When you explore the habits of successful people, one habit is the idea of momentum. This practice is also known as “keep moving forward” or KMF. The habit is one of the easiest to form and also one of the most valuable.
A Journey of a Thousand Miles
There is a saying that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. The KMF habit takes that to the next step (no pun intended) and resets the trip after each step. Thus, after the first step, we would say the journey of a thousand miles minus one step starts with a single step. In this fashion, we always focus on taking a step while steadily reducing the length of the remaining journey.
The struggle that successful people address with this practice is that we too often look at the miles instead of the steps. Everyone can take a step. However, traveling a hundred miles can be overwhelming. We tend to paralyze ourselves by looking at the big task rather than the smaller pieces needed to complete it. A big task becomes less intimidating when it is broken down into small pieces that are easily accomplished.
Defining a Step
The best way to get started is, of course, taking a step. Whether you are taking the step or you are teaching this habit, start with a simple action. The action just has to contribute to the big goal while being accessible and understandable. For example, let’s look at a goal of being a better athlete (or getting in shape). These can be literal steps. Walk a short distance today, then keep increasing the distance. Even if you walk the same distance every day for a few weeks to start, there will come a time when a longer distance will be easy to cover.
If the goal is to purchase a big ticket item, look for a way to earn any amount of money today. Chores and allowances are an excellent way to get children working and learning about the value of money. Have them do dishes, walk the dog, anything that can earn money. Once they have made a little, point out that they are closer to the goal. Next, focus on the step they will take tomorrow. They will at least have less they need to earn to hit their big goal.
Any goal is be achieved through a series of smaller goals. Use this concept to make anything manageable. If the smaller pieces are still too big, repeat the process with those pieces.
Teach the Power of Incremental
The secret to success is to build with each step. Earn a dime today, then eleven cents tomorrow, and keep it going. Soon you will have another dollar, then ten, and it continues. Just a little bit better each day grows into mastery over time.
Find a way to celebrate each step. With children, an excellent way to teach this habit is to help them define a small action and then ask each day if they took a step that day. When they say a problem is too big, then ask them how to do a little bit of the work. Help them find a smaller step to take.
I used to do this with laundry folding. We typically had huge piles of laundry to fold at the end of the day. These piles were too big and intimidating for the kids to start on the folding. Instead of focusing on the whole task I would give them each something to fold and after each item was folded they would get another.
This approach worked even better with matching socks. I would give each child a pile of similar socks and ask them to tackle small tasks. We would sort whites and colors then stripes and solids, and so on. Soon the scary task of matching dozens of pairs of socks would be just a few minutes matching up eight to ten socks in each pile.
Ignore Failure – Keep Moving Forward
A secret to making incremental steps a habit is to ignore failures and setbacks. There are things that will stop us from taking a step or even push us back. In these cases, the successful just keep moving forward. There might be some more steps added to the journey, but if you continue walking you will get to the finish line.
Note that the failure does not change the speed. Take a step each day. If a day is lost, do not try to make up for that lost day. Focus on a step a day at a time. It works for addicts, but it also applies to any other goal.
Taking action and moving forward is an important part of each day of any successful person. Start your march to success today by taking a step towards your big goal. If you need a push, then start by defining your big goal and something you can do to get a step closer. Once you have that done, you have at least taken a step towards the goal today. For a bonus, take that first step on your journey. I guarantee it will feel good.