The Value of Making Small Changes

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Written by Emily McClements, Contributing Writer

If there’s anything you should know about me, it’s that I’m all about taking baby steps. Most of the changes that we have made in our lives and around our home, have been made by making small changes that add up to much bigger overall change in our lives.

Sometimes I wish I was one of those people that dove head first into something and went all out, changing everything seemingly overnight, but that’s just not really practical or possible for me and my family in this season of life. I’m thinking that’s probably true for many of you too.

What holds us back from making really big, quick changes?

First, there are time constraints.

Making changes usually involves a little bit of a learning curve and you need time for the changes you have made to become part of your habits and routine. Until that happens, new things will probably take a little more time then your old way of doing things. Especially when you have children, there’s not a lot of extra time to devote to making big changes.

Then there is the problem of information and knowledge.

Often, when there is an area that I want to make a change in, it’s usually something that I have read a little bit about, but still feel like I need to learn more about it before I jump in and make a complete change. I like to do some research into things when I can, and I like to know that I’m making the most informed decision that I can make. But, there’s also the problem information overload. We all know there is WAY too much information out there about anything we could possibly care to know about. Sometimes I feel like I have too much information and it can be overwhelming to the point that I feel like I can’t make a decision, or make a change, at all.

Finally, you may meet some resistance.

Sometimes you can be really excited about an idea, or about a change that you want to make in your family’s life, but your children, or your hubby, are not quite as enthusiastic about it as you are, or might be downright opposed to the change you are trying to make. There are some things that it’s probably not a good idea for you to just make an executive decision about, without the support of your family.

So, in the midst of time constraints, information gathering, or information overload, and resistance to change, how can you go about making real, lasting and impactful change in your family and home life?

I think you already know what I’m going to say here…

Baby Steps

It really is all about the Baby Steps.

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Photo by catatronic

Dealing with Time Constraints

Making a small change doesn’t require as much time and effort as a larger change. And small changes can often become habits fairly quickly, so you can move onto another small change, and another, and another.

I went to a composting workshop last month and then I started collecting my food scraps and food waste to begin my compost pile. I’m still trying to figure out the best system for this, but I have a bucket on my back porch that is filling up with food waste, and I’m happy that I am throwing less food away. Once this has become a habit for me, I will move on to creating the larger compost pile, for now, this small, doable change is a really good start.

Get the Information you need

Small changes require less information. If there’s an area you want to make a change in, but you feel like you still need to learn more about it, see if there is some small thing that you feel good about and feel like you know enough about to get started.

Last week I tried to make a sourdough starter. I failed miserably, it did not work for me. I need to get more information about sourdough starters, but I thought that I knew enough that I could at least try and see how it worked for me. Obviously, this is an example of how sometimes small changes don’t work out the way we want them to, but we can still learn from the situation and move on to gather more information and try making the change again.

Dealing with Resistance.

Small changes usually meet less resistance. Husbands and children are usually much more willing to deal with a small change rather than a complete overhaul. Small changes don’t require as much from the person resisting the change, and are easier to explain why you want to make the change, rather than trying to explain a complete change in how you normally done things.

About a year ago I started planning a meatless meal once a week on Monday, we call it Meatless Monday. My hubby was not excited about it at first. But, I started looking for meatless meals that would be appealing to him, and added other things to the meals like homemade bread and dessert and he was willing to go along with it. Now, we are working on two meatless meals per week. It helps us keep our food costs low, increase the amount of veggies and other forms of protein we are eating, and have an understanding (although very limited) of others around the world who don’t have the luxury that we do of eating meat at every meal.

So by tackling large, sometimes overwhelming changes, in small, easy, doable steps, you can see how small changes can add up to something so much greater. Big, dramatic, complete changes in lifestyle can all be made by taking that first small baby step.

How have you taken baby steps that have led to larger changes in your journey to more natural living?

