I’m a big fan of taking small steps towards your goals. In fact, I’ve built my business brand on this concept. A small step launches you into action, creates momentum, and builds your confidence. You soon realise that it’s not as scary as you thought, and you start seeing results. But what are the situations when a small step is not enough? When those micro-actions won’t get you to where you want to be, or at least won’t get you there fast enough?
When a small step is not enough
The thing is: small steps will only get you so far. Dabbling, trying, doing a bit here and there is a great way to start – but without a substantial and strategic effort, you’ll never get to where you want to be. Or, at least, it will take you a very, very, long time.
You may have been at it already for a long time, trying to take those small steps, squeezing in some attempts here and there around your far-too-busy schedule. Maybe you’ve seen some initial results. However, you’ll soon reach a plateau when you’ve done what you can, and doing a little more of the same isn’t going to get you the results that you’re after.
Small steps can also lull you into a false sense of feeling like you’re doing *something*, which lets you off the hook. In the meantime, you get to stay in your comfort zone, and you hold off from doing the *right* thing, the one that will make a real difference.
There’s a point at which you must commit to doing what is required. That means taking a bigger step, a bigger risk, and going for *transformation* rather than just a minor adjustment.
When it’s time for a leap
To put this into context, let’s have a look at a few examples…
Looking to pivot your career?
You can start thinking about what’s important to you while you’re on holiday and snatch little moments here and there to reflect on your life goals. To give yourself time to take a proper step back and look at the big picture, however, you’ll need to block time in your diary, take a weekend to start mapping out your future, or maybe get away on a week-long retreat. You’ll need a change of scenery and most likely support from someone external who can guide you through the process.
Thinking about starting a business?
You can listen to podcasts about entrepreneurship, read books on business strategy, even sign up to courses… None of that will get you any closer to launching and growing your own business. For that, you’re going to need to really flesh out your proposed business model, get clear on your value proposition, and start putting yourself ‘out there’.
Wanting to grow your business?
You can build a side hustle alongside a full-time job. However, there comes a point when you will need to decide if you want to grow that side hustle further or not. To continue to grow, you’ll need to go down to part-time and, perhaps, ultimately quit your job. There’s no small step you can take here – to grow the business, you have to take the plunge.
An incremental mindset
So what is it that’s preventing you from going ‘all in’ and from making the big changes that will make all the difference? Well, I came across the distinction in a Harvard Business Review article between an incremental mindset and an exponential one.
“The incremental mindset focuses on making something better, while the exponential mindset makes something different. Incremental is satisfied with 10%. Exponential is out for 10X.”– ‘How to Create an Exponential Mindset’ by Mark Bonchek
So, for example, when it comes to marketing my business: I can tweak my social media strategy. I can increase or decrease the number of posts on my Instagram. I can start going live on my LinkedIn profile. I can do longer or shorter videos on YouTube.
All those tactics might improve what I’m already doing, and I might get slightly better results. My views and followers will increase over time. That would be an incremental mindset – and, if I’m honest, that tends to be my ‘go to’.
On the other hand, I can start looking beyond what I’m already doing. What if I found other people with similar audiences and complementary businesses and I proposed a collaboration that would be mutually beneficial? What if I started looking at offline and in-person events rather than just focusing on virtual? What if I began to pitch larger media publications to get more external exposure and credibility?
What if, instead of doing a ‘bit more’ exercise, eating a ‘bit more’ healthily, you chose to work with a personal trainer or nutritionist who can give you a tailored programme to hit your specific goals within a shorter but realistic timeframe?
What if, instead of trying to learn a new language with a weekly online course, you spend some time in the native country and immerse yourself in the language to reach a level of fluency impossible to get otherwise?
What if, instead of piecing together your business strategy from podcast episodes, free workshops, and low-level group programmes from different sources, you found a trusted adviser that you could work with to get personalised one-on-one support?
Yes, the big leap often requires investment, both time and money. And it always requires getting out of your comfort zone. That is the risk. It’s also what’s going to get you those exponential results.
“You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”– Andre Gidé, French author and winner of the Nobel Prize in literature
So take the small steps, by all means. Get started. Show up. Do what you can. But if you’ve been doing that now for a while; if you’ve been getting incrementally better but not seeing the big impact that you’re after; and if you’re impatient – I certainly am! – to see those exponential results?
Well, then, it’s time to think differently, act differently… and take the leap.