Making Big Change Through Little Wins
You often hear the phrase “pick the low-hanging fruit” when talking about setting goals. When you have a vision of change, it’s often that it’ll happen by first picking off the lowest hanging fruit in the tree– or the more easily achievable and obvious problems. In the context of making a change, the fruit at the top is much harder to reach, and even when you get there, much harder to deal with. So what’s my message here? Baby steps.
We’ve all been compelled to make a change in our communities — usually something along the lines of solving the city’s water crisis or finding ways to improve the economy. I’ve seen people get rallied and passionate to make a change in their community, but just as quickly as the fire ignited, it goes out.
The lack of motivation for civic change falls under two categories:
1. The Bystander Effect. We think someone else will fix the problem so we passively ignore it. Sadly, the more people there are, the less likely someone will do something about it.
2. Just plain excuses. You make excuses and create the perception that you’re not the right person for the job. I’m too weak. I’m not smart enough. Or the most common — I just don’t have time.
I can already hear some readers clamoring about how naive I must be.
“But what about budget? It’s not in the city budget.”
My answer to this is simple. No progress is too small. Civic change doesn’t happen overnight. And pardon the list of cliches, but anything worthwhile will take you out of your comfort zone. If one solution falls short, get creative and tackle each project with the mentality of incremental progress.
Though I can’t say I’ve done anything as impactful as solving the Santa Cruz Water Crisis, I have taken the time to get educated in the issue as well as take time in my day-to-day to try and lead by example. I take pride in my little wins such as cutting down my shower time or trying to add dog waste bag stations to dog parks around Santa Cruz. Teresa Amabile, author and Professor at the Harvard Business School talks about the “progress principle” of how small progress can lead to big success. Acknowledging the small shifts and wins will help you sustain your passion throughout your community projects — big or small. Progress is what makes motivation go viral. Seeing the tangible outcomes of each little win like checking off something from your task list will eventually lead to results.