Starting Small and Growing Slow In The New Year 2

26 January 2011, by A. Cedilla

Continuing from part one, here’s another method to help you. One useful tool to give you a boost is PITA ( and no, it doesn’t stand for Pain in The A$$, although if that helps you remember, hey, go for it.)

PITA stands for Plan, Implement, Test and Adjust. These are basic principles that we were introduced to in all our science classes and experiments in school — remember tossing around words like thesis, hypothesis, variables, analysis and conclusions, and then having to cite the reference material you used? Death by boredom. (And too bad everything evaporated at graduation.)

Now that you’re an adult, maybe you can appreciate what you learned (and lost) from those classes. The teachers weren’t exposing you to these things to make your life harder, they were showing you a way to think systematically, logically and strategically.

There’s definitely a great advantage in training yourself into doing so, rather than being stuck in the habit of doing things on-the-fly, or flying by the seat of your pants.

That being said, let’s break it down, then.

When you plan from experience, you’re choosing your direction based on what you learned from similar events in the past.

  • Pro: You know something about what you’re doing. This is what you want more of or don’t want anymore.That is where you had a good experience with, or the opposite. Oddly enough, it’s most often when people have been through a certain amount of crap — rather than having a good run — that they get energized enough to say they’re fed up, they’re not going to take it any more, and actually take the steps to change.
  • Con: You know just enough to be dangerous. If you’re reacting out of a negative experience and the emotions associated with it – you might not be aware that you’re training yourself to look at what you’re doing as an unbearable hardship, even when it’s not, and somehow set a back-door to escape. When you feel it’s too hard to change, you’ll be more than tempted to use it.

When you’re planning for something new you’re going after what you want, even if it makes you kinda-sorta-nervous, or stomach-cramping-scared.

  • Pro: Having “beginner’s mind” offers you a lot more leeway. You start off thinking of all the possibilities you can come up with, instead of killing off ideas with,”Naw, tried that. Won’t work,” or “Tried that…won’t work, either.”
  • Con: You can exhaust yourself trying out each possibility instead of focusing on the ones that have the best chances of getting you what you want, or to where you want to go.

Try to keep the balance. Practice self-awareness when it comes to what your mind and your gut is telling you. Mix things up, be open, and keep going. People develop their gut instincts not only through experience, but by listening to and respecting what their internal feedback is telling them (Maybe you know it as a “still, small voice.”).

Be open to mentors and guidance, but don’t forget that ultimately the only one you really have to answer to — and be responsible for — in terms of deciding whether you’ve achieved the goal or not, is you.

With procrastination being such a popular habit, you have to admit this is the stage where many people encounter the most problems. Getting started is one issue, and keeping momentum going is another.

Think of the implementation process as like losing weight. The most common-sense, safe and practical approach, recommended by many doctors, is to take small steady consistent steps. Dramatic weight loss — without surgery– is generally mostly water weight….fat doesn’t evaporate. A steady loss is also easier on the body (and the psyche) than a drastic plunge.

If you want to make a big change in your life, you got to build strong habits. You want to build strong habits, you establish a consistent behavior that takes the place of the habits you want to replace. You want to make progress a habit, you cultivate the art of taking small, steady steps and being fully awake for each one.

As for keeping momentum (and still going with the exercise analogy) : unless you’re already in good shape, you can walk farther at a steady rate than you can run in a sprint . Follow the way of the turtle – slow and steady, and you only compete with yourself. Amend your approach from “No pain, no gain,” to put things in perspective. (Lots of pain does not guarantee lots of gain.) Try, “Short-term pain, long-term gain.”

In science class, you need a pool of data before you can track and assess trends. 2-3 data points aren’t enough.

You’d also need background information, feedback, specs, historical data. Careful inspection and analysis, and understanding things in context, is essential in planning and making good decisions.

Popular knowledge says it takes 21 days of constant commitment for a new habit to start sticking.(Oddly enough, the exercise effect also begins manifesting in 2-3 weeks. Make of that what you will.)

However, popular knowledge doesn’t delve much into the intimate details of the efforts to commit every day. It doesn’t cover your particular life-style, your energy levels on a given day (or over a week), your schedule or your preferences.

You have to go that by yourself. You have to experience the struggle first before you can see first-hand if it fits you, and then after a good while see where it does and doesn’t fit into your life, which leads to the next stage.

Wearing a suit off the rack is easy, but the fit is never quite right. Making small changes towards growth is fashioning a different life — one that suits your growth — from the material of the life you have now. After the testing period comes even more questions.

“Where does it work? How did it work out? What if you change this variable? No? Then how about this one? That one? ” Take note. Take notes. If you didn’t write it down or capture it somehow, it never happened. Think. Analyze.

Ask someone who holds an entirely different perspective from you about the matter. Who knows, he might be able to provide insight that can compensate for what didn’t work, or shed an entirely new light on the issue, one that you’d never have come up with.

As with the people who manage to lose weight and keep it off, there are two main principles to think about when it comes to introducing a change you want to stay in your life. Start small – and keep going. Grow slow – and keep going.

Bonus: Here’s an engaging debate on The Pros and Cons Of Finishing.

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