Photo by Arkansas ShutterBug

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  1. Yes, like I can think of gardening for example. The first year I started with two 4×4 boxes. The next year it was a new place and we did more, then the next year, even more (in the form of 4 feet across areas but not in boxes anymore). This year we did not add anything in the form of space since I am finding this year too busy with the kids. But next year we plan to have the same garden area but to build some cold frames with old window glass we got for free and hopefully extend the garden season. Some steps, like this year trying a few new vegetables to grow, have failed. Next year I plan on going back to only growing what I know grows really well for me (tried and true over a few years) since I anticipate having it busier with trying to extend the growing season in my short season area with the cold frame. Sometimes we not only need to take small steps, but sometimes go back a step to accomodate something else that is a step! I also find that I have to realize my limits and in the seasons of other big changes/issues (like pregnancy, new baby, health issues that need a lot of attention, moving…all of which have happened/are happening to me in the past few years) we need to take a break from making steps foward and just be thankful for the steps we’ve made and keep them up.

    1. @Nola, Gardening is a great example Nola! I started my first garden this year and tried to keep it fairly small and manageable because I really had/have no idea what I am doing! 🙂 I am learning a lot and know that next year I will be able to make a few small changes to my garden and hopefully things will go a little better than they have this year.
      And I definitely agree that we have to make small changes, or just keep doing what we’re already doing, to go along with the season of life that we are in! Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. My husband and I really do have compatible values and are usually on the same “wave length” – we often discover that we’ve checked similar books out from the library without any discussion about them beforehand. Still, anytime I feel compelled to make a serious change, I get “that look” the first time I make my desire known. It’s tough to change, or accept change, when you aren’t the one initiating it! I’d say 90% of the time if I give it a few months and/or work toward my goal slowly with a good plan, he is on board whole-heartedly in the end. We’ve made pretty drastic changes together (many that he’s initiated too) and baby steps make them much easier to swallow!
    .-= Anjanette´s last blog ..Healthy Snacks to Go e-book Review and GIVEAWAY =-.

  3. I totally agree! Baby steps are the best way to make a big change! Over the past 3 years I have lost 110 lbs, and its due to making small changes in my lifestyle. Like I eliminated soda from my diet, then I started eating whole grains, then I tried replacing beef with turkey and chicken, then stopped eating boxed foods, started working out 10 minutes minimum a day- all changes that were relatively easy to make and stuck long-term. I love the Shell Silverstein poem Melinda Mae- where she says she’s going to eat a whale, but no one believes she can do it- but because she said she’d do it, she did, one small bite at a time. It took her 90 some years, but she did what she set out to do. Our society encourages instant results today and for 99% of things, that is just not possible! If we could all learn some patience and take baby steps we’d accomplish anything we dreamed 🙂

  4. As an older mom, whose taken thousands of baby steps (some forwards, some back!), I think this is wonderful advice. I would only add that I see some moms today get stuck in the information gathering stage for too long – sometimes getting paralyzed by information overload. Take something as broad as child training for example. You can get so many conflicting ideas that you don’t start for fear of following the wrong path.
    I always suggest moms pick a few trusted sources – and stop there, and start implementing. By that time they’ve usually learned enough to go on a little further by themselves.
    Such practical insight! Thanks!

  5. It’s all about small changes in our household. (it has to be…it’s crazy over here).

    I started actually with honey. I bought some raw honey and used it to sweeten whatever I was making.

    Then, it was cutting out high fructose. Using butter or coconut oil when cooking.

    Making double and freezing really helped me along. I wasn’t so tempted to go out to eat, because I had a back-up plan.
    .-= Josette´s last blog ..I need a second or third oropinion =-.

  6. This is such an important point! It’s easy to get intimidated by a new idea and feel like you have to do EVERYTHING or there’s no point doing anything. But usually–especially in frugality, environmentalism, and self-improvement–a small change DOES make a difference and often inspires more and bigger changes as you go.

    One of the first things I wrote when we launched our Website 12 years ago was this “Instead…or At Least” list of environmentally friendly habits: If you’re not ready for the big change, make the small change first. I had already learned that lesson many times, but I’ve learned it many more times since!

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