Changing the World By Making Your Bed
How starting with small improvement trumps transformational change
Hey, my name is Tristan Hood and I love helping leaders and teams find new and better ways of managing work. I believe continual, organic change is far superior to large transformation, unless absolutely necessary of course. As such, I created this blog with the intent to share my experiences, wins, and losses. In today’s tidbit, I wanted to talk about how small, incremental changes lead to the consistency required to change the world.
Take a Small, Sustainable Step
During one of my training sessions on the subject of Kanban and its principles of change management, I had a student in the class push back on Principle 1: Start with what you do now. The way I word the principle it in the class is, "You don't have to stop working to start using Kanban." The heart and soul of this principle, at least for the way I teach and coach, pays tribute to the sheer difficulty of behavior change. Hundreds of hours, if not thousands, are devoted to the topic of change management, not because it's super easy to do, but because we humans are fairly staunch about continuing to follow the beliefs hard-wired into our brains.
In the aforementioned session, the student pushed back by saying, "If the ways you work currently are not efficient, why would you NOT want to fix all of them?" My response was, as you can probably guess, "Because change is difficult."
In my experience as a coach, and in my time as a human on this beautiful Earth, I have seen first hand what happens when people try to "just fix it all." New Years Resolutions immediately come to mind, where I list the bad habits I want to change and then, using nothing but sheer will power, I go about trying to keep the streak alive for the "new me." I don't know about you but, typically around March or April, I am wondering what went wrong with my perfectly plotted change initiative. This is the main reason I left resolutions behind years ago. (My 2014 resolution was no more resolutions. Who knew that one would work the best, haha.)
Rock Hard Abs in 24 Hours
Here's a quick story I learned from Simon Sinek.
Imagine for a moment you want to get in shape. The idea of a six pack of washboard abs is too good to pass up. You decide to start working out and, on day one, you go to the gym and spend nine hours working out. Later that day you get home and lift up your shirt excited to see the result of your labor, only you see absolutely no change. Disgusted with the utter failure of your change effort, you decide the exercise plan was a failure, as well as that fitness coach you hired. Your abdominal muscles never had a chance.
Instead, what if you started with consistently making your bed?
Changing the World by…Making My Bed?
The truth is, we often overlook the very small, mundane improvements we could be making in our lives in order to get the big bang changes that seem more visible. Dr. Jordan Peterson talks about this when discussing why so many people are drawn to the issues of Climate Change and other large scale social issues. Those are definitely problems that are worthy of our attention, but the methods we choose to try and make an impact are often large scale, unsustainable resolution type actions. I am, on the other hand, a big proponent of starting small with, perhaps, making my bed and cleaning my room.
“But Tristan, how in the world is cleaning my room going to fix climate change.” I’m so glad you asked. The reason this advice worked so well, for me at least, is because the small, seemingly insignificant act of consistently making my bed and cleaning my room over the last 10 years positively changed the way I lead every aspect of my life. I start every day off with a win. I’m more organized. I instantly relax at the end of the day when my sleep domain is clean and ready for sleep. I get better sleep, which in turn helps me remain sharp throughout the day. This created a domino effect that I felt in every interaction throughout my day. The confidence gained by having consistently created order in a small domain enabled me to replicate that order in other areas of my life.
Now imagine other people started experiencing this same confidence.
If we believe the issues of global import are the result of millions of people making millions of interactions and decisions, it makes sense that, if each of those millions of people start making consistent positive changes in areas they control, global change organically follows. As hard as it is for most people to believe that cleaning your room can lead to a cleaner environment, perhaps another example from my experience.
One other thing I started doing about five years ago was to routinely spend time organizing and participating in cleaning my local community. Armed with the confidence of having my own organized space, I decided to start getting involved in a slightly larger area of my life. That’s one small step in a large issue, but my footprints over that time have caused an impact. What could happen if 30 people did the same. How about 30 million?
Landing the Plane
I envision a world where each of us can grow into the full potential God has for us. I choose to talk about things like Kanban, strategy, and process improvement because those are things I understand. Through that, I secretly hope to help myself and others in all aspects of life as we take these principles and practices and integrate them.
Starting with the things I do now and making small changes may not win me a Nobel Prize. It may not change the climate or give me a six pack of abs in the next few weeks, or months. It will, however, be sustainable and lead to the kind of consistency that my future self will adore. It’s always fun to be on the other side of complexity, looking back at what you’ve accomplished. That starts by taking small steps.
One last example.
It’s November, 2022. One year ago, to the day, I made the decision to start writing this blog. I want to eventually write a book with all the cool experiences I have had in helping people reach their full potential, but I knew in order to do that I would need to become a writer. In order to become a writer, I needed to spend time putting my thoughts into the world. I challenged myself to write a short email and send it to a small group of friends. Hardly the makings of a best seller. But, as I look back over one year of writing this blog, while I have missed a few weeks along the way, I am proud of the consistency I have learned. Some of you may be on the front side of your next journey. If I leave you with one thought I want that to be…take the first small step.
Until next time,
Keep on learning, keep on growing.
Yes, compound interest provides much better results than once in a lifetime opportunity.