When life isn’t living up to our own or our client’s expectations, it’s often tempting to think in terms of dramatic changes. People fantasize about quitting their jobs and heading off to a mountain ashram. They are embarrassed by their junk food diet and muse about going vegan. They consider what it might be like to rebuild their identities in New York, Paris, or Tahiti.
Usually these massive changes appear so daunting that our clients may do nothing, and remaining stuck and dissatisfied. In the instances where they do follow the impulse to turn their world on its head, they often find the reality of their new situation doesn’t live up to its imaginings. All the problems of life are not all instantly solved.
The truth is that nature favors evolution, not revolution. Single-celled organisms slowly morph and adapt, finally creating complex plants and animals. Continents plod across oceans, giving shape to our world. So it is with our own and our clients’ lives. Change is a process, not an event. Rather than break from our past with a single decision, it is often more effective to make small, subtle changes that steer us in the direction of our values.
This insight is the basis of what I call the tiny tweaks principle. It can be helpful in the frustration of the change process to remind our clients that small deliberate tweaks, infused with values, can make a huge difference in their lives.
Thinking small has real advantages. The cost of failure is comparatively low. When clients realize that they’ve got little to lose, they feel less pressure and more confidence. And the focus on modest, achievable goals provides tangible markers on the road to success. But what does this look like when applied to their everyday habits? Here are four different tactics you can use with your client to make tiny tweaks that add up to big change:
These evidence-based tactics can be applied to any type of change, not only health and wellness.
Any sea captain will tell you that if you steer a ship just a few degrees this way or that, you can completely alter its trajectory. Over the course of a long journey, it may end up hundreds of miles from where it would have been without that slight adjustment. Helping your clients to think of change in the same way can be extremely meaningful. Turn too sharply and you might capsize, but a slow, gentle, values-connected change will get you where you want to be.
Wishing you well,
IOC Co-Founder and Co-Director
The IOC is a global community of coaches.