The beauty of baby steps. And why ‘go big or go home’ is hogwash.

written by Bari Tessler November 9, 2018

You know what gets my goat?

(And not the kind of cute, cuddly goat that you’d feed graham crackers, either.)

It really gets my goat, this idea that if you’re not making HUGE SWEEPING ASTONISHING CHANGES OVERNIGHT that you’re not doing enough.

Maybe you haven’t heard anyone say those exact words. But this idea is there, just below the surface of our cultural conversation.

Taking a gentle walk everyday isn’t enough — you’ve gotta go hardcore and pump iron 5 days a week. (Or so social media might have you believe.)

Making a little spending money by tutoring French one afternoon a week? Well, you couldn’t possibly be serious, or you’d turn that into a full-fledged mini-business (or so you might think, comparing yourself to folks on podcasts).

But — especially — when it comes to money. If you’re not revolutionizing your finances overnight, having instant “money makeovers,” or diving head-and-toes first into Doing All The Things … well, it just doesn’t count, right?

I get the temptation. We want change, and we want it now.

If one step forward is good, certainly ten steps forward is ten times better. Right?

Oh, my dear friend. Wrong, wrong, utterly and bull-headedly wrong.

It took me a long time to accept this. But now I sing it from the rooftops every chance I get.

Baby steps are beautiful.

Small, incremental shifts — over time — create HUGE transformation.

The slower, gentler path often takes us farther, faster.

I’ve said this in many ways, over the years — in blog posts and in my book and in The Art of Money year-long program. But I must convey my deepest gratitude to the Randi Buckley (who does beautiful work on boundaries) for nailing this idea so brilliantly, recently:

Sometimes the leap is taking any steps at all, even the smallest of them. Our well-intentioned “rah rah” personal development culture has made it seem that if we don’t do things in a huge way, we didn’t really do anything. Hogwash. Even 2 degrees difference on a rudder will lead you to a different shore. The “go big or go home” and “if your dreams don’t scare you they’re not big enough” is someone else’s opinion and does little to honor the tectonic shift that might be a “small” step.”

What’s the use of a massive, overnight transformation if it leaves you so depleted, you fall right back into old, outworn patterns?

Why bother with personal growth and evolution if you do it in such an extreme, pushy way, it feels like punishment?

When I shared this quote recently, many community members wrote in echoing their support.

Yes, and 100 times yes to this!”

“So much yes! It is, in fact, the only thing that has ever worked for me.”

“I’m a believer in the concept of kaizen — small continuous steps towards big improvement. This also helps keep my overactive amygdala at bay!”

“I used to think small steps were not even worth the effort. So I’d go out and give my all in trying to make huge changes from one day to the next. Needless to say, it always ended up in overwhelm and I was so exhausted afterwards that it took me a long time to just get back to where I was before starting the shift … Not a nice pattern to be in. Now, I’m just doing the small things every day. And when I look back, even a few months, this steadiness makes it seem like I am lightyears away from where I used to be.”

“Two things are my mini-shifts: I expect ‘money moments’ to be stressful and so I do not beat up on myself or avoid the moment … I breathe and go into it; and when I have to attend to a big task having to do with money, I get myself a decaf latte (my go to comforting thing) and tell myself that I only have to do it for 5 minutes. Poco a poco I am losing the shame and getting stronger … poco a poco.”

Sure, this is about money. But it’s about so much more than that.

After all: how we do one thing is how we do everything, right? This is why, when we bring loving attention to our money — and how we improve our money relationship — the benefits can ripple out into every area of our lives.

Compassion is never wasted. Gentleness is never too costly. Patience is always worthwhile.

So here’s to small shifts, my friends.

Slow and steady always wins. Because this isn’t a race. It’s your life. And you can make it luxurious, loving, and sweet.

Cheering on your next tiny shift,

P.S. This is just one of the many “side teachings” that come out of the Art of Money work. That is: things that relate to money work but go way beyond it, into Big Life Lessons.

Here are two more for you:

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