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Four Steps to a Better You


Photo by James Wheeler from Pexels

Many things in life start small.

A seedling becomes a mighty oak.

A child grows into an adult.

A few steps become a long journey.

A small business grows to employ thousands.

There are countless examples of things starting small and growing larger. Doesn't this give you hope?


The words from one of the most epic films of all time continue to ring true:

"Big things have small beginnings." Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

The most important thing in the world to grow from small to large is yourself: your capabilities, capacities, strengths, knowledge, understanding, success, wealth, spirituality, and so much more.


Whether something is small or large, you can miss a great deal in life by not paying attention. But noticing the little things can affect your life in a way that little else can. Let's discuss how noticing and acting on little things can result in huge growth in your life.

"If you take care of the small things, the big things take care of themselves. You can gain more control over your life by paying closer attention to the little things." Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Change happens in relationships


So far as I can find, all change involves relationships. The most crucial thing in any relationship is behavior. This means all change consists of a behavioral shift involving a relationship.


Good and bad behaviors start small and grow larger with desirable or undesirable results. To strengthen a relationship, we must deal with our undesirable behaviors.

An example of this is in the world of professional coaching. This profession's root is helping clients develop greater insight into how their behaviors impact their relationships and results. As they understand these interactions, they start changing, modifying, or eliminating behaviors.


Almost any coach or coaching client can attest that a small behavioral change or adjustment can significantly affect a person's performance and life.

To build success, why not find one of these little things in a behavior that can make a real difference? Opportunities abound, as every relationship can benefit from small changes and the dramatically enhanced results they create.


To identify these little things, you must first be able to "see" them. This is where paying attention and noticing comes into play. Once you see and understand their effects, you must be willing to put forth the effort needed to reap the tremendous benefits they hold.

"It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen." John Wooden (1910-2010)

Let's examine how you can surface these opportunities and begin to alter or eliminate them going forward.


Noticing


Before working on yourself, you must notice or "see" what you wish to affect. It only takes paying attention to become aware of things you haven't yet seen.

Noticing is the result of focusing your attention on the present moment. What you focus on can be in the physical, mental, or emotional world.


Simply put, noticing is pausing and "looking" at something you usually do not perceive because it passes by undetected.


Noticing makes the invisible visible.


Here's a simple question to ask yourself to begin recognizing some small things you have not seen before:


What do I notice about __________, and how it affects my behavior?


This simple yet powerful question can uncover your thoughts and bring hidden realities to light.


For example, you could ask yourself, "What do I notice about 'fill in the blank with one of the following items,' and how it affects my behavior."


An example of this is: "What do I notice about 'how I act at work versus home,' and how it affects my behavior?"

Some ideas to get you started are:

  • how my wife and I interact

  • my recent life

  • myself when I get upset

  • myself when I become angry

  • myself when I shut down

  • my feelings

  • my attitude

  • my mood

  • the way others treat me

  • the way people work at my company

  • how I act around my boss/subordinates/colleagues

  • the way he said that

  • my sleep pattern

  • the foods I crave

You can add virtually anything you wish to this list. Asking the question and noticing something you haven't seen before, no matter how small, is the first step to finding a behavior to work on.


Take Action


To enhance a behavior, use this simple four-step process:

  • Notice (see it)

  • Pay attention (what are you doing or not doing, and what is triggering it?)

  • Name it (give the behavior a name to make it real. Use positive names whenever possible.)

  • Modify or change the behavior (plan and begin experimenting with different ways to work on the behavior.)

Start with one item on the list today. Use your journal to record when you started and the changes that will inevitably come. If you put forth an earnest effort, you will be delighted with the results!


Example 1 – at work


Let's look at how using one of the questions above with the four-step process can benefit you. A question many can ask themselves is:

  • What do I notice about how I interact with people at work, and how it affects my behavior?

Step one - notice


While I get along with some people at work, I do not always engage in the best way with them.


Step two – pay attention


I take my work seriously and can see where I am not as friendly as I could be. I am always in such a hurry to get something done that I ignore some and abruptly end conversations with others. I imagine they see me as an unpleasant person.

Giving it thought, my attitude has not been the best. I have created riffs that have likely made me difficult to work with and be around.

Life at work would be better if I could eliminate some of the stress I cause by how I interact with certain people.


Step three – name it


I will name the thing I want to go to work on pleasantness.


Step four – modify or change the behavior


Giving it considerable thought, I think it best to change how I interact with certain people. Realizing I am always in a rush, the first thing I can do is to purposely slow down and begin listening more instead of being brash and abrupt. A few extra seconds or minutes won't ruin my day unless I let it.


When I go to work tomorrow, I will pay attention to my hurried state, do my best to listen more, and work on my patience.


Example 2 – at work


Let's now examine the same question in example 1 with someone with different behaviors.

  • What do I notice about how I interact with people at work, and how it affects my behavior?

Step one - notice


I let others influence what I do, giving in to their every whim. While most people like me, I am not sure many people at work take me seriously. I hate to admit it, but I am a pushover.


Step two – pay attention


Because I believe others see and treat me as a pushover, saying things like "just ask Joe to do it" or "hand it off to Joe, and maybe he will get it done," I need to change how they view me.

I have not earned many people's confidence or respect because I hate confrontation and give in too much. This causes significant stress in my life.


Step three – name it


I will name the thing I want to go to work on confidence.


Step four – modify or change the behavior


I must build my confidence by not allowing people to walk all over me. I need to learn to say no, especially when someone is using me, which seems to be the case most of the time.


I will start reading about how I can build confidence to stand my ground and earn respect. To learn how to politely say no, I need to begin practicing it, as difficult as it will be! I will also register for that confidence-building course at the local community college.


Example 3 - personal


The question that stands out most to me at this time is:


  • What do I notice about my recent life, and how it affects my behavior?


Step one - notice


Something I have noticed lately is my concern for how fast time is passing by.


Step two – pay attention


In the last few years, it seems like I snap my fingers, and the week is over. Months are passing like weeks. And in no time, another year is gone. This is concerning because I don't want life to fly by and end too soon.


Although retired, I am very busy writing and helping my wife with her YouTube channel (My Mentor Jane). I am also preparing to launch a new channel of my own. All of this work makes time appear to go by more quickly.


What triggers my need to be working so much is my past. I have worked for so many decades I feel as though I am being lazy if I am not doing something.


Step three – name it


The behavior behind time flying by so quickly is my need to stay busy. I will name what I want to work on slowing down.


Step four – modify or change the behavior


Although I get some pleasure from working, I want to slow down to enjoy life more. Jane and I recently took a 16-day cruise from Los Angeles to Miami and had a wonderful time together. Time seemed to go by on the cruise much slower than at home. I have noticed that vacations lasting at least two weeks are better for me to slow down a decent amount.


On our morning walk, Jane and I discussed how we should vacation more, and I agree completely. Jane has booked another cruise, and we plan to travel some next summer.


The behavior I am working to change is taking more breaks (vacations) and leaving work behind. I intend to make this a more regular part of our lives. Additionally, Jane and I plan to take plenty of long walks to slow down and add more time to our lives. I would love to find more ways to stretch out my time and will continue seeking them.


Final thoughts


Why not try the above exercise? Choose something simple from one of your answers to the above fill-in-the-blank questions and run it through the four-step process.


You can repeat this process as often as you wish and enjoy the benefits it can bring. As with most such exercises, teaming up with someone close always makes it more powerful. You can help one another think it through and create some accountability to strengthen the results.


Give it a try and watch what happens. Working on just one small thing can do wonders for your life and its trajectory!


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