Written by Doctor G

Something is better than everything

Hi! Better

In medicine we learn to look for incremental gains. Yesterday on the Think Tank on Resilience one of our guest experts, Mary Beth Levin, pointed out that in the public health field “harm reduction” is not just helpful, it’s the goal. That’s because we’re never going to eliminate diabetes or asthma or HIV but we can and should work to decrease it. We spoke about the idea that “some changes are better than no changes” in terms of moving towards a goal. And that’s an idea that I bet is familiar. 

Further, we talked about the obstacle people try to throw in the way of progress (usually our own progress) by saying “Well, if I can’t do something fully it would be hypocritical or pointless to try it at all. I hate to disagree with Yoda, but there is, actually,  “try” and it’s pretty valuable. For example, if you’re working to improve internal communication in your organization and you send out a daily roundup email of where each project stands on Monday and Tuesday, but forget Wednesday, the first two were still useful. Especially if you pick it back up Thursday. Or the following week. And if you try something that doesn’t work, you’ve learned from that as well. If you put on sunscreen some of the time that you’re outside it IS better than never using it.

So changing a behavior – even when you’re not sure you can be consistent – still has value. 

The big idea I want to propose is that incremental gains can be even more valuable than a huge, all-of-a-sudden shift in behavior. 

If you make a big change all at once you don’t give your own brain – or anyone else’s – the chance to adjust. And that change, as we’ve talked a lot about in this community, feels to your brain like a threat. Small shifts in behavior towards a big goal will often be bettertolerated by us and our people than a huge shift. 

So, to recap: 

Small changes are more practical, more tolerable and often more successful than big shifts.

When I put it that way it sounds obvious, right? What’s a shift you’ve been considering or trying to make that could be more successful if you made it smaller? Comment and tell me!

All my best,

Dr. G

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