I was watching an interview with the Olympic cycling team’s coach following the amazing success of Sir Chris Hoy’s gold medal, and when asked how they continued to make improvements on what was already an outstanding performance, his answer was simple: “Make small changes.”
Sounds easy, doesn’t it? In principal it is. The coach gave examples of these “small changes” – one of which was ensuring good hand hygiene, aiming to prevent the team members from picking up infections, becoming ill or missing training.
Old habits create the same results
This reminded me of a talk I recently attended by another Olympian, Ben Hunt-Davis. Coming up to the Sydney 2000 Olympics, Ben was in the rowing 8’s and the team was consistently coming in 6th or 7th in the world – not a bad achievement for most of us, but they wanted more. They decided that if they continued doing what they had been doing, they would continue to get the same result, so they started to challenge themselves to do things differently. With every decision, they asked themselves one question: ‘Will this make the boat go faster?’ If the answer was no, they didn’t do it. Small changes made a big difference, and they ended up winning gold.
This got me thinking. What small changes could we make in our lives each day that might just make the biggest difference to our outcomes? Making a real effort to smile brightly and say good morning to everyone in the office, regardless of my mood? Sitting up straight at my desk to improve my posture and avoid back pain and fatigue? Taking 10 minutes away from my desk mid-morning and going outside to refresh and re-energise? Committing to give people my full attention when they need me, rather than trying to multitask?
Long-term success: one change at a time
The potential list is endless. It could be changing something regarding my well-being, the way I approach my work, or the way I behave with other people. They key is that each of these things in isolation are small and, simple with minimal effort. They’re just good habits that I can try to embed in my daily routine. It’s important to try not to take on too many changes at once; start with one until it begins to feel like a habit and then look to the next small thing.
Spend the next month or so making a few small changes too – you never know, small changes could make a really big difference. I’m not promising you a gold medal, but you should start to see differences in your health, your performance and the atmosphere and attitude of the people around you. It’s worth a go.