While society awards people for big wins, small wins are key to achieving goals, said an upbeat Hugh Culver during his engaging keynote speech at Salmon Arm’s 2022 Business Forum.
The forum was co-hosted by Salmon Arm Economic Development and Community Futures Shuswap.
Culver, a successful entrepreneur from Kelowna and author of Give Me A Break– the art of making time work for you, emphasized the importance of progress, how research has shown that making progress can create a positive inner life.
“Just be happy with a small win. Have faith that a small win is creating a bit of magic. You start to experience something called progress.”
Culver asked participants at the Salmon Arm forum to rate how proud they are of themselves in four areas of their lives – the four P’s of planning, performance, people and personal.
When asked to put a star beside the one they needed to work on first, ‘personal’ appeared to be at the top of the list for a majority of people. Personal was about how productive a person is at taking care of themselves, from their physical and mental needs to spiritual.
One participant referred to their wish to get fit, to get to the gym regularly.
Culver emphasized the importance of starting small, with something attainable.
The person decided their goal would be to go to the gym one day that week. They decided which day, what time would work for them. They would aim for a small win.
Culver spoke about how the big tasks can create anxiety. He referred to a person wanting to clean up their office but thinking they don’t have time.
“What if you looked for a small win?”
How about setting aside five minutes every Friday to get your desk looking the way you want, he suggested. Try that for a couple of weeks and see where it goes.
“Here’s what I’ve learned about small wins is that once you get that momentum started, you get closer to big wins,” Culver said.
He noted people’s brains get in the habit of thinking one way, the path of least resistance. He spoke about a business owner he was coaching who had asked to delay a meeting with him for an hour. Curious, Culver later asked him why. He said it was because he needed to run to the hardware store and pick up an item the work crew needed. Culver asked why he, the owner and CEO, would be stopping his work, his sales, to do that. He asked if he’d thought of hiring a “go-fer,” someone to do odd tasks.
The owner said that would be too much hassle, he’d have to recruit them, hire them, train them, etc.
That was a habitual way of thinking, Culver said.
Culver asked the owner to do one thing over the next week, to write down the tasks that such an employee could do. Two weeks later, the business owner told him he’d hired someone. How did that happen?
Culver said it was because the man had experienced a small win. He had written down the list and found there were 12 or 14 things such an employee could do. Then he started thinking about how great it would be to have someone like that on his crew. Soon after he went to a party where he was talking to a friend, who told him his son was looking for something to do. The business owner hired him.
Culver spoke about the example of pharmacist he was working with who had a big white board where he’d keep track of things. One square was dedicated to celebration. Each week before his staff meeting he would make sure he had something to celebrate.
Time blocking is a great tool, Culver said, especially for something so positive.
Culver began his talk speaking about his history as a runner and his dream of running the Boston Marathon. However, he had lots of reasons in his head why he couldn’t. But he did a couple of runs and it didn’t feel too bad. So he tried a half-marathon which motivated him to sign up for a qualifying marathon for Boston. He then bought new pair of running shoes and downloaded a training program. The small wins continued. He ended up standing at the start line of the qualifying marathon.
And wondering, “How did I get here? I haven’t run a marathon in 15 years and I’m in my sixties.”
While he didn’t qualify for Boston that time, Culver said he was much more motivated by anticipation than achievement.
“I made progress.”
Culver concluded his speech with a proud testament to small wins.
“Two weeks ago I got the email and I’m going to Boston. I’m going to celebrate my 65th birthday running the Boston Marathon.”
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