Thoughts on the Power of Gradual and Habit Change

A meditation on the power of gradual in your life.

Posted Nov 03, 2009

Some time ago, Leo Babauta of Zen Habits was kind enough to host a post of mine. I wrote about the Power of Gradual. Thanks to Leo's rather large readership I received a lot of comments on my post. I had a couple of thoughts when I read those comments. First, the idea of the Power of Gradual is, simply put, a rather powerful one that has resonated with many people. I am glad for that. Second, because self-change is gradual, it is important remind yourself to look back in gratitude (to yourself). If you're working on changing yourself, it's extremely important for you to review how far you've come.

Of course, you're probably not exactly where you want to be. You have goals. You want to be better. That's good and you are to be applauded for your ambition. You're in good company. Barack Obama has come a long way, but he has much that he wants to do. If you don't remind yourself of how far you've come, though, you could be under the mistaken impression that you haven't gotten all that far.

In my post, I reminded readers that self-change happens gradually. Little efforts every day add up to big effects over time. Just like writing every day, or putting money into a compound interest account on a regular basis is great for your blogging productivity and your wealth. Yet, the Power of Gradual is often under appreciated and underestimated. Because we tend to pay attention to the immediate, big, and splashy, we might not start on our "baby steps" path to a better life, instead preferring to focus on "quick fixes" that usually don't work.

For that same reason, we probably don't often pay attention to how far we have come. How many times have you started on a workout regimen or a better eating routine only to find that "suddenly" your clothes are rather roomy? Of course, there's no suddenly about it. That's the Power of Gradual. Other times, self-change happens so slowly that we never notice it until someone points it out to us. That's the Power of Gradual. Steady work leads to steady small improvements. Just like a bucket placed under a leaky tap can overflow in no time, those small improvements add up to a big one over time.

So, take a moment every day or so to reflect on how far you've come. Big changes to the self don't happen overnight. They happen over several dozen nights. If we forget to back in gratitude (to ourselves), we may not feel the full Power of Gradual.

For more writing by yours truly, visit me at My Bad Habits. I am also on Twitter.