Session 7: Incremental Progress

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You can listen to Pam’s presentation of the session by clicking on play below. 


You can either follow the text in the PDF, or you can follow the Session by scrolling down the page.

Session 7 PDF (opens in new window)

Most of us have had the experience of seeing a child after what seemed like a short time and being astonished at how much they had grown. When we were children, we didn’t really notice that we had gotten an inch taller or gained the pounds that filled out our child’s body. We grew a fraction of an inch a month, not enough to seem important, but to someone who was not there day after day, the difference was significant.

Most of the significant changes in our lives creep upon us, we prepare a CV and realise we have twenty years experience at something. We come to an anniversary of some sort and are amazed at the years that have passed. We perfect our skills in some way and what was once a struggle is now easy.

We become aware of the cumulative effects of our efforts when we complete a project, but all too often we do not notice or acknowledge our incremental progress. We feel we are moving forward when a task is done, before that we just plodding along.

As a coach, you will want to call the client’s attention to their incremental steps, and offer structures that enable the client to detect and celebrate this progress. Books get written one sentence at a time. Fortunes get built one pound at a time; scientific “breakthroughs” are often the result of painstaking daily or hourly observations.

When it is incremental the choice a person is making may be less obvious to them. As an example of how increments add up, studies show that the average American spends 40% of his/her free time watching television. Over an average lifetime, that amounts to ten years. One decade. Was this a choice consciously made?

As you are refi ning your skills as a coach, and as you are taking steps to change and enhance your life, we will be asking you to notice your incremental progress. There are many ways to track your incremental progress. You can track habits on a chart or graph. You can review in your mind at the end of each day and acknowledge what you have done. You can go back and compare where you are now with where you were a month ago.

Coaching Tips


Ask your clients how they want to chart their incremental progress and celebrate the movement they are making with coaching in their lives?


Please ensure that you have read Page 52 and have listened to the MP3 recording before completing the following exercise. Please then post your completed work in the Comment box at the bottom of this page. We recommend that you complete your work in a Word Document so that you have your own copy. Thank you!

One Step at a Time

This is a walking exercise in which you focus on the gentle way in which your foot meets the ground and rises again. With each step you take you are grounding your new ideas about how and what you want to change in your life; that is, you are making your ideas real.

As you move forwards each step will be a step towards making the changes you want to make.

1) Take the First Step

Imagine that you are about to take the first step towards change. Now symbolically take that first step.

2) Walk with Awareness

Bring your total focus to each step that you take. Feel the way that your foot meets the floor, how it completes a step and then rises again. Become totally aware of the way you are walking.

3) Let thoughts go

As you are walking let all other thoughts go. Keep coming back to focussing on your steps.

4) Get Grounded.

Become aware of the earth beneath your feet. The earth supports you every step of the way.

Allow this knowledge to give you the confidence to move forwards in your life. Please reflect and write about your experience. (250 – 500 words)


Please note:

The word counts are intended as a guideline to give you an indication of how much to write.

Where you have relied on additional references please list these at the end of your work. For example:

Coaching with NLP, Joseph O’Connor and Andreas Lages (2004), Chapter 1: What is Coaching? Pages 1 – 13


  1. This simple exercise is a great way of boosting your confidence. The ultimate plan I was making to change my life for the better seemed a lot more daunting before beginning the task. The idea of ignoring the incremental steps I have and will make is very true for me personally. I will not be a more knowledgeable, happier and healthier person anytime soon but all the small steps I make towards it are in fact steps which should be valued even if they seem insignificant.

    At first I noticed that my mind kept flitting back to the end goal and my negativity constantly kept shining true – “How am I going to do that?” “When will I have time”, “I have been saying I was going to do this for so long but haven’t gotten anywhere near my goal yet” and so on. But as I remained walking I began to formulate miniature plans to achieve smaller goals, it made the whole process I want become so much more realistic. The new plans I made were also ideas I had not thought of before, showing that when you remove the negativity and the overwhelmed feeling within yourself you can see better solutions.

    Overall, this exercise is extremely useful and one I will incorporate into my personal life to help me think of new plans and ideas.

