Baby steps

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Have you ever set yourself a goal you couldn’t achieve? You may have said: ‘Today I’m going to finish my essay!’, only to see the day go by while still not having finished it. It can be frustrating when this happens and this can drain your energy, leaving you exhausted. Now consider a child tasked to complete their homework. If they don’t complete it in the time they expect it to take, they can equally get frustrated and exhausted. Are there any ways around this?

Unlike in Zeno’s paradox, small steps will actually get you to your goal.

One way is to make sure your child (or yourself) does not take the goal to be ‘completing’ their homework. The above example shows that it’s out of our control whether the task is completed. A better goal would be to ‘take a step towards completing’ their homework. You can’t fail to complete taking a step towards your goal. Each completed step may give a sense of achievement, giving your child the energy and motivation to take another step.

Think of it like walking to a distant goal. When you’re far away, you won’t notice the goal approaching, even though you’re walking. However, look down at your feet and you’ll see that you’re making progress with every step. And these steps will get you to your goal. The first case can frustrate you, while you can stay motivated in the second case. Isn’t the only practical thing to do at every moment to take one step towards completing your goal? This approach makes it easier to encourage your children to work on their homework or practice their musical instrument, or to encourage yourself to work on your project.

So don’t go out completing any projects today, but take a few baby steps towards it.