By Jodi Milner

Jodi Milner author/bio pic

The greatest of achievements all start with small actions. Pearls are made when sand gets stuck inside an oyster. Instead of being annoyed by the irritation, the oyster wraps it in layer after layer of shimmering nacre until a rare beauty is formed. If you want to do something big, you’ve got to start small. 

For the past two weeks, we’ve been exploring how to find your passion by actively being curious and then being willing to put in the work to succeed. Often, we get so excited about trying something new that we push too much too soon and end up frustrated, or worse, hurting ourselves. The most powerful changes in lifestyle and habits must be grown over time and adopted into daily life. 

Let’s say you want to drink more water every day. If your current habit has you drinking one, or maybe two, glasses over the course of the day, and you suddenly start forcing yourself to drink eight, you are going to run into trouble. You’ll feel icky, be going to the bathroom way more often than you ever expected, and if you’re not careful, you can throw off your electrolyte balance.

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But, if you start the habit in smaller steps, say adding a glass of water to each meal when you are used to having a soda, you’ll be building better habits and be getting more water. Once you’ve gotten used to that, you can add drinking a cup of water right when you wake up and go to bed. You get the idea. Create lasting success by building the goal you want to complete into your normal life.

The Basics of Starting Small

You’ve figured out what you want to do. Now, your success comes down to planning and preparing how you are going to do it. Perhaps you want to finally write that book that’s been haunting you. That’s a big goal. The first thing you have to do is build the habit of sitting down and writing regularly. Maybe, in the beginning, that looks like 20 minutes of writing in the morning before diving into the rest of the day.

However you choose to tackle your first baby steps, remember this: if the task is too hard or requires too much time, you are going to find a way to avoid it. For the first few weeks, you’ve got to teach yourself how to show up. Once you’ve got that down, it’s that much easier to work toward longer or harder tasks.

That Time I Thought It Would Be Fun to Write a Book

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Right about when I turned thirty, I had a tiny midlife crisis. I had two babies at home and nothing else on my plate besides caring for them and keeping the house relatively clean. While that by itself was enough to keep me busy, I felt I’d lost myself in the mess somewhere. I’d always wanted to write a book, and if I was going to do anything, I figured I might as well find a way to do it even when life was, well, busy.

So, I did something dumb. I poured myself into the writing and found myself at the computer every minute I could spare, and quite a few that I couldn’t. The house got messier, the meals simpler, and my patience shorter. I’d jumped in with two feet and no plan. 

That kind of crazy is unsustainable. I found myself getting agitated as I threw my life balance off more and more. When I finally reached the end of the first draft I was so completely burned out and frazzled that I didn’t pick it up to start editing it for several years. 

I didn’t start small. If I had, I would have been able to learn how to add this new element into my life without disrupting the existing balance. I would have not crashed and burned so hard. And, I would have reached my bigger goal of getting that book published that much sooner. When I finally did return to working on the book, I did it in a much smarter and sustainable way.

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