The Power of the Next Small Step

Clients and supervisees are often talking to me about the need to get things done. Getting started on that goal, big or small. Whether its clearing out the garage or starting a new career. What is it that seems to be holding us back. I’ll not get in to the neuroscience of why we might procrastinate here, but I will tell you about one of the most powerful tools I have learnt to help beat procrastination, at least some of the time.

Several years ago I was lucky enough to attend a CPD (Continual Professional Development) event at CPHT Bristol, where I trained to be a Hypnotherapist in the first place. The CPD was on Mindfulness and Acceptance Based Strategies. The highly respected lecturer, Matthew Dyson, asked the group the following question: “where do you get the motivation to get on the treadmill from?” The group gave several answers including: “by visualising yourself getting fitter”; “reminding yourself how good you feel when you are done”; “thinking about the guilt free glass of wine afterwards!” None of these were the answer he was looking for. As Matthew explained, “The truth is you get the motivation for getting on the treadmill when you get on the treadmill”!

The next small step

And it’s true of course, you get motivation to get up and do, when you get up and do.

Small steps make a difference.

Again I won’t go in to the details of the neuroscience behind that, but it does remind us of the importance of simply focusing on the next small step.

Let me give you an example. I am a regular gym goer. I enjoy being at the gym. Notice I write “I enjoy being at the gym”. I often don’t enjoy getting there. Getting myself changed, ready, in the car and down to the gym with the thought in my head that I am going to put my body through its paces is often very difficult.

More recently I have chosen to simply focus on the next small step to get me there.

First I might simply focus on the task of getting my trainers on. Then I focus on finding the car keys (why does that always take so long?). Then I focus on the job of getting in to the car. Throughout this whole process and on arrival I am telling myself: “just ten minutes and then you can go home, just ten minutes!” I stick out 5 minutes and then 10 and then, usually, the strangest thing has happened. Now I am warmed up, my heart is pumping, I am becoming less stiff and awkward, energy is returning, and the oxygen to my brain increases. I am building up momentum, I have got myself on the treadmill and that is where I find my motivation!

Now that I am there and have done my 10 minutes its rare I do less than 50, but my intention on arrival is always to do only 10.

The same principle can be applied to anything. We know the primitive brain can over-inflate the size of any task and underestimate our ability to achieve it. By focusing on that next small step with the understanding that we can stop and go home at any point we can gently steer ourselves more towards those activities which lead us to our goals and further from those that don’t. Just one small step!

Are you thinking of becoming a Hypnotherapist? Do you live in Northern Ireland and want to train in Belfast? I wonder if your next small step is simply to complete this application form: cphtbelfast.co.uk/application-form/… After all a “journey of a thousand miles starts with just one small step”- Lao Tzu.