Whoever said “don’t sweat the small stuff” is full of shit.
Do you know what happens when we ignore the “small stuff?” The big stuff doesn’t happen.
And what’s the “big stuff”? Saving enough for a down-payment on a house. Getting a promotion. Hitting our target weight.
These are goals. Goals give us something to focus on and move toward. In other words, they provide direction.
And how do we reach our goals? We put in the work and check off the boxes. We take a bunch of seemingly small, insignificant steps. Sometimes we stray and go in the wrong direction. But we learn from our mistakes and get back on the right path. If we continue doing the small things, we eventually reach our goals.
This is The Process of achieving goals. And for The Process to work, we need a system in place. We need to develop effective habits that move us closer to our goals. That means:
- funneling a specific amount of money to our savings account before we spend a dime
- meeting deadlines and requesting feedback at work
- tracking every calorie we put into our mouths
Does this sound boring and monotonous? That’s because it is. This is the small stuff that leads to big wins.
Motivation is Fleeting
For most of us, developing new habits is hard. We’re a society obsessed with hacks and shortcuts. With 4-Hour Work Weeks and 7-Minute Abs.
We want results and we want them now!
The whole purpose of developing new habits is to see results. Otherwise, what are we working for? But when we don’t see results, our motivation fades. It gets harder each day to refill our “motivation well.” And before we know it, we’re back at square one with nothing to show for it.
This is one of the core reasons why it is so hard to build habits that last. People make a few small changes, fail to see a tangible result, and decide to stop.James Clear, Atomic Habits
Now we know the issue, so let’s talk about what we can do about it.
Look for Small Wins
Sorry. I have to quote my brother-from-another-mother again:
The vital thing in getting a habit to stick is to feel successful—even if it’s in a small way. The feeling of success is a signal that your habit paid off and that the work was worth the effort.James Clear, Atomic Habits
Losing weight is hard. We didn’t become overweight overnight. For most of us, it took years and years of consistently eating more calories than we burn. So what makes us think we could (or should) lose it overnight?
We coach people to develop new eating habits. As we talked about earlier, developing new habits is a process. It takes time. And when the results don’t come quickly, it’s easy to want to give up.
That’s why we look for small wins. We look for accomplishments you may not notice yourself to keep you motivated. Small wins give you that little bit of proof you need to show that what you’re doing is working.
Here are some examples of small wins:
- You logged every single meal for a week
- You hit your macros exactly for two days in a row
- You made it to the gym one more day than a usual week
- You lost ⅛ of an inch in your waist
- You planned out every meal for three full days in advance
- You didn’t drink alcohol for an entire week
Sure, some of these may sound lame. Big deal. I logged every meal for a week. Isn’t that what I’m paying you for?
But it is a big deal. Celebrating small wins gives you the fuel you need to keep going. It motivates you to stick with the program when the scale isn’t exactly providing the feedback you so desperately want.
The other thing about small wins is that they compound. They’re snowballs that grow into bigger and bigger wins, only we don’t realize it when it’s happening.
Then one day we look back at where we started and see how far we’ve come. We realize the whole journey was just a continuous process of consistent effort and incremental progress.
Sweat the small stuff. Embrace it. It leads to big wins.