Sustainable Progress: Keep Going By Making Small Bets

25 February 013, by A. Cedilla

In the LifeHacker post, “How To Design A Lucky Life” member stainless_rat left an awesome comment in response to the article, reproduced in full below:

“I’ve lived lucky by simply trimming the odds, which conflicts with recommendations here. Small changes that give things a chance to happen. Such as having met an attractive woman on a group hike…and arranging to attend the next hike with that group instead of another: if she was there, great, if not, I still end up with a fun hike. End result? Happily married for 7 years now.

Unlike the recommendation here, I say DO go for low cost gambles, just don’t go overboard. One small investment nets an infinite increase in your odds of winning while an additional investment might increase them negligibly. So going for the ‘infinite’ bump, I’ve had enough wins for others to consider me ‘lucky’.

Small changes in just paying attention, trimming your odds a hair here and there…it all adds up over time.” (Emphasis added)

Low-cost gambles can make for small wins. And more importantly, small wins keep you going.

Most probably you’ve already experienced for yourself the feeling known as the “post-purchase drop.” When making a big purchase, your highest emotional point was the time right before you buy something you really want. You’re hyped and ready and there. You. Go.

By the time you get home and take your shopping trophy out to admire it again, you’re not as giggly-excited anymore, and there’s a certain let-down. An unavoidable drop after that effervescent high.

Barring shopping addictions, things like making “big buys” and “big bets” can really add some excitement to your life, but setting a stable foundation for improving it by making numerous small bets –and winning more often than not– makes for a stronger, consistent habit of taking action. A discipline that will serve you well.

  • Each time you finish a ten-minute walk, every time you clean up after yourself and prepare for the next day before settling down for the night, each issue you train yourself to handle promptly and professionally…you triumph over your natural inclination to take it easy, and that keeps you going.
  • Knowing for a fact that you can do things and succeed emboldens you to keep going up the ladder, and keep going better by taking things on in incrementally increasing importance. You gain strength and confidence with every small challenge you conquer.

Flip things over, it’s still a win: Low-cost gamble can make for small losses. And handling those well can keep you from giving up on what you want. Making small adjustments — by seeing what needs to be done and doing it piece by piece — is taking the long-view one bearable step at a time.


Everyone knows that they have enough stuff that needs to be done in the short run to keep themselves occupied: repetitive tasks, seasonal tasks, administrative drudgery — tasks which can be outsourced, by the way.

There’s the occasional sudden big favor, and there’s also the emergencies.

Small bets on yourself don’t push you too hard, too suddenly. You don’t get your boat rocked so hard that it makes you afraid to go on.


“Inch by inch, it’s a cinch, mile by mile it’s a trial.”

Take small bets — don’t be afraid. You have to take things one day at a time anyway, no need to strain yourself unnecessarily by letting worry and fears weigh you down when you think too far ahead. Focus on what you can do today to stretch yourself.

Even in such things like exercise. Thinking, “Oh no, everyone’s looking at meeeee!” does nothing for you but keep you from moving. Get out there and do it for you. Let other people waste their time thinking about how other people are thinking about them — which is highly unlikely. On a day-to-day basis we’re usually too self-centered to obsess about anyone’s life but our own. So don’t mind them. Do what you know you need to do.

If you’re not growing, you’re dying. And you can do dying much, much later. Take small bets, a little push each day, to get yourself used to growing.

Bonus links: Growing Out of Your Comfort Zone .

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