Improvement is the result of small steps

Written on: March 17, 2018

In: Motivation by Elisa Coleclough

“Small differences over time create a big difference! Improvement is achieved in inches not giant leaps” John C. Maxwell.

Saturday morning, I already ran 20K. If you have read this blog here, you will know that for a former asthmatic girl, running has saved my life and I am also a proud runner of 42k. But just as every single step takes me further, improvement and self-awareness bring clarity and purpose to my life. As I say to myself lately:


“When you prepare for something, prepare for the process and not just for the outcome”


The way I see it, life itself is a process, it is not like we can say we have reached something or arrived somewhere and simply stop there. Life goes on.


Also what I have understood is that if we do not value the process and simply prepare for the outcome, we are missing a very important part of the learning process itself.


Despite the fact that we may succeed or fail, the process is what can and will deliver different results every time. Speaking for myself, there were times in which I was successful after a process, so I was so happy with my outcome. Then, I simply forgot to analyze and learn what key parts of the process were the ones that had made me successful. The same happened the other way around, when I failed, I simply thought that I was failure and gave my back to the process itself, missing the important lessons of what had gone wrong.


“Every success I know has been reached because the person was able to analyze defeat and actually profit from it in the next undertaking” William Moulton Marston


Either for positive or for negative outcome not all steps in a process are what bring about the result. It might be that it was only one step that delivered the result. By omitting to purposely analyze, success and failure become sort of random “lucky strikes”.


How can we analyze processes? Simple, ask questions.


Those who may know me personally and know that I have a checklist almost for everything, may be surprised to know that I did not have a checklist for the most important part of it all, my own life.


I started with some simple questions in my list, which I am about to share, and then the list has been shifting and improving for more insightful and strategic questions.


The point is, these questions work for me, you may come up with different ones, of course, which I would appreciate if you shared with me. Here are mine:


♠Enlist the steps of the given process.

♠What was the best step of the process? Why?

♠What was the worst step of the process? Why?

♠Was there something new I incorporated in my doing? Did it work? How can I improve it?

♠What was the result of the process?

♠How did I feel about the process?

♠Did I plan enough each step? Why not/yes?

♠Is there anything I can do better?

♠What was that I did not see until after the process took place? Could I have foreseen it in advance?

♠Is there anyone outside the process I can ask feedback from?

♠Is there anyone within the process I can ask feedback from?

♠Are there points other people saw that I was blind to? Why was I blind to them?

♠Has the process terminated?

♠What did I learn?

♠What would I change/improve next time?


I carry these questions handwritten in the back of my datebook, I usually take the time to make notes on paper (Besides writing is cathartic for me, it provides clarity to my own mental reasoning). Sometimes it is not possible, I simply make notes in my phone or in my computer whatsoever.


Since I incorporated this “simple” habit, it has taught me a lot about myself. Taking a forensic look at actions and important moments in our life, makes us deliberately aware and amplifies future positive results.


When to take notes? Well, the faster the better, because we do not lose sight of all the process.


Before any mental celebration or mourning takes place, I sit down and scrabble my fresh thoughts. I answer objectively as if I were seeing someone else. After that, I allow myself to feel whether happy, calm, disappointed, eager of whatever the emotion.  After a few days I come back to my notes and re-read them. There the learning process begins.


 “It is the capacity to develop and improve themselves that distinguishes leaders from followers” Bennis and Nannus


Finally, take time to invest in yourself, know yourself, grow yourself. It is not that other people around you or the world change, it is us who change so we allow new energy to flow our way.


You may be wondering why the picture of John Maxwell…well, when you listen to John he talks about his mistakes and failures so openly and he always urges everyone to accept failure. Not because he wants us to be losers, not at all. John is a man of excellence, a leader of leaders. On the other hand, he knows that failure happens more often than success. Also it is about how we learn from the life experiences what will set us apart as human beings and as leaders. How we behave after success and how we pick ourselves after failure.


For each time we want to come outside our comfort zone, the effort will be bigger, larger, different to the one time before, but it will be worth it. We need to be prepared to incorporate feedback and learning to grow from within. The faster we do it, the more effective and assertive we will become.


When we stop at failure, we are losers, when we stop at success we are doomed to be stuck in life. We need to keep on moving forward outgrowing ourselves mentally, spiritually and physically to be better human beings. Keep on climbing our Mount Everest or running the next 42k, whatever the challenge do not be discouraged by setbacks, go on, move forward one step at the time.


“Small differences over time create a big difference! Improvement is achieved in inches not giant leaps” John C. Maxwell.


At last but not least, let me recommend you a book that kept my feet on the ground this week and I also enjoyed so much as a great silent travel partner, here it is: “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn”


I hope you have an amazing and productive week/day, Eli