The Cumulative Effects of Small Change

2008 is the year that this finally sunk into my thick head.  I've been trying to apply this phrase to varying aspects of my life and I have been very pleased with the results. This has been my mantra lately and I keep repeating it to myself as a reminder of the big picture.  Little changes long term are far more effective than big change short term.  That phrase is so powerful to me, let me repeat that again. Little changes long term are far more effective than big change short term. 

This is just a real life execution of that old childhood tale of the tortoise versus the hare.  Slow and steady is hard because there is no instant gratification.  Making little changes and waiting for the results requires dedication and a leap of faith.  This has really been a difficult thing for me because of how instant everything is in our current lifestyles.  Today everything is bigger, better, and faster than it was 10 years ago.  We've been trained to get things immediately.  Unfortunately, there are certain things that are just not instant.  Here's a few ways that I am seeing the benefit of small changes.

  • Weight Loss - I have always struggled with my weight.  Even though I have had a few setbacks this year, I'm still on the weight loss bandwagon.  Usually by this time of the year I've given up, so this is major progress for me.  All of the things I've done have been fairly minor: drinking water instead of diet drinks, reducing portion sizes, making better food choices, and bringing my lunch more often.  I've done these things and it is really working for me in losing weight.  The best part of it is that I haven't missed the things I've given up.
  • Fitness - Obviously my goals aren't just to lose weight.  I want to lose fat and not muscle.  In order to do that I have to exercise to keep the muscle on while I'm losing weight.  Right now it's just body weight exercises and walking/jogging.  I try to fit it in when I can and it seems to be helping.  I have a body fat scale and the body fat percentage is coming down along with my weight.  I haven't adopted some mega workout scheme, instead I've opted to do as much as I can, when I can.  I haven't gotten burnt out on the exercise yet.
  • Money - Ashley and I have made a conscious effort to save more money.  When I sat down and looked at how we were spending our money, I quickly realized that we were wasting a lot.  For instance, I was eating out at lunch everyday.  Let's say I average $8/day: that's $40/week or $2,080 a year!  By cutting that down to 2 times a week and eating leftovers, I'm saving a bundle while still maintaining some social interaction.  As a bonus, it's helping me lose some weight.
  • Gas - Surely you've noticed that gas isn't getting any cheaper.  As a commuter who drives about 70 miles per day, it's starting to hurt and it hurts bad!  18,000 miles of commuting and my car gets about 26 mpg mixed hwy and city.  That means at $4/gallon, I'm spending about $2,800 per year in gas which is about $700 more than I was a year ago.  I've been able to adjust my driving habits by driving slower on the interstate and accelerating slower from a stop so that I'm now getting about 28 mpg mixed city/hwy.  That's a savings of just over $200/year if gas stays at $4/gallon.  It's not huge, but as they say every little bit helps.

The changes I'm making in my life are so small, that I barely even notice them.  I just have to make a conscious effort to do the right thing and not fall into my old habits.  I've noticed that as I've progressed through this year, that these better choices are becoming more natural.  It's getting to the point where it feels odd to drink a soda and not bring my lunch to work.  Now that is sustainable change!

Do you notice waste in your life?  If you do, don't wait to try and make some monumental change to solve it.  Start now.  Do something little that will move you towards your goal.  Then do the same thing tomorrow.  It's that easy.  Take one step at a time and move forward.  Give it a month and see where it gets you.

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