Why a small step is better than a giant leap

Posted by Kenetha Stanton on

baby elephant trying to get off big rock
Image by Ben Kerckx from Pixabay

 

I am chronically impatient.

When I set a goal, I not only set the biggest one possible, I want to it to be fully realized NOW.

When it comes to personal growth, I want to radically transform, and I want to go from here to there instantly in one giant leap.

That's even more true when I'm in pain. I want to leap immediately from the depths of whatever brokenness I am experiencing into total healing in a single bound overnight.

Life never seems to cooperate with my impatient plans, however, and I've gradually come to realize that this is a good thing.

There are four reasons why I've come to see small steps as better than giant leaps, and I remind myself of these things every time I feel my impatience pushing me toward leaping.

The risk of a bad landing

Of course, the risk we all focus on with a big leap is the possibility of a bad landing. What if we leap and find ourselves crash landing in a way that creates even more damage than whatever we were trying to escape?

This was a big one for me in my journey toward self-employment. I wanted to leap so, so badly, especially in those times when I was beyond exhausted from trying to manage all the pieces of a growing business while still working elsewhere, but the risk was incredibly high that I could fail altogether.

Taking my time and moving step by small step from full employment to full self-employment reduced that risk to a much more acceptable level.

The same is true when it comes to other types of growth and transformation, including healing. Taking things step by step removes the risk of a bad landing because each movement is a small one with lower consequences.

Miracle leaps are harder to do

When I focus only on the big leap, it's often harder for me to take any action at all. I get paralyzed by the overwhelming size of the change I'm considering and get stuck in procrastination, waiting for a miracle to come rescue me.

Since miracles of that size are generally in short supply (and definitely things I can't pull out of my back pocket at will), I wind up making no movement at all.

Planning out small steps gives me something achievable that I can actually accomplish and gets me moving on my way instead of focusing only on the big leap.

This is what I did with my path to self-employment, but it's also how I handle other issues of personal growth. I search for small steps that I can easily take here and now that move me in the right direction.

Each step makes the next one easier to see and to take. I don't have to know all the steps up front this way. I just have to know enough to get moving on the one directly ahead of me.

The destination is adjusted by the journey

When I started on my path to self-employment, my plan revolved around offering services—coaching, Reiki, and yoga teaching. I started making jewelry with the intention that it would be a small side project that would offer tangible symbols of support for my coaching clients.

As it turns out, there was not much demand for the services I wanted to offer, and I never could get much traction in any of those offerings. The little side thing with the jewelry? That wound up having a much greater demand far beyond anything I'd imagined.

At the same time, I gradually realized that the solitary life of an artist fit my personality much, much better than the service-type offerings I had originally planned. My destination wound up looking nothing at all like where I thought I was headed, but it's even better than what I'd dreamed of.

If I had leapt into my original destination, I would have crash landed in the wrong place for me. By taking things small step by small step, I learned more about what worked (and what didn't), what fit me (and what didn't), and my plans gradually evolved into something radically different from where I thought I was heading.

This has been equally true in places of personal growth and healing. Very often, the exact place I thought I wanted to be wound up shifting along the way as I learned more about myself one step at a time.

The step-by-step method of travel allowed me to easily shift my destination as I needed to in order to arrive at the best possible place for me.

The journey is what makes me ready

Even more than all of the other downsides of leaping, this one is the one that has made the biggest impression on me.

Even if I were to successfully leap without crashing to the perfect destination, I would not be ready for it. I wouldn't be able to "stick the landing" (as they say in gymnast circles).

When I started driving, I didn't start out by making a solo long-distance drive across the country. I started out driving in parking lots and short distances on back roads under the guidance of other drivers. There were skills I needed to develop and practice on those short excursions that were critical before I was anywhere near ready for a longer drive (or a solo drive).

If I'd had the level of demand for my work at the start that I do now, I would not have had the systems and processes and equipment in place to be able to successfully produce and ship enough quality work to meet that demand. It took time to develop what I needed to do this well (and I am still growing and developing there!).

When I've seemingly made big leaps in personal transformation or growth, I've never been able to hang onto those changes because I didn't have the foundation in place to sustain them. They quickly withered and died away.

In moving at the speed of steps instead, I'm able to ground the changes I make and build the foundation I need along the way to support transformation as it develops.

 

I still easily get impatient. I still want to go from here to there overnight (especially when I'm in pain). I still make huge goals with impossibly aggressive timelines.

These four reminders of the value of small steps over big leaps are what pulls me back in time and time again to focus on the more realistic and productive task of taking the next small step in front of me.

That simple practice of focusing on the small steps has led to greater growth and positive personal change for me personally and business-wise over the last few years than any number of attempts at giant leaps ever did in the many years before that.

Which do you most often focus on when you are considering personal growth and transformation—leaps or small steps?

How has that choice served you (or not served you) in the past?

How might a stronger focus on taking small steps toward your goals help you move faster than attempts at giant leaps?

What one small step do you need to focus on today?


 

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