Use Baby Steps to Achieve Goals With (Almost) No Effort

Baby stepsWhy baby steps are not just for babies. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Do you know the movie “What about Bob?” with Richard Dreyfuss and Bill Murray? Mr Murray plays Bob, a multiphobic psychiatric patient who tracks his psychiatrist Dr. Marvin (played by Dreyfuss) down during a family vacation. It’s a very funny movie, if you can get hold of it, you should watch it. ๐Ÿ™‚

Bob has a successful first session with Dr. Marvin, who recommends his book “Baby Steps” as a good read while he is on vacation. (Bob can’t cope with the fact being without Dr. Marvin for so long, so he follows him to his vacation home, and you can imagine the turmoil that follows.)

It’s just a movie, but the idea of doing things in baby steps to succeed is a real and proven one.

You go just a little outside of your comfort zone, but you do it each day. You do it with regular, small steps. They may be small, but because you do them all the time, it sums up.

One of the best parts of the movie is when Bill Murray tries to do something he normally can’t do, is very scared about it– priceless facial expression–and repeatedly mutters “baby steps. Baby steps.” But after a while, he is able to do it! He did it very slowly, but it worked. ๐Ÿ™‚

The magic word

This principle of regular increments reminded me a bit of my teenage years.

We got a new teacher in gymnasium, and at the beginning of his first lesson he taught us a very important word. He said it was a magic word. If we would use it, life would be easy. If you did not want to use it, then he could not guarantee success this year in his subject.

The magic word was regularly.

He pointed out the magic of this word in almost every lesson, it was like a mantra to him. Me and my school friends made jokes about it, because he would repeat it so often. But he succeeded in installing the word into our minds, and I still remember it today. ๐Ÿ™‚

Baby Steps will take you to the bank

One big change: does that work for you? Maybe it works as a start, with one thing. Just one. But I think it doesn’t work in the long run.

For example, if you want to get up 1 hour earlier and have problems with achieving this goal, try to do it in small, incremental baby steps. Get up five minutes earlier every day, and after 12 days you get up an hour earlier, with almost no effort. It might be much easier than to do one full hour after 1 day.

You can break down every big goal into small baby steps. Next time when you start a new (maybe scary) thing, try to break it down into such small steps that you can do them without much resistance.

And don’t forget to use the magic word: regularly. It’s an important part of the baby steps concept. ๐Ÿ™‚

How do you achieve your goals? Do you achieve them with a big bang (on New Year’s Eve you say “enough is enough, I will finally do it!”) or do you use gradual change?


About the Author Peter Huetz

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  • Adrienne says:

    I like the example you used toward the end Peter, getting up earlier. I have the hardest time getting up early.

    When I first started working at home I spoiled myself. Now I’m a sleeper, always have been. I love my sleep. I told myself that as long as I was accomplishing what I needed for the day that I could sleep in and start my day at any time.

    That worked okay but I knew that there were some things I wanted to do earlier. Although I set my alarm to get up each morning it’s just hard for me. Still to this day so maybe I’ll start with this suggestion. Baby steps… I’ll start with five minutes tomorrow morning and just go from there.

    Thanks for that suggestion and keep your fingers crossed for me.


    P.S. Happy Valentine’s Day!

    • Peter Huetz says:

      I also have the hardest time to change my sleep schedule (I have a strong internal clock), and the only way that works for me without pain is the baby steps method, gradually getting up earlier.

      Thank you for the comment Adrienne, and I will keep my fingers crossed! ๐Ÿ™‚

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