It’s easy to let your health overwhelm you. From health issues to health information to health goals, everything health-related seems so … big and complicated. But what if you knew for sure that taking just one small step for your health could point you in the right direction?
Would you take that step? Or would you continue to let the “bigness” of health improvement overwhelm you?
Overcome overwhelm with one small step.
That old familiar feeling of overwhelm sets in easily when you’re trying to make too many changes too fast, or you’re making multiple changes at once. The bigger the change, the greater the temptation to give up. So, if you’re making excuses about why you’re not meeting your health goals, or if you’re telling your best friend or spouse why you’re ready to throw in the towel on your health goals, maybe the steps you’re taking aren’t small enough.
You read that right. Small steps. Taking small steps for your health can move you forward faster.Taking small steps for your health can move you forward faster.Click To Tweet
Maybe you’ve already heard the advice a million times: You have a much better chance of achieving your health goals when you take small steps to achieve them. And maybe you insist you’ve been trying. I get it: Taking small steps is easier said than done. In a culture that rewards big ambitious goals, and celebrates extremes, it can be difficult to get our heads around what a “small step” for your health actually looks like.
What counts as a small step, anyway?
Small steps are specific actions for meeting specific goals. Small steps are things you can do in a slow, steady, deliberate manner. Small steps are things you can focus on exclusively, and they fit your lifestyle.
When your small steps are based on commitments you make on your own terms and when you have a go-to plan for setbacks, you’re on your way to improving your health one small step at a time. With no excuses whatsoever. No feelings of overwhelm. No threats of giving up.
Here are some examples of what small steps for your health might look like:
- Prep healthy snacks for the week ahead
- Drink a full glass of water first thing upon waking
- Stretch purposefully whenever you sit down in or get up from your office chair
- Place your walking shoes by the door as a reminder to go outside daily
- Organize prescription medicines so they’re easy to remember to take on time
The key is to choose small steps that work for you, in your individual situation. As you integrate the “one small step” approach into your lifestyle, here are some things to keep in mind.
Break down your health goal.
When you break down your health goal down into its component parts, small steps become easier to identify.
For example, if you decide you want to run a marathon by the end of the year, start by breaking down the details of what you need to do. Every individual is different, but if it’s been a while since you’ve moved faster than a walk, you’ll likely want to assess your current level of fitness, set up a realistic training calendar, acquire the proper gear, and identify appropriate modifications to your diet. Notice how each item on this list can be broken down further and further into component parts of its own. Keep breaking things down until you have specific, daily actions to take.
Once you’ve broken your specific goal own into smaller actionable steps, it’s time to prioritize. You can’t tackle everything at once. What’s the first small step you will take? Remember, imperfect actions count. Then, what comes next? And after that? Once you have your priorities straight, taking one small step and then the next, and the next becomes so much easier!
You can’t tackle everything at once. What’s the first small step you will take for your health?You can’t tackle everything at once. What's the first small step you will take for your health?Click To Tweet
Slow and steady wins the race.
Taking small steps requires you to slow down. Moving slowly–as long as you keep moving, of course– means you’re making steady progress. And it really is true that slow and steady wins the race.
People often try to fast-track their health improvements. This is a mistake for many reasons. Most notably, some health improvements require you to learn new skills. And it can take time to clear up your questions around a new skill and build it through practice.
If you need to learn something new try breaking up what you need to learn into small, 15-minute chunks. Then, schedule practice sessions for those learning activities over the next few weeks or months.
Think about how schools structure learning. Students take a course for an hour or two at a time. Then, they move on. This is spread out over several months. The reason schools and universities do it this way is because our brains need to rest. We can only take in so much when we’re learning new things.
You don’t need to go back to school to improve your health, but you’ll likely need to learn a few new things and practice a few new skills. It helps to respect the fact that health is a complex subject, and the skills to improve it aren’t always things you can expect to master at an expert level overnight.You don't need to go back to school to improve your health, but you'll likely need to learn a few new things and practice a few new skills.Click To Tweet
Focus on one thing at a time.
Focus one thing at a time and complete it before you move to something else.
Turns out, science shows, multitasking is overrated. Our brains aren’t optimally wired for it. So if you’re trying to do a bunch of things at once, you’ll do them all poorly. Instead, do one thing and finish it before you move on to the next.
While the changes and improvements you’d like to make often show up for you in big categories (like “eat healthier” and when you break that down you can think of multiple ways to go about doing that… multiple steps to take…. don’t try to take more than one step at a time.Take one small step and see how it works before you take another. Click To Tweet
You need to make sure your strategies for improvement are working. Otherwise, you will get overwhelmed. When that happens, you run the risk of failure.
When you give yourself permission to do just one thing at a time, you discover this is actually an incredibly powerful method of getting stuff done. And it will likely translate into other areas of your life– so get ready to be productive!
Link every small step to something you’re already doing.
Link your small steps for health to things you’re already doing. Tack the target task to the end of something else. This is how healthy habits are formed.Link your small steps for health to things you're already doing.Click To Tweet
Linking tasks this way is a great way to satisfy the inner urge for efficiency you’re short-circuiting by saying no to multitasking and doing things one at a time.
Here’s an example– let’s say you’re chopping vegetables for your dinner salad. You’ve decided that one of your small steps is to prep healthy snacks for the week ahead. Before you put the knife and cutting board away, go ahead and chop up a couple of extra carrots and a few extra celery stalks, and pop them in the fridge in snack-size containers.
Congratulations! You just took a small step. But look how far it got you. You focused on one thing and by linking that one thing to something you were already doing, you set the stage for making that small step a habit. After a number of times repeating that chopping-vegetables routine, prepping healthy snacks for the week ahead will become second nature. The fact that you kept your activities small gave you a better chance of being successful at them, and your new, healthier habit developed and became second-nature with seemingly no effort at all.
My guess is, this strategy will work so well for you, you’ll keep doing it. Every time you chop veggies for a salad, you’ll be asking yourself “what else can I do?” to support your healthy snack stash.
Make commitments on your own terms.
Who’s telling you to improve? Who are you setting your goals for? Hint: if you’re making changes just because your doctor told you to, you’re not likely to stick with them. The health changes you stick with are the changes that come from your own internal motivation.The health changes you stick with are the changes that come from your own internal motivation.Click To Tweet
Know yourself and be aware of what is going to work for you and what is not. What works for your friend or neighbor may not work for you the same way.
Choose steps that fit your lifestyle and interests. And it may help if others in your household are willing to take the same steps along with you.
Be willing to change tactics as needed. Trust your instincts. It’s your life, and you are the one who is taking the actions. You’re also the one who will benefit from the improvements.
Be careful who you listen to, and where you get your information. Use trusted sources only.
Expect setbacks and have a plan for dealing with them.
What’s your backup plan in case your quest for improvement slips? Don’t have one? Well, that’s a different post.
The important thing to remember here is that setbacks will happen, so don’t let them catch you off-guard. They’re inevitable. Decide ahead of time that when a setback shows up, you won’t be too hard on yourself. Life is busy, and improving your health isn’t always easy. The path to success is paved with persistence and reslience.The path to success is paved with persistence and resilience.Click To Tweet
Transformative changes require mindset shifts and behavioral changes that can take a while to get used to. So allow yourself the space and time to adjust.
When setbacks occur, re-frame them as minor, forgive yourself, adjust your strategies, and move on.
Don’t let overwhelm become your excuse for failing to achieve health goals. Take one small step for your health. Leave no room for excuses.
What is one small step you can take for your health today? Leave your comments below.
Last updated: 6-28-2020