ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Getting Better, Just a Little Bit at a Time

Updated on December 23, 2017
Carolyn M Fields profile image

Carolyn Fields is a lifelong learner, musician, author, world traveler, truth enthusiast, and all around bon vivant.


What About You?

Could you lose 25 pounds in a week? Clean your entire house in an hour? How about learning to speak a new language fluently in five minutes? Well, unless there is some “magical” shortcut that I haven’t run across yet, the answer to each question is a resounding “no.”

Unfortunately, too many of us set very “lofty” goals (recall your New Year’s resolutions), and then when we fail, we just give up. We tell ourselves that we “tried,” but it was just too difficult. Perhaps your goals are not as exaggerated as in my examples, but still demanding. And when we don’t achieve our goals, we kick ourselves for not being “strong enough,” or some other negative self-talk. Which puts us in a worse frame of mind than when we began.

What If?

What if, instead of setting such a lofty goal, you set a goal to get “just a little bit” better? Or, if you decide to try one more time, every day, until you get it right? Just relax, and give yourself “permission” to improve only a little, each and every day, day after day. That’s how good habits are formed. Slow and steady.

Failure as a Teacher

You will also need to give yourself permission to fail. Just as long as you get up, dust yourself off, and try again – at least one more time than you fall short. If you do this, you are eventually going to succeed. And whether you realize it or not, failure is a magnificent teacher. Don’t get me wrong – success is wonderful. However, it is from our mistakes that we have the greatest opportunity to learn.

Today is the Day

There is an expression that you’ve probably heard: Carpe Diem. It’s a Latin phrase, usually translated as “seize the day.” It dates back to Horace’s Odes, in 23 BC. Yes, procrastination and failure have been around a long, long time. And I would predict that they are going to be around a lot longer. But you don’t have to fail all the time.

Carpe Diem suggests that we do it – whatever “it” is – today. Not tomorrow. Today. How many of us have decided that we were going to start a diet, and “scheduled” it for Monday, or the first day of the month? Using the “little bit” approach, you would start today. Perhaps not “perfectly” and with all your ducks in a row. But you would do something to eat better. Maybe just skip dessert. Or drink one less soda. You get the idea.

Every Day Matters

All you have to commit to is improving “just a little bit,” each and every day. It compounds over time. If you read just 5 pages a day from something that will increase your knowledge (e.g., a course in French vs. a romance novel set in France), you will have read 1,825 pages of knowledge in one year (365 days times 5). If an average book is 180 pages long (it varies greatly), then you would have read about ten books. Since most people don’t pick up a book after the age of 20, you are ahead of roughly 99% of other people.

Don’t get overly excited about my math in the paragraph above. It’s only for illustrative purposes. The point is to read “just a little” bit, and accumulate knowledge over time. Don’t fret if your average book is 250 pages. You are still head and shoulders above everyone else.

Even The Little Stuff Matters

One of my guilty pleasures is watching “Hoarders.” I have a fascination with that show. I think it’s because I can watch it, and no matter how “bad” I think I may be, they always have somebody on the program that is worse off than I am.

Inevitably, I ask myself, “How does somebody get to be THAT bad?” Obviously, they don’t go to bed at night with everything tidy and in its place, and wake the next morning with piles of trash in every room and a broken toilet. No, not at all. It starts, I am sure, with “the little things.” They open a package of cookies, eat a few, and just leave the open package out on the countertop. Nobody puts it away. Ever. Then another package of something is opened and left out. And so on and so forth.

The opposite of this is pretty simple. You open a package, take a few cookies, close up the package and put it back in the pantry. When the package is empty, you put it in the trash. On trash day, you take your full bag of empty packages (and other stuff) out to the curb for collection. It’s these little actions, taken over and over again, that keep your household in running order. Now apply this principle to other areas in your life. That’s the long and short of it.

Take Action

At the risk of pointing out the obvious – thoughts are only in your head. In some cases this is a good thing. Nobody ever went to jail because they “thought” about robbing a bank. And will all due respect to former President Jimmy Carter, looking at a woman “with lust” is not actually adultery (in the legal sense).

On the flip side, thinking to yourself, “I’ll start reading that book tomorrow,” is a good thought, but it’s not an action. If you start your sentence with “I should have . . .“ or “I could have . . ,” and then follow with the word “but,” you’ve defeated the entire purpose of getting “just a little bit” better.

Try this instead. If your goal is to read a book, decide that you are going to read one entire page at bedtime tonight. Then, actually follow-through. When you finish the page, stop, mark your place, and close the book. You just succeeded. Doesn’t it feel good? Tomorrow you might try for two pages, then three. But only build up to what seems like a comfortable habit.

You can apply this technique with anything in life. Whether it’s taking a few extra steps to increase your activity level, or substituting apple slices instead of fries with your meal, all you need to do is take one little step. Then another. And then another. You will soon reach your goals!

How likely are you to try this technique?

See results


Submit a Comment
  • Carolyn M Fields profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Fields 

    4 years ago from South Dakota, USA

    Thank you for reading my hub, Peachy! Glad you enjoyed it.

  • peachpurple profile image


    4 years ago from Home Sweet Home

    Good tips, we learn bit by bit as we change

  • Carolyn M Fields profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Fields 

    4 years ago from South Dakota, USA

    Thank you, Denise. Glad to hear that other people find this useful, too. Right now I'm using this technique to clean out my garage - which is filled with stuff from my move four years ago - still in boxes. Time to sort it all out - one box at a time.

  • denise.w.anderson profile image

    Denise W Anderson 

    4 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

    This particular technique got me through school as a "older-than-average" student. At first, I had a mental block in my brain, but using the "little bit at a time" philosophy, I was able to complete bachelor and masters degrees. It was just a matter of taking a "few" pages at a time, or of breaking tasks into 15 minute increments and sandwiching them between other desirable activities. It works!

  • Carolyn M Fields profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Fields 

    5 years ago from South Dakota, USA

    Thank you both, MsDora and Larry, for your supportive feedback.

  • Larry Rankin profile image

    Larry Rankin 

    5 years ago from Oklahoma

    Interesting ideas.

  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Weithers 

    5 years ago from The Caribbean

    Great message in this article. Voted very likely to try this non-threatening, sensible technique


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)