Do you know Momo from Michael Ende? I read her story as a child and I loved it. Recently, I read it again and I still love it. Already as a child I liked how Beppo the street cleaner sweeps the road. He does not look at the end of the road and wishes to be done as soon as possible. He does it sweep by sweep. And he enjoys every sweep. And suddenly he had cleaned the whole road without any effort. He used a simple and playful approach to achieve his goal continuously step by step.
The math behind going constantly baby steps
Doing consistently small steps is so powerful. You can show it even mathematically:
(1.00)365 = 1.00
(1.01)365 = 37.7
Isn’t this fantastic?
How it helped me to cut my steps down
As an example, for years I followed my self-imposed restriction, that I have to play piano for 90 minutes. Very often I did not play at all as I did not have these 90 minutes. I changed this to, that whenever I have at least 20 minutes and I like to play, I just play. Even if I only play 20 minutes per week – this is still better than plan to play 90 minutes and, in the end, do not play at all. This change in mindset helps me to play more often and also to enjoy it more.
Another example, recently I did the tax return for my husband and me. It was the first time, that I did it. First, whenever I sat down to work on it, I planned to achieve too much. As I wanted to finish it as soon as possible I wanted to do it in large steps. This totally overwhelmed me. It felt like standing in front of a huge mountain and to have to climb it all at once. So, I started to cut my steps down. For example, I planned only to find out what I have to fill into a certain field. Or I planned only to fill in a small section. Just with this, suddenly it felt so simple. My frustration was gone and it started even to make fun as I had a sense of achievement. And I finished it even sooner than I had first expected.
It is important to start and keep doing it
If it is difficult to start doing something as it overwhelms you and it feels too big to be able to achieve it – start with baby steps and set only small targets. The important thing is to start, even if it does not feel so good at the beginning. It starts to feel good with working on it and as soon as you got the first feeling of success. John Stepper calls this touch the treadmill. He even says, that for example if you want to start running but somehow cannot bring yourself to start with it, start at least with the first little baby step, which is only to touch the treadmill once per day. Maybe after a few weeks you start to run the first minutes on the treadmill. And after a year you run regularly 30 minutes. If you would not have started to touch it, you would never have run only a few meters. Enhancing continuously step by step reduces the feeling of stress, anxiety and overwhelm.
And the ultimate discipline is not only doing consistently small steps but also enjoying the process as Beppo, the street cleaner from Momo, and just like the motto the journey is the destination. Whereas, my experience is, that this comes naturally as soon as you start to break your steps down into small chunks.
Photo by Daria Shevtsova