Incremental Redesign For Your Life

I was talking to a friend today about all the things we want to do and the people we want to be, but we don’t and we aren’t.

It always amazes me how difficult it is to do the things that you truly want to do. We put so many obstacles between ourselves and the things we want. But a routine, however distasteful, is comfortable, easier and “better” than change. Change is hard. Change is also scary. The fear of failure — whatever definition of it we have imprinted in our brains — is a powerful counter to our great desire for change. The result is paralysis.

Doing anything in life takes discipline. When it comes to upending the status quo, you might as well be talking about shifting tectonic plates with your pinky finger.

The thing that’s easy to forget, though, is that we’ve all done this before. We’ve all accomplished things that, at one point, we believed were impossible, whether it’s a marathon or a New York Times crossword. We’ve all overcome those moments of conviction in our own limitations, leaving accomplishments in their place. If we could only bottle that understanding and recall it when our doubt returns.

Just after parting ways with my friend, I read this blog post by Chris Brogan on tiny revolutions. It seemed impeccably timed. “Every step towards success requires a tiny revolution,” he says:

Planning for “someday” is ineffective. You have to decide what your revolution looks like on the day-to-day scale. Have a vision and keep it far out in front of you, but give yourself daily tasks that will accomplish it. … The American Revolution had several events that brought everything forward. It didn’t just start with the “shot heard round the world” and then we all sat down and wrote the Constitution. The same is true of your own tiny revolutions. … The KEY difference between your revolution and letting life live you is that YOU start making these events happen, instead of just letting them happen to you.

I was saying earlier today that to make major changes in your life, it takes a giant, bold action. That’s not really accurate. To the outside observer, the difference between today and six months ago may look dramatic. But packed into those 180 days were 180 small but significant changes that all added up.

This seems simple, but it’s really important. Success is about 90% planning. Fulfilling your innermost desires to be the person you want to be has little to do with wanting, and almost everything to do with doing. How do you “do” to the level required to effect real change? How do you self-sustain? You plan. You start an incremental revolution. You set up a schedule and a to-do list of manageable tasks that build toward the ultimate goal.

(At the Stamats higher ed web conference I went to last week, I attended a session by Edustyle’s Stewart Foss on incremental redesign, which has planted that phrase in my head. I think the same premise can apply here — use an informed plan to architect gradual change.)

Thinking about all of this stuff is all-too familiar territory. Last month, I posted about overcoming the fear of failure by remaining childlike (adaptable and curious) and accepting the need to make mistakes in order to learn. Back in August, I wrote about the need to own your own life and not just be a self-starter, but a self-sustainer.

I could write on and on, that doesn’t mean I know what I’m doing. This is all an open exercise in trying to understand how to make my life what I want it to be.

I guess in a sense, my life starts with a single shot. The space between when it begins and what it becomes is up to me. Tiny revolutions.

Photo by Marxchivist via Flickr/Creative  2.0

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