The Art of the "Bare Minimum" or "The Baby Steps Approach" to Achieving Goals
I've noticed that when it comes to achieving my goals, I have a tendency to think I should "go big or go home." I want to work on my professional development, for example, so I create for myself a long laundry list of things I "should" do, elaborate plans with multiple steps that will result in a major overhaul. I've also applied this thinking to personal goals--weight management, for example.
The problem with this approach is that it's easy for me to just stop doing everything. I will become overwhelmed by what I've set in motion and after a few days or weeks of working my plan, something will come up and I will find myself chucking it all to go back to my former habits.
I'm coming to believe, though, that it is the mini-steps I take that really move me forward. Tara Gentile calls this "the bare minimum." We could also call them "baby steps."
Lately, instead of coming up with a major plan when I want to make something happen in my life, I'm taking a gentler approach, asking myself "What's the bare minimum I need to do today to make this happen?" Sometimes I'll ask myself "what is ONE thing you can do today to move you just one step closer to that goal?"
The bare minimum keeps me moving forward without making me crazy. It reminds me that any movement is better than no movement at all. This is especially helpful when I'm trying to integrate change into my life.
Of course your entire life can't be made up of "bare minimums." That's a recipe for mediocrity. But where I can, I'm seeing how the "bare minium" can keep me moving. I'm finding that eventually, all those baby steps get me where I'm going anyway. . .
"Of course your entire life can't be made up of "bare minimums." That's a recipe for mediocrity. But where I can, I'm seeing how the "bare minium" can keep me moving. I'm finding that eventually, all those baby steps get me where I'm going anyway …."
A gentle disagreement. Please consider these:
Kaizen = continual small improvements, the very cornerstone of "making improvements, getting better." Several cites if useful.
Excellence = "making improvements, getting better," plus whatever specifics and metrics you choose to add.
A part of Total Leadership should be (is?) tasking every member of the company to pursue, assess, and sustain excellence, e.g., produce ISEs [#] every month — forever.
Please consider updating your point about "bare minimums / baby steps" leading to mediocrity — when indeed they can lead toward excellence.
When pursued with thought, learning, and action these small actions, every day and week and month, add up, over time, to excellence, to ""making improvements, getting better," to "constructive change."
Posted by: R.S. Webster | October 05, 2011 at 02:55 PM
Great point, Dick, that baby steps can lead to excellence. My concern, I suppose, in talking about "bare minimums" is that it implies a sense of doing just enough to get by that may not be the best approach. It's one thing if we are continually taking steps towards excellence. It's another if we are just doing enough to hang on. . .
Thanks for helping me clarify . . .
Posted by: Michele | October 05, 2011 at 02:58 PM
Michele ~ Thanks for addition. Brings to mind what some wise person advised: "Good enough never is." Of course, in these nasty times with those still employed (far too) often exploited by companies also trying to hang on — hanging on makes sense.
When this long nightmare is over (assuming capitalistic democracy survives — hope springs eternal), THEN many workers will be looking to change jobs and, hopefully, "excellence" will become more in vogue.
Dick Webster .
Note: Anyone "into" the excellence thing that has actionable ideas about what it is and how to pursue and sustain it — please be in touch. I'll add your ideas and experience to a growing collection and share on a blog. Thanks.
Posted by: Dick Webster | October 05, 2011 at 03:16 PM
Hmm. . . what is "excellence" is a good question, Dick. One I'm struggling with right now, as I think about career and work. For those who are employed by someone else, is striving for excellence on behalf of an employer where they should be putting their energy? This may be another blog post. . .
Posted by: Michele | October 05, 2011 at 04:18 PM