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Why starting tiny is the key to sustaining a behavior

I participated in a mini marathon when I was in college. It was the first ever marathon that I participated in. And I wasn't prepared - not in the least.

I didn't know that a marathon differed from a regular running race. So, when the marathon was flagged off, I ran at full speed - as fast as I could.

And I'd hardly reached 150 meters when my side started hurting, my legs felt like they were made of lead and I could run no more.

I watched as the others trotted off ahead of me.

My friends finally caught up with me and sarcastically asked me why I'd stopped running.

They explained to me that no one runs at their fastest pace at the start of a marathon.

Truth be told, I'd participated in the marathon because each participant got a free t-shirt, a goody bag and a sumptuous breakfast ;) . (Yes, I loved good food then and still do - we'll leave that for another day).

I laugh as I write this; I was naïve to think that I could run the entire 7km stretch of the marathon. Yet the all or nothing or go big or go home mentality stuck with me for a long time. I found it difficult to start exercising because I wanted to work out for 1 full hour - this was hard to come by so I rarely exercised. Ditto for reading books, and even connecting with friends.

Does this seem familiar to you?

The other extreme of this is starting really big - working out, reading, or trying to meditate for an entire hour. As a result, you give up doing it at least for a while because you found it so grueling.

Dr BJ Fogg who has researched behavior for more than 2 decades says that the only consistent, sustainable way to grow big is to start small.

If you want to start exercising - start with just 2 surya namaskars or walking for only 2 to 5 minutes, if you want to start reading - start by reading 1 sentence or para, if you want to meditate - start by focusing on 3 breaths or focus on your breath for 1 minute.

Start small to grow big.

Whatever good thing you've been waiting to start, begin by taking the first step. As Lao Tzu says, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step"

What do you want to start?


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