Gradualism Works for Me: How to Achieve Permanent Success in Life
Cold Turkey Has Never Worked for Me
I'm no statistical genius and can't apply what works for me to the general population, but gradualism has allowed me to achieve some significant, permanent successes - over time. What I've observed over the years, whether it's trying to lose weight, spending less, saving more, or meeting any of my New Year Resolutions, is that when I set hard-and-fast rules for myself, I always gave it up soon after. Average accomplishment: Zero.
But, when I started taking super small steps over longer periods of time, my accomplishments averaged out to greater than zero. (I'm trying to avoid the cliche: It's better than nothing.)
Where I Found Success Using Gradualism
Using the method of gradualism, I've found some success in the following areas:
- Weight loss
- General health
- Mental health
- My environment
- Personal growth
You've all seen the testimonials on tv, enthusiastic dieters saying things like, "I've tried every single fad diet, but this fad diet really worked." Mmhmm, right.
I think we all know what to do to permanently lost weight, so I decided to take gradual steps and not expect any changes in the near future. For the first year or so, it was all about adding, then substituting, not restricting foods.
Very gradually, I added some exercise to my day, whether it was cleaning the house, walking around the block, or walking around the supermarket.
The natural result of this was that I started feeling antsy when I sat too long, so started increasing my activity and increasing walking distances by a block whenever I felt like it. (No physical trainers for me - I have a rebellious streak and like to do things when I feel like it.)
Improved Mental Health
As a natural result of the first two items (above) my mind became clearer, I started having (what I thought were) great ideas, started making plans, started thinking about the things that used to bring me happiness.
In other words, my depression and anxiety were naturally letting up, and I started thinking again.
For more details, read: 3 Ways to Start Overcoming your Agoraphobia.
I'd always felt guilty about throwing away, especially, plastic, but was too lazy to even figure out how to recycle in my neighborhood or when to take that stupid blue bin out to the curb every week.
So, I decided to start gradually.
Instead of tossing the plastic into the trash, I started tossing it into the bin in my garage. Finally, it was full, and I had to decide what to do with it. So, I copied the neighbors, and put out the bin when they did (besides, this was more exercise, right?)
My next gradual step was to read my local recycling website to determine exactly what maerials the company accepted. Eventually, I had to request another bin, and was feeling so good about myself (improving mental health a bit more), that I started researching other ways I could reduce my carbon footprint. I'm still working on that.
I had quit my church about 10 years before, was mad at God, but had progressed nowhere from there.
Now, with my thoughts and ideas flowing, and my new interest in life, I started getting some recommendations and doing some research. I read several books that (though not religious) made complete sense and brought me peace of mind. I'm still working on my personal growth. And, with a clearer mind (due to the first few accomplishments), I am able to rationally absorb or reject the wisdom (or bs) I am reading.
It's Been One Year
But, I'm still making slow progress. I look back at this year and am very proud of what I've accomplished because these accomplishments are permanent, not always consistent, not always progression in a straight line, but more like a tacking sailboat - yet the average gain is much greater than zero.