Little by Little — The road to change

The little things in life are the ones that build up to create better habits, results, and all types of personal achievements. As human beings, we tend to avoid hardship and search for less demanding routes. Although sometimes this can be a better mindset for efficiency, it usually is not the case when we are forging something from scratch.

When there is much to do, we get paralyzed by the amount of work that is needed. We procrastinate, avoid altogether or begin and quit due to lack of results. The last one of these was the most common one I came across.

Let us say we managed to conquer our procrastination and fear of failure; to begin our task. There is always a chance to demoralize ourselves and fall into disbelief along the way. Without seeing any concrete results or signs of progress, the state of self-doubt and feeling of failure is easy to fall victim to. The case of lack of progress, however, is almost always the opposite. Just like in physics, energy cannot get destroyed, only change form. If there is effort, there is always an amount of change. The change might not be noticeable or measurable in the beginning. That usually gives us the impression that it does not exist; however, the little efforts we put in pile up to form a much larger result which we will most likely be able to see later on.

Although obvious, this simple reality is unseen by most of us. As social creatures, we crave social acceptance and fear looking stupid or ignorant. That is usually why most of us avoid trying something new, like a new skill, a new job, a new sport, etc. Because we try to avoid; that clumsy, non-professional, “I don’t know what to do” feeling. The feeling of looking stupid is usually there to stay for quite some time until we get the hang of whatever it is we are doing. Only after a much longer time of effort put into the task can we be much more efficient at what we are doing.

The same principle applies to our habits. For us to change practice and gain a new one, we need consistency. Constant repetition of whatever it is we are doing to form a habit. Until we have enough repetition, we will have to remind ourselves to do it, maybe sometimes even forget to do it. That was the case for my journaling habit, where I started back in August 2020. I used to forget a couple of days in between entries. The more I stuck to it; however, the gap between the days decreased, and eventually, I am now in a state where I don’t have to think about journaling; it has become second nature. I do it every morning and every evening. Before I used to arrange a time for it, now it just happens by itself.

One more place where we tend to forget the building up principle applies to is our health. Often, our health issues are caused by a compilation of bad habits piling up for a long time. By a long time, I mean years. It can range from our eating and sleeping habits; to exercise routine and even how we take care of our mental health. These things add up and eventually are too heavy for the body to cope with, so evidently, we get sick or get injured. The problem I realize with most people is that they seek to cure the symptoms that occur by going to the doctor; and not change the habits that have caused the problem in the first place. On top of this, they are very impatient with the treatment, stopping and modifying it along the way. Think about it, how can you cure something in 5 days which you have been creating for more than ten years? Even if the symptoms are somehow curable with specific medicine, the disease itself is most likely to repeat itself if the pattern of habit is not changed.

In many philosophical teachings, patience is considered one of the most powerful traits to have. Whatever we do that is worth doing and create can only be done with effort, continuous effort. The next time you feel that you are not achieving progress, pause for a moment and take a deep breath, think objectively about where you are now from where you were when you first began what it is you are doing. Do not be too hard on yourself. Remember, if you keep working, the results will eventually show themselves.