  2. I think this exercise is very thought provoking and the physical aspect of walking one step at a time brings meaning to the steps. We tend to look at what we want to achieve and it can be daunting and scary thinking how am I going to do that? It will take forever? But when it is broken down into small steps it feels much more realistic and achievable. The first step is usually the hardest, but easier to take when you think of it in small steps. I think it I very important and motivating to celebrate the small steps.

  3. Session 7; Incremental Progress
    This exercise gave me a feeling of power. The feeling of present moment enabled me to be more conscious and at the same time more in charge of what is going on. As i was taking small steps i felt fully in control of what i was doing . what on the other hand empowered me to take more action. So often we missed the opportunity to take control of our own lives. The mindfulness approach is a really great technique to increase awareness of incremental progress and its impact on our lives.

  4. Incremental progress –

    Practising this exercise over one week made me feel in control, determined, powerful and aware of my surroundings. As a result of this experience, I feel more focused on my goals and objectives. The first step was difficult but with motivated positive self talk I felt the positive flow of energy emerge. When I walk, it’s with purpose, importance and strength and I am mindful of others in my surroundings. These steps and the letting go of negative thoughts and self doubt have allowed me to be more confidant and decisive in my abilities towards my goals and objectives.

  5. my lif7.1 incremental progress,
    it was a great exercise, for me and helped me with many different areas the first and most fatal flaw i have is procrastination , knowledge is pointless unless action is taken, it was great to use the steps to bring my mind to a foucus and also beware how it would jump from idea to idea, and really took practice to keep it on any given thought regardless of effort its a real practice, and also one step a time signifies how all things are achieved and stops me from becoming overwhelmed, and defeated , i enjoyed the awareness of my foot on the cold floor a feeling i had have countless times but not aware of the sensations ,how much i must miss by just running on autopilot in all areas of my life .

  6. I enjoyed doing this exercise as it made me slow down my mind and focus my awareness on the sensations of feeling my feet on the ground. This is a wonderful mindullness practice , and also made me feel more grounded . I find it hard to shut off my brain at times and this helped me , and also showed me how many thoughts I have running around in there , most of them irrelevant and not related to actual reality . I know the exercise was about taking small steps and I did focus on what small steps I would take to achieve my ultimate aim so it was very uselful.

  7. This exercise is right up my street – as yoga teaches us to life in the moment – listening & tuning into our physical , emotional & mental bodies as we practice the various posture & while meditating .. Having a fuller sense do the here & now..
    Doing this exercise promoted the same experience for me .. Being grounded, connected & aware brings a sense of using my intuition which guides me towards my life’s purpose .. Feeling the earth below my feet keeps you grounded , centred and connected with yourself but the beautiful surroundings as I used my senses to heighten the experience , feeling the wind on my face, the vision of the beautiful trees, the sound of the river the smell of the area, the touch of my feet on the ground .. Helping me appreciate less is more.. Never mind Huge bank accounts , fast cars , material luxury items .. I truly believe after my recent ill health that my Health is my Wealth first and foremost and anything else is an added bonus… Taking each day as it unfolds .. I used to love planning way ahead thinking I knew my direction even months away, but now I focus more on the present moment , planning ahead only when absolutely necessary .. It’s way more fun ….

  8. I think at times we get too caught up in the end result and want to get to our goal and that will be the only time we feel like we have achieved it and celebrate. This exercise is a great reminder to take one step at a time and also physically feel like you are taking steps and moving towards your goals. Moving your body in this manner is a great symbol for your unconscious mind also to keep you moving forward. This made me feel more positive and also a reminder to keep the momentum going towards my goal as it a journey to be taken at my own pace and I am not in a race against anybody else! The little celebrations and acknowledgements along the way are essential to keep motivation and to show you how far you have come. The clearing of your mind also while doing the steps, makes sure you are in present and mindful in what you are doing now as it is in the now that we are actually taking the action that will get you to where you want to be.

  9. SESSION 7

    Exercise 1:

    This is a walking exercise in which you focus on the gentle way in which your feet meets the ground and rises again. With each step you take you are grounding your new ideas about how and what you want to change in your life; that is you are making your ideas real. As you move forward each step will be a step towards making the changes you want to make.

