Incremental Growth: Your Key to Sustainable Personal Development




The single biggest obstacle to your self-improvement—whatever it is you hope to achieve—is you! I know that’s a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s true. You are impatient and want progress right here, right now. But the real magic happens when you let go and embrace incremental growth and its slow and steady ways.

Boring, I know. You want to be the hare and leave the tortoise in its tracks. Yet that ancient fable has lasted the test of time for good reason. And that reason is simply because we, as humans, are utterly flawed and oh-so-easy to forget.

Yes, we know we need to be patient and grow with grace, not pace.

But it’s so boring and we just want to have what we want to have right now.

  • Lose weight
  • Get fitter
  • Make more money
  • Reclaim more time
  • Mediate like a Buddhist master
  • Be healthier than ever!

Self-improvement takes on many forms and chances are you want to progress in several areas right now. This is fine, my friend… you can and will continue to rise up and leap from one challenge to the next.

Yet the constant you need at all times, no matter what, is incremental growth.

Not because taking your time is fun. But because it’s necessary.

Like a wonderful whiskey, you need to slowly mature. There’s a process, and that process does not give a damn about your desired timeline. You can rush it, sure… but wanna know what happens when you do?

This ??

Incremental Growth 1

Is that what you want? Do you desire to be Whiskey’s version of a Fosters?

Of course not… you want to slip down the throat in elegant style like this beauty…

Incremental Growth 2

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      incremental growth: how small steps lead to giant gains

      I’m afraid to say you face an uphill battle because today’s hustle culture doesn’t like to promote slow and steady.

      Everywhere you go you’re bombarded with miracle cures that promise you riches, wealth, the perfect body and so much more (in 30 days or less!).

      (instant results or a full-money-refund)

      You know it’s ridiculous and you know it is all a lie. Yet you’re busy. And you have so many things you would like to improve upon. And this desire only grows as you scroll through Instagram and peek into the lives of those seemingly perfect people.

      Again, you know it’s silly… but we are human and we are silly.

      emotional. fragile. insecure. imperfect bags of meat.

      Incremental Growth 3

      We get caught up in the hype and quickly grow restless. So we commit to the latest diet, trend, or fad… soon giving up when those promises aren’t met. Sure, we’re committed to self-improvement and to becoming our best selves. Yet when we step back and find the time to have an honest conversation with ourselves… we realize we too often spend our precious time skimming the surface.

      Whereas the real gems are those deep underground.

      A mile deep is where you must go. But to get a mile deep takes time. It requires patience. It’s fueled by faith, belief, perseverance, and grit. Not books. Not the latest course. Not the person with charisma that ignites your insides with hope.

      Once you accept this… ney, embrace it, the journey becomes much easier.

      the impact of incremental growth on your self-improvement

      The best dishes—and definitely the best drinks—are those that slowly stir to life.

      My favorite tipple, whiskey, gets better the longer it ages. The same is often true for wine and many other spirits. You can rush the process yet it results in a bitter taste that lingers long in your mouth—not in a good way, either.

      So many of your favorite foods taste better when they take their time to mature.

      From cheeses to meats, slowly cooked stews, and sauces that bubble for hours… time is one of the most overlooked ingredients in the kitchen. In almost all cases, you can rush the process. But all it results in is an underwhelming result.

      The same is true for you and your personal growth. From losing weight to revolutionizing your morning routine, you can choose to take your time.

      This is what happens when you do and all incremental growth to do its thang

      • It allows you to approach the challenge in a more manageable and less overwhelming manner.
      • You get to spend more of your time reflecting on the progress you make, iterating and adapting your plan along the way.
      • You lessen the risk of burnout and injury.
      • You improve the chances of prolonged motivation.
      • It gives you the time to actually develop habits that last the test of time.
      • It empowers you to build momentum that doesn’t flame out.
      • It encourages a growth mindset and the belief that progress is possible, no matter how small the steps may be (or how long the process takes).

      Incremental growth is the difference between sustained success and fabulous failure. We see it in the business world as companies grow too big too soon. Sure, the money flows in for a short while, but without the right foundations, it crumbles to the ground at some point.

      The same logic applies to you and your pursuit of personal progress.

      Yes, you can make massive strides in a short amount of time. But if you don’t have the foundation to support it, the cracks soon form. Whether that comes in the form of burnout, injury, decreased motivation, or whatever else… you end up back at the start line pursuing the next “thing” you can distract yourself with.

      Whereas focusing on a slow and steady approach that rewards incremental growth removes all the pressure and strain of having to do so much PLUS bit by bit lays a foundation that can carry a greater load. It doesn’t matter what your goal may be, this approach is always the approach!

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      So how do you do this? How do you implement incremental growth?

      It’s a rather simple process…

      1: get clear on your goal/focus

      Look, I get it. There are many things you want to do and so many you could do. I too have an endless list of personal improvements, dreams, and visions of what could be. Yet it’s important to remember you are a human being.

      You are not some AI-driven robot. You have limitations. At any given time, you can only do so much. That isn’t to say you cannot focus on more than one thing at once… the point here is to question whether you should.

      In most cases, it’s better to focus on just one or two goals/areas of growth.

      If it helps, write a long list of things you’d like to do. 

      But then prioritize this list and choose the ONE area you’d like to begin.

      This is where the power of habits comes in; specifically, the role of Keystone Habits

      I first came across these in The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. They are basically the foundational habits that govern other habits, routines, and processes. 

      For example, you may wake up and brush your teeth first thing each morning, which in turn leads you to floss, wash your face, comb your hair, etc…

      Brushing your teeth acts as a keystone habit, igniting the process of so much more.

      When it comes to embracing incremental growth, it helps to keep the big picture in mind. Are there existing keystone habits you can utilize to make progress easier? If you want to make lots of improvements over the next year, what’s the one area that you’ll either find easier to get started and/or will help spark a chain reaction?

