All simple machines work on the principle that increasing the distance over which something is being moved decreases the effort needed to move it. The three elements in the movement of the machine are the effort, the load, and the distance. For example, in the case of an inclined plane (ramp), let us say that we have a 200 pound box of widgets (the load!) we want to lift into a truck. The truck bed is 3 feet off the ground. (Too early in the morning for math? *winks*) We can try to lift the 200 pound box three feet straight up with our own muscle power. But we would need to be able to exert 200 pounds of pressure for 3 feet straight up. If we are unable to do that, we might much prefer a ramp that leads up to the bed of the truck. Once we build a ramp, we may only need to exert 100 pounds of pressure, or 50, or 10 (not accounting for friction against the surface of the ramp). The difference is in the length of the ramp. A shorter ramp means more effort. A much longer ramp means a lot less effort. The work is the same. But the work is absorbed by, or parceled out over, distance so that much of the work is assigned to the distance and not to the effort.
The way my mind works, I immediately saw the application to principles of personal change in a human being.
Imagine a quantum of change you desire in your life. Let me choose the idea of the overhaul of one's food paradigm and habits. That is a common one for a lot of us. Many persons believe that they should be able to wake up one morning and just because they wrote their plan down on a piece of paper and are committed to the plan that they should be able to make that change instantly and maintain it perfectly forever. "Tomorrow's the day!" This is not impossible in an ultimate sense, but this is like trying to lift a 1000 pound box of widget straight up on to a 12 foot high truck bed. Is there a human that can do that? (An elephant might be able to!) Now there are ways to possess enough soul energy to do a "straight lift". But this usually involves gathering energy and spending time before attempting the lift (like hiring a body builder to help us move the box of widgets), so there is distance involved there as well.
Distance is time, and time is distance. In applying it to human change, we do not think of physical distance but of time distance. To instantly change your entire food life is zero time (distance), so can you imagine the pressure needed for that load?
In creating a ramp for moving a box of widgets, a balance is somewhat needed. If you build too short of a ramp, then you are still using a lot of muscle effort. If you build too long of a ramp--all the way down the street--your effort is super easy, but it might take five minutes to get to the truck bed and so then you are wasting valuable time that you could have instead absorbed by raising the effort level. Especially if you have a hundred boxes of widgets to load in a certain amount of time, you don't want that time going to distance. So you strike a balance. How much muscle power can I apply--not backbreaking, but still a good amount--and then if that is how much effort I will apply, how long should the ramp be?
So what is the balance for the quantum of change you desire? It's obvious that we don't normally (we might!) have the power for the effort for instant "lift" available. But neither do we want to make it so easy that it takes too long to experience the completion of the change. BUT really it's okay if you do want a much longer "ramp" too, because no one is the boss and no one is on the clock but you. But for most of us, some kind of medium is ideal. What smaller changes can I make, over time (distance), that still require a healthy amount of effort from me that I am able to exert?
Alternately, maybe you are in a position where the change you are wanting is taking too long. That may be because you set the effort too low. You aren't applying as much pressure as you DO have available to you. When I say pressure and effort, please do not read *guilt, pushing self past limits, willpower, etc*. Nothing like that. But real power. If you want to shorten the time to make a change, increase the effort (while still remaining in human limits). If making a food habit overhaul is your goal, then increasing the effort brought to bear might be joining a community of others going for the same goal. Listening to motivational stories on podcasts. Doing a Saturday food preparation day so that all your salad items are ready to go (increase effort Saturday, decreases effort the rest of the week). Go to bed earlier (an effort increase for ANY change).
If you feel frustrated with your change goal, it is likely because you have exceeded your human effort that could possibly be brought to bear on the size of a load. You may be trying to lift a thousand pound box straight up. No one berates a human being for not being able to life an actual thousand pound box straight up. No one sets a worker there and says, "Lift that box until you get it right and on the truck bed!!" They already assume that this is outside the human power limit. If they saw someone trying to do that lift, they would think they were crazy and wasting time: "Hey, man, what're you doing?! Use the ramp, dude!"
Think about your LOAD (change goal). What is it? How big is it? What kind of time frame is acceptable or desired or possible? What kind of "ramp" could you build for it (smaller, cumulative changes that support the following, continuing changes)? What kind of effort can you bring to bear on it (be honest either way--what you can and what you can't do)?
I hope the simple machine model helps bring awareness and effectiveness to your change goals.