Action creates motivation: small steps to radical change

Photo by Stephanie Ho – Pexels

Change is hard. Really hard.

It’s easy to tell ourselves or each other to just take a leap of faith. Leaping could land us in a lava pit. Or worse, a pit we know nothing about.

Because unlike in school where we get the lesson before the test, we’ve all learned by now that life gives us the test first and then the lesson…and who wants to risk another hard lesson even if it’s for a good cause?

It’s no surprise that even if we are in a space of great discomfort, sincerely want nothing more than to get out of it, and imagine landing in a space filled with great potential, there will be resistance.

A LOT of resistance.

Because our subconscious likes and insists on what is familiar. Pit of hell? Sure, at least we know what’s involved and what to expect. Better the devil you know.

A familiar suffering leaves no room for surprises. And the last thing an exhausted self wants to deal with is a surprise.

The unexpected involves risk, accountability, effort. The familiar does not. In the familiar, however unpleasant and unhealthy, we still have a map, a schedule and a predictable result.

As if all this isn’t enough of a challenge, we know that change requires a reason, a plan and a goal. And motivation to start isn’t as easy to get as it sometimes seems.

Because again, to get motivated and create momentum, you need to push past all the resistance and muster a lot of effort, which is hard to do when you’re already depleted because of whatever it is you want to change in the first place.

The expectation seems to be that if things get bad and painful enough, we will have no choice but to push forward. But that’s a gamble. Because we seem to have a way of adjusting to things getting worse and to more pain. Again, it’s all familiar.

So we often sit and linger indefinitely in a space of profound dissatisfaction and even outright loathing. We get lost in our thoughts, hoping that if we think hard enough and long enough, we’ll figure out the magic solution and formula to get ourselves into a different space.

It doesn’t work that way. Thoughts create a maze and resistance steps in to enhance it, until we are so disoriented that we don’t even know who we are anymore, let alone have an idea about how to create positive change.

But there is a trick to all this. Rather than overthinking and waiting until we experience that surge of inspired motivation, the way to go is to just do something we don’t feel like doing. Start with one thing, preferably a small thing.

Action creates motivation, and not the other way around. We could discuss at length why this is so, but there’s no need. It’s simply how things work, even if it seems counter intuitive.

Once you try, although it seems so ridiculous and annoying at first, you’ll notice that a leap of faith towards a new life doesn’t have to involve leaping over a span of miles into unknown territory, but taking a few steps to the sink to wash some dishes that have piled up.

And then tackling a bunch of laundry perhaps, a cleanup, a few minutes spent on a helpful article, a 3 minute meditation.

What we’re doing through small, seemingly unimportant actions that are thoroughly uninspiring at first is showing our subconscious that it’s safe to move forward, that we can achieve something. The sense of satisfaction is inevitable, and adds up from a flicker to a sizeable breath of fresh air.

With consistency in small steps, motivation emerges from behind the curtain. Momentum builds. As we make room in the clutter of our thoughts, fresh ideas and energy begin to appear. And without the fanfare we imagine is needed, though a bunch of small steps, suddenly a whole life is changed.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. I’m all about the small steps. In fact, the biggest things I’ve achieved in life were all just a culmination of the smallest steps I’ve taken. Every time I’ve tried going for the home run, I’ve always fell short. Great topic here. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jb says:

      Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment! Yes, there’s magic in small steps, especially the first one.


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