Do you ever feel that all the sides of your Wellness Wheel are going flat? Some days it can sure seem that way…. Of course, we know that’s generally not the case even if that’s the way it feels.
As we’ve discussed before, there are so many dimensions to wellness – physical, emotional, spiritual, social, occupational, intellectual, financial, and environmental – and if any of them are lacking it can affect our overall wellness. When we’re trying to make wellness improvements, sometimes we feel we have to address everything at once, especially if we feel our ‘wheel’ has multiple ‘flat spots’. Unfortunately when we do that, we can quickly become overwhelmed and give up on our wellness endeavors.
One way to combat this is to choose one thing at a time to concentrate our effort on. A single small change can help us in so many ways:
- It can help us develop self-efficacy. As we discussed in Monday’s post, self-efficacy is, basically, believing that we can be successful. If we choose a small change that we can consistently be successful with, it gives us the confidence to take the next step.
- We don’t feel as overwhelmed by one small change. Being able to concentrate on just one thing at a time frees us of the feeling that we have to juggle too many balls at once.
- Once we’re able to consistently implement that one change, we can then look at the next thing we want to work on. The key is to choose small, do-able steps and build on them. Because the changes are building on one another, the discomfort that comes with change won’t be as noticeable.
- Gradual changes allow us to build a foundation for wellness that we can stick with. Because we’re not trying to make a bunch of changes all at once we’re able to stick with the changes we are making.
At this point, you may be asking, “But how do I decide which change to implement first?”. Using a decision matrix might be helpful for this. A matrix can help you get the most ‘bang for your buck’ by narrowing down what you should tackle first.
If you’re not familiar with a decision matrix, it’s basically a way to narrow down your best options by assigning each possible decision a numerical value based on whatever criterion you decide. Here’s an example
For each potential change (left-hand column), go through each criteria and assign them a number. Since we have 5 criterion listed here, we’d give each criteria a score of 1-5, 1 being lowest and 5 being highest, except for those where there’s an inverse relationship. For example, if we used the criteria of Difficulty or Work Involved, we would give the harder or more demanding changes lower scores because the ones that required less work or were less difficult would be more desirable. Once numbers have been assigned for each criteria, we total them and annotate that total in the SUM column. These numbers can help us narrow down which changes we should target first.
The criterion listed in the example are not necessarily the ones you would want to use – what’s important to each person varies. Some other criterion you might want to consider might be things such as time, fit (how the proposed change fits you and your personality), cost, etc. The criterion included should be the ones that are important to you.
We live in a ‘fast food’ society. We want everything to happen quickly for us, whether it’s getting our food at the drive-thru, losing weight quickly when we start to reduce our calorie intake, or seeing immediate results when we start to do things differently. Most of the time, though, as the old saying goes, “slow and steady wins the race.”
Making one small change and building on it over time helps us move forward at a steady pace and improve our wellness step by step.
Have you had success with implementing small changes over time? What helped you the most? Please share!