    This exercise for me is about grounding oneself in the now. While I had used it very often as a way of feeling present in my own body, I had not used it in the way it’s presented here. Having completed the activity several times to ground new ideas and what I want to change in my life, I found it to be very effective indeed. Usually, I look at the finished result and just go for it. Using each step as my foot touched the ground to represent a new idea or what I want/need to change in my life, focused me on the importance of the process. While life is about balance, it is also about enjoying the journey. The exercise also sends signals to the sub conscious that moving forward step by step at one’s own pace is key. Breaking goals down into sub goals is always very effective and these goals will act as sign posts to identify what has actually been achieved to date and what if any further changes need to be made. I have subsequently set both short and long term goals and will continue to use this exercise as a reminder to check in

  10. At first this activity made me roll my eyes. Can thinking about me taking steps away from a problem in my life and walking towards a goal really make a difference? Well actually it did. It’s amazing as the sense of relief you feel from moving away from an issue can lift a heavy heart and give a sense of calm. Using this technique with certain clients will at first be challenging as taking the first step however metaphorically it is can be daunting. Possibly using a simple negative aspect in their life such as bad habit to an unhealthy relationship will be a good start. I Quite enjoyed using this for a few scenarios.

  11. Session 7 – Incremental Progress

    One Step at a Time

    I love that this exercise can be repeated so easily, and in fact at anytime I am walking anywhere, to maintain focus in my life. I am mindful that I have a tendency to overthink and this proved a really good exercise to gain control over my racing thoughts and work on small steps towards action. I saw each step as one small step towards victory, staying positive on the journey, enjoying the ride and knowing that with each step I can choose to adjust my route at any given moment. On taking my steps my mind seemed to slow down and I felt a greater awareness of myself and my surroundings, I also felt empowered to make changes and felt a great sense of purpose. The steps became a visualisation of the passage of time and each step taken seemed to take me nearer a brighter and better future.

  12. I have to admit, on first attempt at this exercise I found it difficult. I sat for a few minutes and pondered on why that may be and realised it was because I was overthinking and not letting go. In fact I had not really focused on the movement, but more rattled through a list in my mind. It actually gave me a certain feeling of uneasiness not to have a pen and paper to write things down.

    So, I set about giving the exercise another go. This time was a different experience altogether. As I focused on my physical steps and the feeling in my whole body, step by step, my thoughts were freer. They began to flow. And as they flowed, I began to feel them rather than just see a list. I felt more positive and empowered about the steps I will take and thought the best of others involved, rather than thinking negatively. I even imagined the end goal – doing what I wanted to do. In my mind I had a vision of myself walking confidently in the warm sun. Other thoughts also came to mind that weren’t on my original list and I perhaps would not have otherwise thought of.

    In common with mindfulness practices, this exercise may take practice to get the most out of it. The great thing is that you can very easily do this. I found it to be very useful in visualising and building confidence in reaching my end goal and would certainly use it again.

  13. Session 7 Incremental Progress
    This exercise was simple though thought provoking. I contemplated what I had to do which was to take the first step into the rest of my life, to physically move my feet from one place to another yet an initial fear overcame me. Never the less I stood up and moved one foot in front of the other. I did this for four steps realising it was easier than anticipated, I soon started to really focus on what I was doing in that I was now more mindful of the motion I was taking in moving one foot in front of the other and moving forward. I could now feel the sock that enveloped my toes, the arch in my feet, the way my foot touched the ground squarely. I had been learning this action for many years due to my feet supination but now it had more deliberation to it.
    I became focussed on the mechanical motion of my body as I moved from one foot to the other. I felt the weight move from one foot to the other I could feel the effect of the movement in my knees in their ball and socket the way my muscle flexed and extended, my body slightly motioning from one side to the other as I progressed from forwards. I was moving forward with the focus on the movement of my feet the rest of my body was moving also. Before I knew it I had made progress across the room.
    On reflection the exercise was great in that it helped me to realise the level of focus and concentration I need in order to achieve a goal. It made me realise that I have to be diligent and focus, having a plan, slowly taking the necessary steps whether big or small but taking the steps will eventually take me to where I want to be, the exercise helped me too realise that I don’t need to rush instead maintain a steady mindful pace will get me to the other side.

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