Tortoise Trumps Hare When It Comes To Getting Sustainable Results

Small, incremental changes lead to lasting change

Picture this – you are working with an (incredible!) mindset coach. Together, you define one of your goals as carving more ‘you’ into your life. Your coach suggests you try building a meditation habit and asks you to report back your experience at your next coaching session.

She suggests you download the Insight timer app and do two minutes of breathwork each day. ‘Two minutes?’ you scoff and settle in for an hour meditation, twice a day (which is short-lived).

If you are a bit (or a lot!) of an overachiever, chances are that when you think about starting something new, you go BIG! Welcome to the world of the hare.

Whether it’s exercising, meditating, a new program, a way of eating – whatever – you’re unlikely to just start small.

And with that comes the risk of an ‘all or nothing’ approach.

I find this with clients all the time – they want to incorporate some meditation or a new habit into their routine. (Meditation and embodiment is a common one because this is something we cover in their coaching).

They also have far too many things on the to do list and the daily routine already, to be throwing in an hour (or 2!) of meditation a day. Unless of course they want to become a yoga teacher, but I can’t say I’ve ever had one of those cross my client books!

So the trap is biting off more than you can chew. Or going hard but not making it sustainable.

I used to see this all the time with people doing an 8- or 12-week challenge at a gym when I first started coaching. The gym would ask me to do a ‘mindset session’ as part of the Challenge.

And I’d find out that these women were working out for 2+ hours per day, 6 times per week and of course they were smashing the challenge! (And also eating something crazy like a measly 1200 calories daily 😱). This is a classic case of the hare wanting results and wanting them NOW. But it’s (almost always) unsustainable and would mostly end up with the person losing all their gains over time and going back to old habits. *Hare crashes and burns*.

Pacing yourself and starting small (hello, tortoise) is always going to be more sustainable than going hard and then giving up.

It’s like the person at the gym who always gives up before the end of a set / time. If they didn’t worry about doing a 12 week challenge, and instead just committed to finishing the set / time on every exercise (maybe an extra 10 secs of work per exercise), they’d be likely to get better outcomes in the long run. In this way, tortoise trumps hare for sustainable long-term changes every time.

So what I say to clients is to:

  • start small
  • make it a no-brainer to get done; and
  • get consistency in their routine with doing that first

Then if they want to ramp up gradually from there, they can. But it’s way better to feel like you’re making progress, than to feel like you’re ‘failing’. They never are failing, but they will always feel like they are.

Atomic Habits is an incredible read for making little, sustainable habits and seeing incremental changes that lead to big results.

Health and fitness is often a big reflection of how someone tackles change.

Eg I’m going to work out 5 x days per week for an hour each day.

Well, you’re actually probably not if you’re super-busy running a business; you’re not currently exercising; you have to run kids around; you’re in charge of the majority of the home duties and so on.

So remember that tortoise trumps hare every time, when you’re looking for sustainable and lasting results. You might start with 15 mins 3 x per week walking while listening to something you love instead. And building from there.

Or walking and THEN having your coffee at your favourite café.

Here’s another tip – do it after something you already do every day. Before you open your computer; as soon as you shut down for the day; when you get out of bed and put your walking gear on immediately; meditating after your shower or as soon as you get up, and so on.

Be specific:

  • what time and in what place you will do it?
  • can you stack it with a habit that is already part of your day?

If you’re more hare than tortoise you might be overdue for some sustainable results. You might like some of the tips, insights and blog posts that I share in The Lowdown. That’s code for my weekly newsletter- if you’d like to subscribe head here and receive a bonus ‘7 Shortcuts To More Time & Less Stress‘.

Kylie x

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