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Starting small means it’s harder to fail.

By September 30, 2021 No Comments

Finding motivation – especially for change can be one of the biggest challenges many people will face, but it doesn’t have to be. The key… Start small.

Starting small means it’s harder to fail.

The below is an excerpt from ” The Slow Life Project” written by our principal psychologist & author Lana Hall.

Chapter 8: Lack of Motivation

Waiting to feel more ‘motivated’ is the most common reason I hear from clients as to why they haven’t implemented changes they say they want to make. If that’s you too, then I’ll let you in on a little secret: motivation is spelt ‘d-i-s-c-i-p-l-i-n-e’.

In this chapter, we’ll cover a variety of different techniques to encourage you to take actions that support your slow life project. There’s no magic formula for becoming motivated. It’s just about repeating simple decisions and choices over and over until you have new habits in place. Treating change like this not only works, it’s perfect for a slow life, because it’s deliberate and conscious, and allows you to get started, today.

Where to start

The best way to make changes is to make them small. So small that you can’t say no. So small that they don’t seem like changes at all. But slowly, they add up. Slowly, progress is made. Eventually, you’ve moved to a very different place.

Embracing small change now, rather than putting off change until you’re ‘ready’, or motivated, means you’re much less likely to wake up one day, approaching a milestone birthday, look around at your life and think, ‘How did I manage to end up here?’ You will know how you ended up where you are, by making the best decisions you could, given the environments and circumstances provided to you.

Starting small means it’s harder to fail.

Small changes prevent you from crashing and burning. They help you to begin new tasks or challenges in a safe, easy way. Because they’re so small, they’re not threatening. Because they’re small, they’re easy to do. Because they’re so small, there’s no reason to worry or think you can’t. When you start small, no one needs to know. If you think other people (or your inner critic) will undermine you – ‘You can’t lose weight! You can’t keep your pants on!’ – then start with small changes. That way you can safely make changes without scrutiny from others (and without your inner critic becoming too loud). As you slowly progress, change will sneak up on them (and you – small changes can also fool that part of you that wants to self-sabotage).

The other reason to start small is that living a slow life is a project that’s never finished. It’s not a goal to reach; it’s not a competition to win. You are aiming to live by your values every day. Some days are going to be hard and the best you can manage might be next to nothing. This is still a win! This is better than not living your values at all. Embrace the small things as successes and your life instantly becomes more successful.

Starting small and getting bigger

Before I had my first baby, I made an up-to-date list of my values. I also received a lot of advice about how difficult it was going to be!
My to-do list was accordingly modest. This was my to-do list.

Leave the house every day.

This seems sooo easy, right? Yet many mothers had told me that often they didn’t leave the house. Parenting books I read told me that it was important to get out of the house. Add to that that one of my values is connecting with nature and I figured it must be pretty important! Pre-baby, I was never someone who liked being inside all day. When my daughter was small, going outside became my way of living the value of connecting to nature. And I stuck to it. I left the house every day. Sometimes we went for a walk. Sometimes I just paced in our backyard. Sometimes I only remembered that I had that goal at 5pm and so I went and checked the mail before the end of the day.

The actions were often small, but they made a difference. Once I was outside, I found myself showing my daughter the leaves on the tree. I found myself looking up in frustration then noticing an interesting looking cloud in the sky. Sometimes I didn’t take my baby with me. I just went outside, took a few deep breaths, and appreciated a moment of quiet while not holding another person. It was such a simple thing, but it made me feel more like myself at a time when that sense of self was changing fast. Going outside increased my sense of satisfaction in the midst of feeling tired, confused and in love. It was worth so much more to me than the time or effort it took. I just went outside!

Small things really do make a big difference.

But it only happened because I planned to do it. Without setting that intention, without focusing on it, although I valued nature, I wouldn’t necessarily have left the house every day. And I wouldn’t necessarily have found a connection to nature every day. As I said, once I was outside, I often found more. I could go for a walk. I saw the beauty in the sky. I started small. Often, it got bigger, but sometimes it didn’t. Either way, I’d acted on that value each and every day. Once I got used to being a mum, and once my daughter became more predictable, getting out of the house every day was a given. I would be outside hanging out washing, soothing my baby, even occasionally watering our plants. As such, my list stopped being so powerful for me. It just felt ‘normal’.

At this stage, I knew I was ready to ramp it up. And so, still sticking to my values of being connected to nature and now incorporating health too, I chose to reconfigure my list to include ‘go for a walk every day’. A step up. Depending on the day, I would make it to the end of the block with a screaming baby in a pram before deciding it was too stressful and returning home. Other days I had plenty of energy, my baby was happy and we walked a few kilometers. I was living my values in a bigger way. And from there, it became easier to do the longer walks more often. Soon, walking was still a good way to connect with nature (and to introduce this concept to my baby) but I wanted more health wise.

And so my list now included ‘run three times a week’. I replaced some of the walks with runs (with the help of a jogging pram and an accommodating husband) and as I had already made the time in my day, all I had to do was slowly increase my fitness by running a bit where before I walked. By the time my baby was six months, I was living more fully by my value of physical health, and we both had a daily connection to the natural world. That was about my limit for commitment to those two values at that time. I couldn’t set a higher daily achievable goal without sacrificing other necessary elements of my life.

Everyone’s limits will be different. My needs have since evolved (and my knees have since collapsed, no more running for me!), but my connection to nature is still there. At present, I eat a lot of plants, I go outside every day, I walk my children to school a couple of times a week. We go for family trips to the beach. And it’ll look different again in a few years.
By starting small and building on your progress, you will eventually find a balance that is right for you. You’ll be working in a way that gives you the best chance of maintaining change – starting small and building slowly.

I know it’s not as wild, sexy and interesting as quitting your job and moving to another country. But it’s a lot more likely to be successful and it’s a way that’s open to anyone, regardless of their circumstances.

To continue reading and to learn how to implement Lana’s strategies for overcoming a lack of motivation, you can preorders your very own copy of The Slow Life Project through The Mosh Shop or Amazon.

If you’d like more motivation tips and tricks, check out these blog posts:

Motivation tips for when you ‘can’t be bothered

The top 3 habits of successful people

How to get more motivated


Lana Hall

Author Lana Hall

Lana Hall is a Brisbane Psychologist at Sage & Sound in Woolloongabba. She is trained to provide proven psychological strategies and counselling that can help people effectively manage anxiety, depression, work stress, relationship problems and everything mental health. Lana is a published author and has been featured in HuffPost and Australian Women's Weekly.

More posts by Lana Hall