There’s a concept that has been in my career and life development arsenal for as long as I can remember. It centers around the idea that all big and beautiful aspirations are manifested by making hundreds of small choices and action steps each and every day. I call it the Cumulative Effect.
As a highly intuitive person (qualified by my Myers Briggs indicator) I figured out along the way that if I wanted to produce a specific result in my life or in my career, I could do that by first creating a visual of what I wanted to achieve and then by taking small steps, consistently, for however long it took. This requires focus, commitment, patience (heavy on the patience), and time. If I remained focused on my end goal, by taking this approach, I could create big results in my life and career.
I’ll give you the highlights, because I know that’s all this group needs to apply the Cumulative Effect in your lives and careers.
How the Cumulative Effect Works
The truth is big wins are made up of many little wins, many of which will seem so small they’ll feel insignificant. Trust me, they aren’t.
Small steps/choices + Consistency + Time = Significant Success
A new job or promotion, starting your own business, physical fitness, healthy diet, relationships, quitting an unhealthy vice like smoking or alcohol intake, even something as simple as keeping up with your housework all have a cumulative effect.
The Cumulative Effect is always at work; in the small daily choices you make and in the small choices you don’t make.
Here’s where it gets tricky.
Why People Fail with The Cumulative Effect
No Immediate Visible Results
You’re probably not going to experience visible results right away with the small steps or choices you take on repeat.
For example, if you’re just starting a yoga practice, it’s going to take a lot of classes over a long period of time to develop your knowledge of the postures as well as the flexibility and strength so you can enjoy even an advanced beginner practice.
Although the physical results take time, the mental clarity will be achieved in your very first class. That was enough to keep me going when I first started back in 1995. Eventually, as I became more familiar with the postures, I began to experience the physical benefits as well as the mental but it took a couple of years.
No Immediate Gratification
Like Physical Therapy, taking small, seemingly insignificant steps consistently over time can feel hard, monotonous, and boring and you’re not even sure that it’s working.
Five years ago on the first day of my vacation in the Bahamas, I slipped on some wet tile and went down so hard; I fully dislocated my right elbow! After 2 months of being homebound and moving only when necessary to manage the pain, I started physical therapy.
If you’ve ever done physical therapy to recover from surgery or an injury, you know what I’m talking about here. I did physical therapy for 1 hour 3 times a day for the next 6 months. For the first 5 months, I couldn’t tell if it was working. It was boring, tedious and very frustrating to not see or feel results from all my hard work. Eventually I began to notice the results, albeit small. Results are results.
Easy Can Be Hard
Although taking small steps is as easy as it sounds, it’s hard work to keep at it. Simply put, easy can be easy to blow off.
One of my goals for the year was to read more books. I enjoy reading for pleasure as well as for my work as a coach but for some reason; long periods of time would go by without me reading anything more than magazine articles and blog posts. I started the year with a goal to read a book at least one hour a day 5 times a week. Here’s how it would play out if I applied the cumulative theory.
1 hour a day, 5 times a week X 52 weeks = 260 hours of reading in 1 year
It takes an average of 4-6 hours to read a 200 page book. I’ll round up for this example.
260 hours of reading / 6 hours = 43 books (200 pages each)
When I look at the math, it’s amazing what one hour of reading 5 days a week amounts to when you do the work consistently over time. I’ve never read 23 books in one year let alone 43!
Here’s the thing. I’m not doing it consistently. It’s easy to blow off. I want to make this my best reading year ever so I’m going to change my plan to 1 hour a day, 3 times a week. If I can stick with my new plan, I’ll still achieve significant results, 26 books!
Consistency is the ultimate key to success.
Take a hard look at your day and the choices you make.
What are you doing now where you’re enjoying the cumulative effect?
What would you like to achieve and begin to make small choices or steps so you can experience more of what you want in work and in life?
You can contact me directly HERE, I’d love to know!
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Sandra is a business and life coach who specializes in helping clients who are craving a change but feel stuck where they are. Sandra helps them discover a new vision of the future and follow through on their ideas with enthusiasm and confidence. With a diverse background that spans more than three decades, Sandra combines her educator’s perspective, business acumen, life coaching skills, and everything she’s learned along the way to help her clients make bold moves that advance them forward in their careers and in their lives. When she’s not working, Sandra loves practicing yoga, traveling, cultural experiences, and enjoying the desert southwest.