Anyone who has a child, or who has watched the child of a friend or member of family grow up knows this: in the day-to-day moments it seems as if nothing is changing, as if very little progress is being made.
Then, one day, you suddenly stop and look over your shoulder, and there he or she is – so advanced and so capable, compared with not so long ago.
“How did that happen?”
Time seems to move so slow when babies are going through those seemingly long stages of breastfeeding and waking through the night; and then as toddlers, crawling around and having terrible-twos tantrums!
And then suddenly they are little people: walking, talking, eating for themselves, looking at you with all manner of adult-like expressions, telling you about their day at school or nursery, and being comparably very independent.
They get their slowly but surely, each day taking one or two steps towards the next goal. These steps are slow, but they add up quickly and create big, seemingly sudden changes when your back is turned.
And we, as adults, can learn a lot from baby steps.
Of late this term has become a mantra of mine.
Between work and family commitments and moving home, I've had little time to make progress with writing blog posts, sending out my newsletter, exercising, making music and other hobbies I enjoy.
So to compensate and fit it all in, I've been approaching everything with baby steps.
For example: I wanted to write this post, but it was 9.41 AM when I sat down to do it and I have a Skype call at 10 AM. Ordinarily, I might make a drink or check some emails in that time slot because I don't have time to write the entire post there and then.
But instead I decided to take the baby steps approach and write as much as I could in those 19 minutes. I'll then wait until I have another window where I feel inspired to write and add another section to the post.
I am already 311 words in.
Within 4 of these baby windows of time I will have completed the post and, just like the development of a child, I'll look back and think, “Wow, how did that happen”.
Another example is running. I've started running again this year to improve my fitness. The first few runs were painful, really difficult to get through.
But what I did was set a small goal. I mapped out a course around the block. My aim was to keep running the same course until I could run it easily, until I felt like I could run again once I'd completed it.
That day came in the second week.
So I extended my course a little further. I am now conquering that extra distance. I will then extend the course again.
If you are someone who has set weight loss and exercise goals in the past but given up due to lack of time, or simply through feeling overwhelmed by the task, baby steps will work for you.
Take it one day at a time, one action at a time. Don't look at the top of the mountain, focus on the next step on the path.
Baby steps lead to big progress. There is no need to overreach yourself or stress about lack of time. Just take one sure step a day, or every other day, towards the goal you want to reach.
Another example is music.
I no longer have the luxury of an eight-hour stint twiddling in my studio, so to complete a track seems like such a huge task. But if I break the process down into small sections, and find 30 minutes at a time to work on a section, within 16 small baby sessions I will be well on my way to a completed composition.
Baby steps is such a simple but so very powerful concept, especially if you are someone who longs to find the time for exercise, a hobby you love, relationship nurturing, relaxation or meditation. It can even be applied to financial budgeting.
As we get older, what with work, bills, kids, home repairs, emails and all the rest of it, a mindful, measured, baby steps approach to achieving personal goals and deserved free time to engage in activities we enjoy is very effective in making small wins that quickly grow a molehill into a mountain.