Half yearly review – the power of small steps

It seems that as a society as a whole we tend to connect success with big achievements, big victories and big changes. I agree that they are of course signs of wonderful success, but as I grow older, I find I am viewing success more and more as the commitment and dedication to small steps over a period of time. It is these small changes, small actions that allow us to experience the end result we are working for.

When I look back over my life, there are single moments that on the surface stand out – our wedding day, the birth of our children, publishing a book, completing my first marathon  and running the Great Wall of China Marathon – but when I think of those moments, I don’t just think of that moment in time.

I remember:

  • the growth of my relationship with my husband
  • the month by month growth of my body as it grew our first child
  • the spreadsheet I followed meticulously outlining my daily word count so I could meet the incredibly tight deadline for my book.
  • many early starts and runs in the dark as I trained for my first marathon
  • the weekend long runs with my husband as we trained together for the the Great Wall of China Marathon

None of these successes were the result of one moment. They came as a result of me following some process or performing consistent actions or making small changes to my life over a sustained period of time.

It can be very easy to fall into the trap in defining ourselves as successful or unsuccessful by the end outcome of something we are trying to achieve and this can make us feel like we have failed or leave us feeling us feeling disappointed or demotivated if the outcome doesn’t go the way we wanted it to. Did my book make it on the best seller list? No it didn’t. Did that make me any less proud of the effort I put it in to write the book? No it didn’t. Did I deem the book to be a failure? No I didn’t. I am proud of the book. I am proud of the many hours I spent solely focused on writing the book that created something that has helped other many other families.

Focusing our attention on the process, acknowledging our achievements along the way, being proud of our small steps helps create sustainable change and longer term success. That is why when I set my goal each year, underneath the goal I have a select number of habits that I will focus on to help me achieve my goal.

My goal for this year is to detach from the old and embrace the new to nurture a family spirit of adventure. At the mid point of this year am I achieving my goal? Not 100%. Does that mean I haven’t achieved success so far this year? No. I have had some big wins for me this year which I am really excited about, but I only feel that way because each month I review my progress for each of the habits I have set and I note down what has worked, what hasn’t and why.

Many of us set goals, but not so many take the time to review their progress. A key reason for this is because they are worried or feel that they won’t like want they find out because they may not be achieving the goal they wanted to. This is a misguided thought process though as it will also overlook all they have achieved for the period. They may not for example managed to be 100% complaint free for the month (like I tried a couple of years ago) but they may have reduced their complaining by over 75% – who wouldn’t say that is a success?

So below I share with you my progress to date for my goal this year. As noted, I am not at 100% success but probably somewhere around 75% and I only know that because I can track my progress on the individual habits I have set.

If you would like to read more about my goal and habit setting process you can check out this post here, or go on the waitlist for the next round of my Planned + Present E-Course which will open again later this year. The first two lessons in the course focus on goal and habit setting taking you through the science of habit formation and how you can use it to create long term success.

Half yearly review

HabitConnection to goal - Detach from the old and embrace the new to nurture a family spirit of adventure.Poem quoteJune (Half Yearly) Review
Practice detachment dailyMy attachment comes from the right place in terms of wanting the best for my family and myself, but it can be founded on beliefs that I hold that are not necessarily true or helpful. Letting go of this belief and creating a new one requires me to detach.

Detaching doesn't mean I stop caring or give up but it means I acknowledge it, explore it, process it, take action to move on and let it go.

Letting go of old or untrue beliefs will mean I can focus on being more supporting and encouraging to the kids.
"For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business."
~ T.S. Eliot
This is something that has improved significantly over the last 6 months. It is still a daily practice in that I need to give it attention and focus - I cannot assume that I will automatically do this as my old pattern of holding on is very strong.

Many times it takes me a little while to realise that I am holding on, then implement strategies to help me let go.

Meditation has been the most helpful tool to improve my ability to let go quicker and with more grace.
Develop the practice of mindful listeningSometimes listening can be hard. I think I know what the kids or others are going to say, I have things on my mind, I have something I want to say or I have things I would rather be doing than listening then and there.

Mindfully listening to others shows that you value them and it empowers them to share exactly how they are feeling. I want my kids to tell me about their dreams, their hopes, their fears and their crazy ideas. This won’t happen if I am not really listening.

“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”
~ E.E. Cummings
Using the mantra of "it's their turn" has been super useful in helping me focus on what people are saying and not interrupting or not really listening and just waiting to have my turn to talk.

Again this is something that unfortunately isn't always my natural first reaction so I feel I am very much in the process of changing a long held behaviour. This always takes time and focus, so it will require me to give it effort until it is fully embedded.
Do something new each month with the familyI love routine and being organised and sometimes I will take the option to spend time on these activities and not leave enough time for exploring something new.

This year I want to try some big and little adventures with the family.
"Dust if you must, but there’s not much time,
With rivers to swim, and mountains to climb;
Music to hear, and books to read;
Friends to cherish, and life to lead."
~Rose Milligan
This is the one habit this year that I feel I haven't had as much success with as I would have liked.

I will raise its priority for the next 6 months to ensure that by the end of the year we are doing more new and adventurous things together as a family.
Use deliberate daily practice to learn something new each monthK. Anders Ericsson, a professor of Psychology at Florida State University, is a pioneer in researching deliberate practice. One of his core findings is that becoming an expert at a skill has more to do with how you practice rather than with just performing the skill many times.

To really embrace a new skill I need to intentionally practice, not just do the skill to tick the box to say I have done it. This is a practice I really want to develop and role model for my kids.
"Submit to a daily practice.
Your loyalty to that is a ring on the door.
Keep knocking, and the joy inside
will eventually open a window
and look out to see who’s there."
This habit has changed slightly since I have been reading more on the topic of daily practice. I will share some book reviews and key info I have learnt from them in the next couple of months.

I have been using deliberate practice daily but not necessarily to learn something new - I have been using it to get better at things I am already doing and the difference this approach has made has been huge.
Develop a monthly decluttering habitOur house is relatively uncluttered but we really do have too much stuff.

All this extra stuff takes up space, time and energy - all of which I can reclaim and redirect when I declutter.
"The open space surrounding me
Clears my lungs
Makes me breath
I feel light
Vividly bright and empty
A room to dance in happily"
~Anna Elise
I get such positive feedback from each decluttering project I undertake that this has been the easiest habit to develop.

My list of projects for the next few months includes:
- my work space
- the linen cupboard
- the laundry cupboards

How are you progressing with your goal?

Photo by Mikito Tateisi on Unsplash