Small wins are the number one reason I’m a prolific writer today.
More than two years ago, I started writing every single morning. My small win was to write at least 500 words.
And so while the sun was rising, I would apply “pants to the seat” and get 500 words down. The topic was irrelevant. The only goal was to write at least 500 words.
With time, it became easier to write 500 words. Some days I would continue writing after achieving my goal. And some days I really struggled and the minute I got 500 words down I would get on with my life.
Little by little, progress started to show.
In a few weeks, I finished a few articles. And as an unexpected side effect, I was more creative than ever. The more I wrote the more ideas would float around my brain.
I tried blogging before. But the initial motivation would quickly disappear. But this time, it was different. I looked forward to getting up and get cranking.
I just need 500 words…
Two years later, I still write at least 500 words upon waking up.
What looked as a simple goal turned into a powerful habit.
That’s the power of small wins.
The Power of Small Wins
Small wins compound over time.
Suddenly big and lofty goals seem achievable.
Josh Grisham books have sold more than 300 million copies. His advice to aspiring writers? “Write a page every day. Do that for two years and you’ll have a novel that’s long enough. Nothing will happen until you are producing at least one page per day.”
Jerry Seinfeld in one of the most famous comedians of all time. His advice to aspiring comedians? “The way to be a better comic is to create better jokes. The way to create better jokes is to write every day.”
“I’ve found that small wins, small projects, small differences often make huge differences.” — Rosabeth Moss Kanter
Small wins give you the power to change yourself and your life.
Every day you move closer to where you need to be. Closer to the person you want to become. To the best version of yourself that you can be.
Tie Small Wins to Your Big Goals
We all set big goals for our life.
To lose weight.
Go on holidays to our dream destination.
Finishing a marathon.
Goals are a better version of ourselves. They drive our life forward and help us achieve our “potential”. Everyone wants to be the best version of themselves they can be.
But goals only take you so far. And goals — especially big ones — can be demotivating.
That initial short of excitement quickly wears off after a couple of runs. Running a marathon is hard. You knew this, of course. But you convinced yourself that sheer willpower would carry you through.
Small wins, on the other hand, give you constant motivation. They focus on systems rather than goals, making you able to see progress toward your big and scary goals.
Have big and lofty goals. But pair them with small wins to ensure daily progress. Every day is a step in the right direction.“Track your small wins to motivate big accomplishments.” — Teresa Amabile
Looking to lose weight naturally? Exercise for 10 minutes every day. Or switch carbs as sides with salad as the new default on your meals.
To finally take that dream trip, give up coffee out every day and put that money aside. Or put all the coins on a piggybank at the end of the day.
A marathon is scary. So instead commit to running for at least five minutes every day.
Small but consistent progress compounds over time.
Soon enough what seemed impossible is now achievable.
The Two Criteria of Small Wins
You now know the power of small wins.
The next logical question is: “How do I define my small wins?”
First, small wins need to fit two criteria:
- Need Little Time: you want to achieve your win in under 10 minutes. Ideally, a lot less than that. Your wins need to be small to make sure you complete them. More than 10 minutes and you’ll lose the motivation to get started. Make your small wins as small as possible
- Need Little Effort: your new habit needs to be so small that it makes you feel embarrassed if you skip a day. You’ll feel crazy if you don’t do it. Small wins need to be too small to fail. The less effort you need to complete your small win the fewer excuses you’ll allow yourself
Once you have defined your small win, it’s time to create a statement. I like to follow a simple template:
“I will (small win) every single day for at least (amount of time) minutes.”
“I will run every single day for at least ten minutes.”
Or “I will floss every single day for at least 2 minutes.”
Take a few minutes now to define your small win according to the two criteria. Then write the sentence on a piece of paper and hang it in a visible area of your house or office.
Every time you see the paper your brain will be reminded of your small win and reinforce the new habit.
Practicing Your Small Win Every Day
Now that you’ve defined your plan, you need to execute it.
Although I can’t force you to practice your small win every day, here are a few things that might help:
- Start Small: I’ve covered this one already but needs reinforcement. Relying on motivation alone is risky business. Once the new habit feels natural, you can ramp it up. But when you’re starting out make it so easy that you can’t say no
- Do It Daily: consistency is key. It’s much better to exercise every day for 10 minutes than a 2-hour session on Sundays. Slow constant progress every day is the key
- Same Time, Same Location: I wrote every day at my desk at 7 AM sharp. In the beginning, it helps to complete your small win at the same time and location every day. You’re already trying to form a new behavior so keep the other variables constant
- Insert It into a Routine: when trying to change behavior, the less you change of the rest, the better. Inserting your small win into an existing routine is a simple way to ensure you’ll practice your new habit. I wrote immediately after waking up and before breakfast. Listen to a podcast on your way to work. Read a few pages of a book after lunch or dinner. Piggyback your new habits with other habits or routines that you already have
Beat the Procrastination Monster with Small Wins
Small wins mean progress every day toward your life goals.
And because you see this progress every day, your motivation never drops. Every day you feel closer to your goals.
But the best benefit of small wins is beating procrastination.
Procrastination boils down to getting started. Once we get the ball rolling we become unstoppable. The problem is getting the ball rolling.
Small wins force you to get started, over and over again. Every day they will force you to get started on your new habit. And because it’s so small and so simple, you will.
Practice your small win for a couple of days and something funny will start to happen: you will continue.
It’s Newton’s first law of motion at its finest:
“An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion.”
You won’t stop at 10 minutes of exercise. You’ll actually want to do more. Sure, some days you’ll stop at the mark. But most days you won’t. You’ll carry on. The small win removed the biggest hurdle — getting started — and now you find it a lot easier to continue.
Especially because stopping means getting started on something else.
And who wants that?
Small Wins Can Change Your Life
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” — Aristotle
To change your life, you need to change your habits.
Habits steer your life in the right direction. With enough practice, you make progress toward your goals.
Habits are the best investment you can make on yourself.
But developing habits is hard. Sometimes the change is too big and you lose your motivation. You feel like a failure and at the same time kick yourself for not having the necessary “mental strength”.
So focus on micro changes. Aim to improve 1% every single day until it becomes a part of your routine. Until it becomes part of who you are.
Your life won’t change in a day.
But small and consistent improvements are the key to long-term behavior change.
Change a little every day.
And marvel at the power of compounding when you realize how much your life as changed because of small wins.