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Fifteen-Minute Wins

15-minute wins can be a metaphor for the small daily and weekly wins we make in our lives.

Whenever the task before you seems too big, break it into small, bite-size chunks.  It’s much easier to accomplish small things.  We actually feel in control of small efforts while large undertakings can feel daunting.  The surprising result of small accomplishments?  When added together, small successes can result in big wins.

After decades as a smoker, I decided to quit.  My first attempts were disastrous; I’d eat everything in sight and, at the slightest provocation, light a cigarette.  With each attempt, I gained a few pounds and, in the end, still smoked.  What a failure!

The more I failed, the more I thought about the fact that I liked smoking; I identified myself as a smoker. It turned out that “quitting forever” was too big for me to imagine.  What’s a smoker to do if forever seems impossible?  That’s easy, skip the ‘forever’ part.

Here, then, is the challenge I presented myself: try being a smoker who doesn’t happen to smoke for the next fifteen minutes.  I learned that fifteen minutes was easy which is why I did it for another fifteen.  Fifteen minutes at a time, congratulating myself all the way, I got to an hour, a day, a week and, remarkably enough, more than twenty years!  While it’s now rare for me to think of smoking, in my heart I know I’m a smoker who hasn’t smoked for the past fifteen minutes.  It would never have happened if I’d thought of it as forever. 

How many things in your life seem too big to handle?  Diminish their enormity by pulling them apart and breaking them into tiny efforts, small steps you can accomplish.  .  

Aside from breaking a big task into tiny segments, getting to your win becomes more likely when you change the wording.  “Quit”, “forever”, “never”, even “ex-smoker” were words I eliminated from my thinking.  Instead, I used words of acceptance allowing me to think of myself as a smoker who didn’t happen to smoke right now.  I used congratulatory words.  Rephrase your big task in words that express small efforts.

There are other ways to use fifteen-minute wins.  Are you a nervous flyer?  Think of something you love doing that takes about the same amount of time as the flight and then, during the flight, replay that favorite something.  Whether it’s a rerun of your best tennis win, creating a gourmet meal or playing with your child, play it out during the flight.  For the moments when your angst overshadows your mental video, rerun the mental video in fifteen-minute segments – soon you’ll reach your destination.

My friend, Betty, adapted fifteen-minute wins during some of her more daunting cancer treatments.  When a whole day seemed too much, we agreed she could skip the whole day concept.  Her mantra became, “making it to lunch.”

Breaking just about anything into segments you can manage makes most things possible.