This week I accompanied my husband to his Lasik (vision correction) surgery. It took me back 13 years to my own Lasik experience. Back then, I entered the Laser Eye Center building dependent on thick glasses. Less than 24 hours later, I had 20/15 vision. In less than a day, I went from being unable to read a giant digital clock since age 7, to reading the ingredients on a shampoo bottle.
It got me thinking, if only all development was so quick and noticeable. But that kind of drastic improvement is rare (not to mention expensive and risky).
In the absence of sudden conversions, we’re often blind to our own progress until someone comments, “Hey, have you lost a few pounds?” or “You seem happier.” or “You’re listening better.” One group-coaching participant recently said to a peer, “You seem calmer in meetings.” She didn’t fully appreciate this new way of being until he named it. At the program’s end, she said that his comment was one of the most memorable and affirming moments. When others notice, our improvement becomes more real.
Over the course of a few months with a coach, participants re-invent themselves gradually but certainly. One of the most important things a coach does is hold up the mirror and acknowledge real changes.
One of the greatest gifts we can give others–colleagues, friends, family– is to notice progress aloud. And one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is to notice and celebrate our own incremental improvement.
For most of us, this takes a new way of looking.
Instead of looking for fault, we have to practice noticing the good. One client shared an ingenious practice. When getting a haircut, he closes his eyes until the stylist is finished so he can better appreciate the difference. In this way, he trains his brain to perceive and appreciate improvement.
- Think about something you’ve been cultivating (for the past few weeks, months, or years). How are you different today than when you began?
Can’t think of anything? Start with your 13-year old self and compare it to you today. Notice the improvements that you would struggle to give up.
Look for small things: like eating more greens; taking the stairs; delegating 1 thing that you were holding on to; spending 15 more minutes a day with your kids; going to bed earlier; complimenting your partner; turning off your phone in the evenings; losing your 80s hairstyle, and so on.
- Find one that you feel most proud of, that you would like to continue or deepen. Focus your attention on this improvement & feel gratitude for the change. Take a few breaths and let the feeling of gratitude grow.
For yourself: What improvements do you want to deepen? What do you want to add? How do you want to be in three months? Six months?
For others: Practice noticing positive change in others. When you find something, tell them.
Pay Attention to Your Attention
Neuroscience findings show us that the brain is in constant flux and that we shape our brain with attention.
That is, what we pay attention to grows.
Will you pay attention to your faults or your growth? Which would you like to cultivate?
I’d love to hear what improvements you notice in yourself and others.
Blog: The Power of Incremental Change Over Time by Michael Hyatt