The linoleum-tiled room filled with laughter. As I looked around at the 16 faces in our circle of chairs, I saw nods of recognition and smiles. We were halfway into my workshop, Self Care 101, and I had just asked the moms in the room a question.
What can you say "no" to to be able to say "yes" to what brings you life?
One mom had just volunteered her answer.
"This might be a little thing, but I'd like to say 'no' to my phone when I wake up, and 'yes' to in-bed devotions, which is something I just made up."
"What difference would it make in your life if you could do that regularly?" I asked.
"I think I would be a game-changer to focus on God first thing," she replied, "But I'm setting the bar pretty low for myself here."
When it comes to setting goals for yourself, do you aim high or low?
Do you tend to bite off more than you can chew?
A secret to making change
When it comes to making change in your life, it's easy to think you have to "go big or go home". You've been stuck in one way of doing (or not doing) something for so long. It's going to take a massive overhaul to make something happen, right?
Setting a low bar for yourself might actually be the best plan for success.
In my certification training, we learned to coach clients to only set action steps that are 90% do-able. Even if that means the bar's set pretty low, a small step a client is 90% sure she can achieve is WAY better than a huge leap she is only 40% confident she can do.
Why is that?
Your brain on 'reward'
Using the 90% rule allows your brain to feel the reward of trying new things.
When you commit to, then DO, something that's a bit of a stretch, yet 90% do-able, your brain releases dopamine. As author Monica Mehta puts it, "When dopamine flows into the brain's reward pathway (the part responsible for pleasure, learning and motivation), we not only feel greater concentration but are inspired to re-experience the activity that caused the chemical release in the first place."
Does that make sense?
The flow goes like this:
Commit to a do-able step -> Do it --> Feel great --> Your brain : "Yay! Let's do it again!"
Commit to a pie-in-the-sky-step --> Fail --> Feel disappointed --> Your brain: "This stinks. I give up."
The mom who committed to in-bed devotions? I'm thinking she has a much better chance of being successful than if she'd said, "I want to wake two hours earlier, pray for 30 minutes, start a new exercise routine, and have a hot breakfast on the table by the time my twins wake up."
Committing only to what is 90% do-able will help you experience small successes and want to build on them.
1) Think about ONE area of life where you might be biting off more than you can chew.
2) Have another go at it with the 90% rule. If you could set ONE action step for yourself that you're 90% sure you can accomplish, what would it be?