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The Number One Secret to Life Success: Baby Steps

The Number One Secret to Life Success: Baby Steps

We’re all in a hurry, it seems. The pace of life has increased and rushing through our days—through our lives—has now become the norm. We want everything now; happiness now, success now, health now, love now. Not surprisingly, this is the way we approach our goals and life changes as well. Patience is hard to come by: we expect results now, and if we haven’t reached our goal yet, it must be because we’re not working hard enough or fast enough or we’re lazy and undisciplined.

life is a marathon

    Hard work and discipline are certainly valuable traits when trying to make changes in our lives or attain important goals, however, even diligence and persistence are often not enough to get the results we’re looking for. The lack of an effective strategy is often our greatest obstacle. In our impatience for results, we try to change too much at once, and expect too much of ourselves, and this impatience usually leads to frustration and failure. This is why most people fail to keep their New Year’s resolutions.

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    Sometimes we don’t even take the first step because our dreams, goals, and desires seem so overwhelming, so intimidating, and so unachievable that we give up before we even start. Maybe we just need to try a different strategy. I’m reminded of the popular saying, “Life is a marathon, not a sprint.” That same philosophy can be applied when we’re attempting to make changes in our lives: it’s true of career advancement or building a business, educational goals, weight loss or fitness, organization, habits, and certainly when trying to build or change relationships.

    Learn to take baby steps

    This may be the simplest, yet the most effective strategy we can use, as consistency, and learning to build on small victories are the keys to success.The happiest and most successful people will tell you that they have achieved their level of life and work success by taking small steps, and making one positive choice after another.

    Look for the mini victories

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    What is a mini victory? A mini victory is a realistic, quickly-achievable, smaller portion of a larger objective. This bite-size goal will vary depending upon our specific intention, time frame, and motivation.The reason this strategy works is because we are able to see tangible progress, rather quickly, so we feel a sense of accomplishment and are encouraged to move on to our next mini goal, using the small successes as stepping-stones to larger change.

    A few examples:

    Consider health goals. When we are attempting to lose weight, be more fit, or achieve better health, it’s much more effective to set intermediate targets than to fixate on what might be a massive change.

    • Set a mini-goal of losing 5 pounds each month, rather than a goal of 60 pounds in a year.
    • Swap out one unhealthy snack for piece of fruit, or eat one vegetarian meal a week, and replace one soda or cappuccino with a glass of water. When we try to eliminate all sugar, or soda, or junk food from our diets, we usually fall off the bandwagon within the first week or two. That’s not a very good success rate.
    • Train to run a 5K, then a 10K, then a half marathon rather than training for full marathon all at once. This advice holds true even when tackling the full marathon as well: many successful long-distance runners say that they don’t run 26 miles, they run 1 mile 26 times.

    Most of us want career success, but it usually comes one rung up the ladder at a time.

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    • Take one course at a time.
    • Achieve one certification.
    • Improve one skill.
    • Make a few new contacts at each event, conference, or gathering and slowly build your list of business contacts.

    It’s better to cultivate good relationships with a small network of contacts, and then gradually expand that network.

    We all want to be more organized, but when we attempt to organize or de-clutter our entire home or office all at once, we usually get overwhelmed and don’t finish the project. Instead, when we try to organize one area at a time, change one messy habit, or develop one productive routine, we have better success. Tackle one project, and then add in another change when the first one is well established.

    • Make a master list of everything you need to do.
    • Eliminate one or two piles.
    • Clear off your desk or the kitchen counter.
    • Sort through old mail.
    • Clear out your email inbox.
    • Start cleaning off your desk at the end of the day.
    • Study or read for one hour a day.
    • Gather the empty cups, bags, and papers each time you get out of the car.

    This strategy is useful in almost every area of life, and when trying to achieve nearly any goal. Just work towards one mini-victory at time and make sure you celebrate each achievement in some small way—a little success goes a long way in propelling us to the finish line.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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