- Jaime Lang
Last week I wrote a post about taking responsibility for little controllable things as a way to take manageable, long-lasting steps towards change. It was meant to serve as a reminder to take initiative on those seemingly small adjustments because doing so prepares you for bigger opportunities. In general, remembering that small things matter and addressing them can be helpful for recognizing where you can directly influence change and growth in your life, but this idea can be applied even more directly towards a specific goal or initiative in the simple, but very relevant concept of taking baby steps.
Baby steps refers to the process of taking a goal and breaking it down into a series of much smaller, easier goals. The idea is to reduce the level of resistance (feeling of being overwhelmed) that can come with a lofty or difficult goal by finding bite-sized steps that lead up to whatever you are trying to accomplish. This is an extremely simple concept that can be very effective when applied and followed through on.
There are several larger principles within the practice of taking baby steps which are fundamental for taking charge of the direction of your life and overcoming obstacles: 1. Baby steps allow you to reduce resistance in order to prevent paralysis, 2. Baby steps teach you to focus on one thing at a time 3. Baby steps help you to build trust with yourself and develop confidence in your abilities and 4. Baby steps help you pace yourself.
Applying any of these four strategies toward a goal can improve your ability to achieve it, but the practice of taking baby steps works really well because it is a practical way to apply all four simultaneously. Remember, though, any tool or strategy no matter how simple, complex, or effective, only works if you actually apply it. Understanding the concept is not enough, you will gain much more from applying these strategies than by reading about them.
Applying Baby Steps
Fortunately, since baby steps are so effective there are already many tools and templates in existence for how to apply them to different aspects of your personal life. However, you can also easily create your own template to apply baby steps towards your own personalized goals.
1. To do this start by writing out whatever goal you would like to work towards (keep in mind that the goal doesn’t have to be a traditional goal, it can be a project, a characteristic, or an area of growth).
2. Next, think about some concrete things you could do to work towards that goal and write them down. It is okay if the overarching goal is vague, but it helps if these mini-goals are concrete. For example, if my overall goal is to reduce the effect of agoraphobia (fear of public places) on my life then my mini-goals might include things like stepping outside of the house or parking in the grocery store parking lot.
Once you have a list of mini-goals or baby steps put them in order from easiest to hardest. You can also group them along the lines of hard, medium, easy instead of ordering them all linearly. Once you have this grouping set up pick one easy goal that you can achieve today.
3. Achieve that goal (take that baby step) and allow yourself to be proud of yourself for doing it. Take time to celebrate it as a little victory (read more about the importance of celebrating little victories here).
4. Depending on how you are feeling once you have achieved this goal you can either move on to a second small goal or medium goal (if your goals build on each other) or choose a new goal for the next day. Keep doing this until you are able to reach each of the goals on your list.
Helpful tip: if your goal is related to overcoming some type of anxiety it can be helpful to practice staying at each mini-goal or baby step long enough that you start to feel relaxed in it and/or consciously practicing relaxation techniques while working on each goal. When you do this, you are re-conditioning yourself so that you no longer associate the situation with anxiety. With time and practice this can make it easier to face previously stressful situations in a more relaxed way.
You can get creative with this process and modify it in a way that works best for you. The important thing to keep in mind is that what you are doing is breaking big goals down into smaller steps that feel manageable and then actively taking those steps. Keeping the mini-goals or baby steps small and committing to achieving them are paramount for this process to be successful. To help with this, remember to shoot for small goals and then focus only on that single tiny step while you are working on it, do not focus on what came before or what comes next. Try to focus on achieving that one step and then celebrating that goal. The next step will unfold in its time, do not rush ahead in your thoughts, let yourself be at the step you are taking while you are taking it.
If you would like help creating a personal “baby step” plan to work towards some achievement or help overcome a difficulty, please feel free to reach out. This process can be incorporated as part of a coaching session or service, which I would be happy to work with you on. You can also look for additional resources that are pertinent to your specific goal by googling baby steps + a keyword related to your goal. There are a lot of resources out there using this strategy, so don’t be afraid to look for ideas that might work for you and modify them to fit your needs.
Wishing you all the best. Have a great weekend.
P.S. Enjoy this clip from What About Bob? a 1991 movie that popularized the concept of baby steps (this movie and example were my first introduction to the concept when I was in high school).