Let me tell you a story
I’m a writer and a tutor. Rewind back to 2011, I had a small baby at home, we were living in rented accommodation in London, and wondering if we would ever be able to afford to buy a house. It seemed impossible, out of reach, and out of our league. We watched other people – who had, by design or accident, bought at the right time before prices in London went crazy – buying gorgeous houses at high prices and it was easy to feel gloomy, especially as we didn’t know what the future would hold.
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The birth of the Small Steps Method – in our lounge with the funky wallpaper
We were talking about this in our lounge one day – our landlords had a thing for crazy wallpaper, so imagine bright blue walls and one flowery brown one – and it suddenly occurred to me that if we could let go of the outcome but at the same time take tiny steps towards our goal, we might one day get what we wanted. The opposite – doing nothing because it was too overwhelming and it seemed impossible – definitely wouldn’t get us our dream, whereas taking small steps might. I don’t mean the linear steps towards buying a house that you can read all over the internet, and in guide books and brochures produced by the banks. These steps also had to tackle our attitude towards the whole thing, what Carol Dweck calls ‘mindset’.
The first Small Steps Guide
So I did what I always do when presented with something I need to learn: I wrote about it. Every Friday afternoon when my wife took our son swimming, I gathered together everything I had on time management, did lots of reading and research, and wrote about what I called the Small Steps Method. This became a book – the first Small Steps Guide – that was published by Emerald Press in 2012. If you want to learn the basics of the Small Steps Method, you can download the first chapter for free via this page.
Fast forward to 2019, and I’m sitting in my writing shed at the bottom of the garden. We’ve been living in our own house near Brighton since 2013. Taking small steps worked for us. It wasn’t a magic wand and letting go of the outcome was key – we took the small steps anyway – but we did it.
Breaking it down into small steps
Here’s what the the Small Steps Method is all about. You can take any task, goal, ambition, dream – whatever it is – and break it down into small, specific, concrete and manageable steps, until you get to something that you could do today. Breaking your thing down into small steps will help you to take action rather than simply thinking ‘what if?’ or ‘if only I could’. I’m not going to ask you to pretend that you don’t have a life (a job, partner, kids, disability, caring responsibilities, or whatever it is for you) that sometimes gets in the way of the things you really want to do. In fact, why would anyone want to pretend that people don’t have busy, interesting, enjoyable, and sometimes frustrating, lives to lead? Breaking stuff down into small steps has got three main advantages:
- You get to know whether you really want to write the book, start learning photography, take a fashion course, run the marathon, climb Kilimanjaro, start your own business or whatever it is. You get to look at the reality of what you’d have to do to get there.
- You find out about the gaps in your knowledge. What will you have to learn, find out, or research in order to do your thing? This might surprise you!
- The steps start to become manageable. They seem doable. The goal isn’t so daunting or elusive anymore.
Nowadays I write and make courses about finding time to write and taking small steps towards a more creative life. I’ve self-published several Small Steps Guides to writing and I have courses up on Udemy and on SkillShare.
So now you know. It’s an ongoing story. I’m sharing it because deliberately breaking your goals into small steps actually works.
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