Why It's So Important to Notice Little-by-Little Progress

Why It's So Important to Notice Little-by-Little Progress

If you've ever joined me on Tending List Tuesday (our weekly PowerSheets® accountability check-in!), you've undoubtedly heard me say one thing: it's so important to notice little-by-little progress. Celebrating progress, not perfection, and believing in the power of little-by-little are hallmarks of Cultivate and the PowerSheets process. But why? 

From day-to-day or week-to-week, our goal progress might not look like much. $50 saved here? A 15-minute strength workout there? At that rate, you're not going to have a bulging bank account or muscles after just one day. But after 90 days, with consistency, those small actions and short-term goals WILL have added up to something impressive. You'll have a tidy savings account and some impressive muscles as evidence of your consistency! 

Written goals are like mile markers on a goal-setting highway - they help you track how far you've come and how far you still need to go. And they give you cues to celebrate as you put distance between where you started and where you are now.

This is important, because even as you begin to see progress, if you're only looking ahead (to the stronger muscles or bigger account you want to have), it's easy to get discouraged. If we don't feel like our efforts are adding up, we won't be motivated to continue them. If we DO notice them adding up, we'll be motivated to do MORE of them! The parts of our life we're proud of are way more likely to get attention. What we celebrate, grows!

Research backs up this positive reinforcement loop of habit tracking: "Your brain releases dopamine when you achieve goals. And since dopamine improves attention, memory, and motivation, even achieving a small goal can result in a positive feedback loop that makes you more motivated to work harder going forward." Every step forward makes the next step forward more likely!

You'll see several parts of your PowerSheets goal planner that were designed to take advantage of these powerful brain wirings: 

  • In your Prep Work, you'll mark your starting point in several different areas of your life with the Cultivated Life Evaluation. This will give you a marker against which to track progress.
  • The Good Things section of your Prep Work gets you in the habit of noticing the good. I can't tell you how many times people have commented that they didn't realize how much good there was in a year until they were forced to take stock in their PowerSheets. The setbacks stick out more in our memory, don't they?
  • In your Action Plan pages, you'll write down what success looks like for each of your goals. You also have space to brainstorm the little-by-little steps you'll take to get there.
  • Your Tending List habit tracker gives you a tiny hit of dopamine each time you check a box or fill in progress. Plus, look back at past months to see how your effort has added up!
  • Your 90-Day Refreshes ask you to check in on each area of your life and write down what is working well and where you've made progress in your short term goals. This should be a celebration!

By focusing on progress, celebrating along the way, and working with their brain chemistry instead of against it, PowerSheets users have made incredible leaps forward on the things that matter to them - big and small - over the years. Bank accounts have grown, relationships have blossomed and been restored, bodies have strengthened, businesses have flourished, degrees have been earned, family bonds have tightened... all imperfectly, all little by little.

If this sounds like just what you've been looking for, join us - 2021 PowerSheets are for you! So many of you are also excited about one of our brand-new products, the Little-by-Little Journal. Just like its name suggests, it's a perfect place to record the little-by-little, day-by-day: goal progress, things you're grateful for, daily wins, special memory, great decisions you make, or anything else you want to watch add up over time. The Little-by-Little Journal sold out on Launch Day (WOW - we did not expect that!) and we are so excited to see how so many of you use it in the days to come! 

We'd love to hear: where have you seen consistent, little-by-little progress add up in your life? Tell us in the comments! 

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Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas is Cultivate What Matters' Content Strategist and Writer. With over a decade at Cultivate, Emily loves helping women uncover what matters, set good goals, and live them out with joy. Her free time is spent with her high-school-sweetheart husband and three young kiddos.

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