      2: start VERY small

      Once you’re crystal clear on your goal and what you want to achieve, you need to get started with one ridiculously small step.

      For example, let’s say you want to get into meditation and attend an intense meditative retreat in six months’ time. It’s a daunting process, yet one you can make much easier by waking up tomorrow and committing to just 30 seconds.

      That’s it.

      You can create a more detailed plan and timeline if you like. But all that can come later. To start with, all you need to do is START. 

      Just don’t complicate this new beginning. Make it as simple as you possibly can.

      • Want six-pack abs? Start with five sit-ups!
      • Want to run a marathon? Start with a walk around the block!
      • Want to wake up at 5 am? Set the alarm to go off five minutes earlier!

      The reason we so often fail is because we set ourselves up to do so. We try to do too much too soon. This is fine for the first few days because you’re motivated and committed. Yet you have to think about how you’ll feel in a few weeks.

      Starting small helps in this regard, especially when you combine it with step three…

      3: focus (and commit to) effort & progress

      I learned this from James Clear and his advice to start small and commit to incremental progress each day.

      Using the example above, you start day one with 30 seconds of meditation. On day two, you add an extra five seconds to the total. Then, on day three, another five seconds—and so on until you reach five minutes.

      The same applies to your pursuit of the perfect six-pack.

      You start day one with five sit-ups … on day two, you do six sit-ups … then seven on day three … and on and on until you reach twenty sit-ups.

      You can keep going up, or alternatively, turn your attention to press-ups…

      • on day one you do 20 sit-ups + 5 press-ups
      • on day two you do 20 sit-ups + 6 press-ups
      • on day three you do 20 sit-ups + 7 press-ups
      • and so on…

      Each day, you focus on two important aspects: 1) Commitment, and 2) Progress.

      It isn’t about if you’re as far along the road as you would like to be. All that matters is that you DO the work and DO a little more than the previous day.

      And if you miss a day, that’s fine… just don’t allow one to become two. Get back on the horse and recommit to your growth. Day by day, step by step… keep moving.

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      4: track, celebrate & adapt

      Wanna know why incremental growth doesn’t work for everyone?

      Because many of us forget to track our progress.

      Think about it… the whole point here is to make small, minor steps forward each day. It’s hard to notice any progress because any you make is tiny at best.

      If you don’t track this, it’s easy to appreciate any you do make.

      So before you commit to day one, make a commitment to commit to measuring your progress each day. Start a spreadsheet. Use some kind of tracking app. Mark it in your calendar. It doesn’t matter how you track your progress… just do it!

      If you do, you give yourself the gift of appreciating the steps you’re making.

      Whereas if you don’t, you’ll quickly lose motivation and drift off course.

      But there’s something else at play here because measuring your progress also…

      1. Highlights key milestones so you can celebrate them
      2. Discover issues and struggles so you can adapt and iterate

      Let’s take that meditation example from earlier…

      Because you only add five seconds to the total each day, it’s easy to lose sight of the progress you make. But if you mark this down in an app like Headspace each day you quickly recognize how well you’re doing.

      It also SHOWS you when you hit your first major milestone of five minutes, which is a point to step back and celebrate your accomplishment. Because you deserve it. Whatever growth you pursue, you deserve to enjoy the process.

      Don’t overlook these milestones. Celebrate them.

      Beyond this, take the time to reflect on what is and is not working. No journey of growth comes easy and each one is full of surprises. Tracking your progress shows you this, giving you the power to adapt and iterate where needed.

      Maybe your mediating environment isn’t working… so switch it up.

      Maybe you have better results in the evening… so double down on that.

      Maybe you find it easier with music rather than guided talking… so do more of that.

      Your path is unique so you have to embrace what works for you. Tracking and giving yourself the time to reflect on your progress ensures you do.

      5: look down the mountain

      This final step is the one you’re most likely to overlook.

      It’s a real issue in the personal growth space and something I struggle with.

      You know it well, I’m sure… you commit to a goal and then as soon as you achieve it, you move on to the next thing.

      Don’t do this. When you achieve something, take the time to not only celebrate it but also back down the mountain and learn from the experience.

      This is one of the biggest benefits of incremental growth; it literally guides you along a path that clearly points out what does and does not work. But when you’re living life and caught up in all the stuff you have to do, it’s easy to miss it.

      So when you reach the end, give yourself the time to THINK.

      Think about the journey… Think about what you did and did not like… Think about the struggles… Think about the joys… Think about the lessons you’ve learned.

      Committing to this final step ensures your future personal growth is easier. Because it’s all linked. Nothing you do is in isolation. The constant at all times is YOU. So the more you learn about you & your ways, the better you can approach… everything!

      final thoughts & next steps

      You are on a beautiful journey, my friend. But the current goal you pursue is just one in a sea of them. This is your life and so long as you intentionally live it, you will spend your time on this planet growing and evolving.

      You don’t need to rush this.

      Hell, you can’t — there’s just too much at stake for you to push too hard too soon.

      Take your time. Enjoy the ride. Focus on small steps that build strong foundations. Incremental growth like this is the secret to success (whatever that is to you).

      This starts by getting clear on what you need to pursue right now.

      Have a long list by all means, but make sure you prioritize it. Then, choose the one you feel you need to do in the here and now and give it your all. Start small and commit to consistency… focus on strong foundations, not fleeting fantasies.

      And remember that this is all about you and your journey.

      Forget all that noise and quit comparing yourself to others. Just keep your eyes in front and make one intentional step forward after another.

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        hi, i’m turndog and I wrote this article … i am a writer, ghostwriter, anti-hustler & a guy on a mission to ensure you too escape the hustle — come be part of the [no hustle] movement

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