself every time i feel a panic storm brewing.

  3. Bonnie Lamont says:

    Hey Robyn! Excellent idea, I will incorporate this exercise into my daily weight loss endeavor! Baby steps to success! Love your writing, so enjoy hearing what you have to say…very smart advice.. Keep it coming!

    • Robyn says:

      Thanks for the kind words Bonnie. And I think you’ve nailed it — baby steps not only work, they’re probably a necessary component to creating forward movement in any area. Anything bigger than a baby step brings on the ‘panic storm’ another reader mentioned.

  4. JoAnne Gerut says:

    I have been trying the small changes or small step approach since the first of this year to a series of goals I have. The first was to get more organized and uncluttered in my home and my life. So I try to find something in my home everyday to throw out or donate. I am 3 1/2 years in my townhouse and it is remarkable how much stuff I accumulated. This was a down size move for me so I purged a lot when I moved and started over acquiring or failing to let go of stuff. Even a step as small as finding something old in the freezer to throw out satisfies this goal. Some days I have gone to the container store to find a gadget that organizes something that irritates me. My second goal was to get back into fitness. I joined a gym this Saturday and signed up for a class tonight. I then fell walking the dog Saturday so I cannot take the class. But I am still going to go and walk on the treadmill while my daughter and friends take the class. Baby steps still count! All these little improvements actually add up to feeling a lighter and a little less of that ugggghhh January duldrums. Happy New Year!

  5. JoAnne Gerut says:

    PS – I do not comment on all your posts but I do read them all. They are always thought provoking and give direct steps to execute the theory – not just the theory. That is what makes them brilliant!! Keep them coming!!

    • Robyn says:

      These lovely comments are icing on top of an already iced cake of your first comment. (and my favorite thing in the world is buttercream frosting.) Thanks so much JoAnne.

  6. Deb Altimier Asheim says:

    For years I have avoided exercise-I work such long hours…I have too much to do after work…The list went on. Then I retired and I could STILL find excuses to not exercise! So my New years resolution was to get up and start! I set up the treadmill in front of the TV , recorded all the shows my husband does not want to watch and made myself get on and walk! It was exhausting at first, I actually had to lay down for about 15 20 minutes after (probably did too much) but now I am walking 5-6 miles almost every day! I am now working on increasing my speed.
    Some kind of fit bit helps a lot! I have a garmin. I don’t share with friends because I don’t like to be pushed by guilt. I am starting to feel stronger and have more energy. I have lost 2 lbs. I have been faithful to this for almost 3 weeks.
    I am determined to continue mostly because I see so many women my age (65) that are sooo out of shape that they have trouble walking at all. In fact I was starting to have trouble when I stood up it took several steps to be able to walk correctly without pain. That is getting much better. i want to be able to enjuy my retirement! I’ll keep you posted as I go along.

  7. Paige says:

    This is so perfect this time of year! It’s kind of easy to go back to old ruts after the holidays. I love the simplicity of the steps – definitely make it easier to face. Thanks so much!

    • Robyn says:

      Thanks Paige. I hope it helps! Like you said, so easy to slide back into old ruts. I just keep saying to myself, one tiny step. Master one tiny step. Then think about the next one.

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