Small steps the key to success

How slowing down can speed up progress

21st January 2019

To launch our new blogging platform, Niky Dix, the CEO of Intentional Health – a charity equipping church volunteers to deliver programmes that improve the health and wellbeing of their communities – tells us why you shouldn’t worry too much if your New Year plans for yourself and your organisation don’t go to plan. It could well be a blessing in disguise.

This time last year, I had big, bold “New Year Goals” for Intentional Health - the charity I am privileged to lead. Today, I can honestly say I’m grateful that last year’s big goals didn’t quite go to plan, and here’s why.

Despite being a relatively small charity, we have a big vision to help improve the health and wellbeing of the nation, uniquely through local church partners. Local church volunteers are trained and equipped to deliver our 10-session programme, which provides the facts, frameworks and friendships that support people to make healthier sustainable, lifestyle choices…and not just as part of their New Year’s resolutions!

Evidence shows that three in four people will suffer needlessly or die prematurely because of certain behaviours that lead to lifestyle disease. Yet, with small and consistent changes, these diseases are usually almost entirely preventable. Our charity aims to help reduce the burden on an overstretched NHS, reduce health inequalities and reach those who may be isolated or lonely within the community.

It’s a big ask for a small charity, and as its passionate CEO, I felt a sense of personal responsibility for driving through those ambitions. That’s why the news that I had been blessed to receive an Allchurches Trust bursary enabling Christian leaders to take part in the Windsor Leadership programme came at exactly the right time.

My time in Windsor helped me realise that I was working to achieve my big goals in a way that would eventually compromise my own health and wellbeing. I was far more likely to burn out before I ever reached anything close to my goals for Intentional Health.

When you are writing a programme about looking after yourself and the importance of having life in your years as well as years in your life, this personal realisation did not sit well. I knew I needed a different strategy.

One phrase our facilitator on the programme shared that stuck with me was “having firm ideas held loosely”. I’m still firmly resolute in my plans to achieve those big and bold goals, but I’m holding loosely how I get there.

I knew I needed to focus on the smaller but important steps to make Intentional Health sustainable. I’m now focusing on ‘practicing what we preach’; celebrating smaller steps along our journey and repeating those small steps regularly, because it is repeating small steps that make the biggest differences in creating lasting habits.

Small steps can mean operating at a slower pace, which can be frustrating at times. However, I’m hugely grateful for the lessons this year has taught me. I’m already seeing the rewards in the way our charity’s vision is evolving and I’m far more likely to reach those big goals, but from a much healthier place all round.

So on reflection, yes I would have liked to have brought more church partners on board delivering Intentional Health this past year, but I am so very grateful for the realisation that small is beautiful and worth celebrating. We’re in this for the long haul and I’m confident the journey we’re on as a charity will help us grow our reach and impact beyond even our own initial ambitions.

I hope my story inspires you to celebrate the small steps every day you need to take to ensure you have a healthy “work-life balance” or whatever term you use to refer to how you steward your time and energy levels between work, family and friends. New Year’s resolutions are a great place to start but it’s making changes that are small but sustainable that will help ensure you reach your big goals and have a life worth living in the present too.