A Gift Every Day

avatar of @tarazkp
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5 min read

It is almost that time of year again - the Christmas calendar time of year. My wife is far more Christmassy than I am, but one of the traditions I do enjoy is the advent presents we get for Smallsteps, though it is getting harder and more expensive than it has been in previous years. We started doing the small present every day of December after moving into this house, where they really were very small things, with a couple "larger" gifts interspersed, with large still being quite low value, but slightly higher than for example, a lollipop.

What we have done in previous years though is to wrap and number each present and each day Smallsteps would find and then open one, excited more by the process than anything that was actually inside. This year however, we aren't very organized, which means that last night I went and bought a Christmas stocking and a couple small things to tide us over until we can get to the shops and buy the rest.


The first gift is something I really hope she will use, not only because it is likely also going to be the most expensive of the gifts - a 2023 calendar. There is a small space for each day in there which would normally be used for scheduling, but I am hoping that she will write a few words about what she did that day and I think I will give her some ideas to make it more interesting for her, where for example, she can add one word that sums up a particular day, rather than just listing what she has done.

Whatever she does with it though, she has already expressed interest in wanting to do this, though it has been in random books and on scraps of paper. Having it in a purpose-built single place should help her though and will hopefully keep her engaged. What I plan on doing though is making some kind of routine around filling it each day, which means I am going to have to put it into my calendar too, otherwise we will both let it slide.

I delivered a session today to a group of colleagues who are professionals and very experienced in what they do, but who have some trouble integrating some new internal processes into their existing ways of working. A common problem. One of the arguments is that it doesn't come across as natural when they try, which means that they feel inauthentic when delivering what isn't comfortable. However, as I reminded them, isn't this always the issue when changing our behavior, aren't we always uncomfortable?

Being uncomfortable seems to be seen as a negative and will lead to worse results, when actually, it can break habits that aren't working but feel they are instead. Just because what we are doing is comfortable, it doesn't we should be doing it, nor does it mean that we are getting the best results we can get. And, this is the case no matter how much experience we may have.

I think professionals find it harder to make changes to their professional processes, not because there is less to change or low value in the changes, but because they have not only built up experience and muscle memory, but also get emotionally attached to the way they do things. One of my colleagues for example, said that sometimes he feels that there is too much focus on process, but not enough on results, but didn't seem to see the "irony" in what was being said. If the results were good enough, it would mean that the processes are good enough. However, if the results aren't good enough, it means that the processes will need to be changed to affect results, or at least, bring consistent results.

Good process doesn't guarantee good outcomes, but good process will on average outperform random approaches, but building good processes isn't comfortable. This is especially true when we have attached our identity to the way we do things, because even if we have the desire to change, the process of change doesn't feel like "us" - it is clunky and unnatural and our body signals to us that we should go back to what we know.

What we know.

It can be quite different to what we should do, can't it?

But, we can overcome some of the discomfort f there is enough desire to change or, get better results. This is a challenge in the workplace because a lot of people tend not to take the results they get in the workplace, as personal results. It is almost like when people act at work, they disconnect themselves from what they are doing, as if it is something separate from who they are. This is an interesting situation though, because if they are doing this, it essentially means that they should also be able to make any change to the process without being personally connected to what they are currently doing, but that is not the case.

This disconnection where people feel that their work processes is theirs, but the results they get are the company's, is part of the reason there is so much resistance to change in workplaces. But, if there is a good change process implemented, the two positions get discussed and the integration of change affecting results is far smoother, but it means creating that desire for change, which is the "what's in it for me?" position.

Unfortunately, unlike for Smallsteps, there isn't a daily prize for doing the right thing or making changes and in general, the changes in the workplace are more gradual, so they don't have a large payoff of result that is immediately attributable to the changes in behavior. However, they do have an impact and even small shifts in our processes can have a large impact on the outcomes we are looking to accomplish, not only for the organization, but also for the individual. Getting there might not be comfortable.

A bit at a time.

This is the way valuable personal change happens, where small steps consistently and repeatedly will lead onto the kinds of changes that will not only help improve our outcomes, but also become habit, become routine - feel like us.

I remember learning to drive and how the first time I was on the road and trying to steer, clutch, change gears, brake and indicate all within the space of 50 meters felt like an impossible task. I remember the discomfort and a type of fear as to how unnatural it was and that feeling that I will never be able to get it right. But, a few hours of practice later, it felt like I had been doing it my entire life - driving was just something I could do thoughtlessly.

Everything we do is process based, whether we know the processes or not, but if we want to get better results, we may have to force it to begin with, become uncomfortable again, or perhaps for somethings, for the first time. While we al want to get better results, what is good to remember is that the results look after themselves, all we can really affect is the way we work toward them.

I am hoping Smallsteps will onboard writing into her daily routines because I think if she does it well, every day she will find new ways to tweak her processes and improve her own results.

A gift every day.

I believe that having habits that facilitate continuous improvement, is one of the most valuable personal processes we can build and it is far more than just learning something new each day.

Valuable doesn't mean comfortable.

Taraz [ Gen1: Hive ]

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