Massive or incremental change? What strategy works for you

When one decides to change something in their lives, one of the first stumbling blocks is the implemention the wrong strategy. What I mean is this: if you don’t decide beforehand what the best possible route is for you to maintain momentum and procure lasting change in your life, you will find yourself wasting time and effort and getting ineffective results.

Some people respond well to massive change. You see that when someone decides to stop smoking cigarettes and quits cold turkey. No gum, no lozenges, no laser treatment- they just decide to never smoke again. When they quit cold turkey, they deal with the short term discomfort that inevitably comes because; for them; they know that a strategy of reducing the number of cigarettes will not be as effective for their mindset as just quitting altogether. While others, who have accomplished the same goal, respond better to a secession plan that enables them to manage the discomfort that will happen by reducing the amount of the drug that will be the cause of that discomfort. Either route works; it’s the goal that is important AND the mindfulness to realize beforehand what you will respond to more effectively.

Another example is losing weight/ eating better/ being more healthy. One way most go about doing this is ‘crash diets’. Up until now, processed food has been the majority of the food they’ve taken in. So, after the umpteenth time they’ve watched the Insanity infomercial, they order the program, throw out everything in their fridge and go to the store and purchase a shit load of vegetables they can’t even spell. Six days later, without understanding how the body responds to hard exercise and new nutrition coming into the body as well, they decide it’s too hard and give up entirely and go back to their old habits.

But others engage in an incremental strategy by eliminating the nasty foods on a weekly basis- dairy the first week, wheat the second, sugar the third, soft drinks the fourth and so on. Walking 15 minutes a day for the first week, adding 60 seconds of running for every 3 minutes the second week and so on. In the end, the level of discomfort is diminished because the change is manageable. The KEY is knowing what works best for you.

Tony Robbins calls it the power of chunking.

Dr. Marvin ( in the film What About Bob) calls it baby steps.

Tim Ferris calls it “win-able steps”.

Whatever you want to call it, it works. Will it work for you? That’s what you have to find out. It takes some soul searching and honest answers to how and what you’ve responded to in the past and where and why you may failed. I know from personal experience that most times, incremental change has reaped better rewards for me than the sudden shift/ massive change times I’ve tried to accomplish something of value.

You may have heard this story before. If you were playing golf with a buddy and both of you decide to have a friendly wager, would it be easier to get him to bet $ 500 on the round or 10 cents a hole doubled each hole? On the outset, the $500 seems to be a large painful wager- “Fuck, if he beats me, I’m out 500 smackers! Better to do a dime a hole.” But in the long run, after 18 holes, if you were a crappy golfer and lost every hole, you would owe an amount well over $500! You’d owe over $13k for that round of golf! ( This story explains the power of compound interest but I’m using it to highlight how small incremental changes, which seem innocuous at first, can result in big change in the end.)

I think it’s safe to say that if your reading this post, you are one of the few men who recognize the need to keep evolving, to get better at a skill, to drop the shit that hasn’t worked in so long for you and to constantly be striving to be BETTER than you are now. With change, there is always discomfort. It comes down to how you manage discomfort. Would you work harder to save $10,000 or to keep someone from stealing $10,000? When you can honestly answer that question, you will gain insight into how you operate as a person.

One example I can give you as to how I made the same mistake was in the case of buying some photography equipment some years ago. I had come into some extra money and saw an opportunity to buy the equipment I always wanted AND thought would make me a better photographer and give me an opportunity to earn some side cash doing some commercial work. After dropping a bit of money on all this gear, I found myself more focused on getting that first big gig than in doing the work that helps you learn to be better at your craft. After close to two years I hadn’t really accomplished what I thought would happen. Then, I realized that all I had to really do was offer to take photos of my friends (for free) in order to give them great photos to have and for me to work on my craft. I found that just using one lens and a reflector enabled me to take the photos I wanted and as I learned about light and composition, I realized that I had wasted my money and time in getting the big setup instead of just learning photography as I went along; learning a bit more each time I shot. Now, I have a nice catalog of photos to share with friends and potential clients for small paying gigs. I wanted to shoot professionally but how I went about doing that was a lesson. Big change vs. small steps. I accomplished more with incremental change.

I’m curious as to what other examples people have where they found that change for them was more attainable through realizing what they respond to better. What works for you?

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