Small Steps Toward Positive Change

I believe that the “do one thing differently” technique works for a variety of client concerns. In my experience, this approach has been helpful in decreasing ruminating thoughts and defeating self-talk, improving self-esteem, breaking negative habits, increasing motivation, and altering unhealthy patterns. This directive implies that taking small steps toward a positive change can generate desired results. Keep in mind that in order for this process to be successful, patience and discipline are required.

Positive Change: Slow and Steady!

Similar to beginning a new sport or establishing a new workout routine, creating positive change requires consistency and repetition. During a “training period,” we put in ample time, effort, and practice until the behavior becomes second nature. The same principle goes for re-structuring thoughts and breaking negative habits or unhealthy patterns.

Let’s use the example of trying to break the negative habit of biting your fingernails.

  • The first overarching goal of extinguishing the behavior altogether needs to be broken down into smaller goals. The “do one thing differently” goal may be to notice and record how many times you catch yourself doing it in one week’s time. The effect that this new awareness has on your desire to continue may surprise you.
  • The next “do one thing differently” weekly goal may be to stop and delay the behavior for a few minutes when you find yourself doing it. At this time, acknowledge whether the delay affects your desire and/or level of gratification surrounding the habit.
  • The last “do one thing differently” goal may be to use the delayed minutes to jot down the reasons why you want to stop this negative habit.

Repeat this process over and over until you can’t act on the behavior without thinking about all of the reasons not to. With time, this technique may prove to be very affective.

So, What’s the Hold-up?

Humans are creatures of habit. We rely on our “automatic” thoughts, learned behaviors, and seemingly complacent routines as a way of feeling safe and secure. But, the fact is that we may actually be rewarding our insecurities (ie. defeating self-talk, lack of motivation, low self-esteem, etc.), thereby doing ourselves a disservice by remaining the same.

For most of us who desire positive change, the setback process begins when we focus our thoughts solely on the overarching goal of absolute change. We imagine how difficult the road to get there may be, making it seem like an impossible feat. We may also consider previous failed attempts and become overwhelmed by the prospect of possible future defeat. The “do one thing differently” approach alleviates many of these fears by breaking the desired goal into smaller more attainable goals. Achieving these smaller goals one-step at a time will increase motivation and build confidence. This positive reinforcement will hopefully cultivate the stamina needed to push forward.