I’m all for creating and pursuing grand visions for our lives. But sometimes focusing too much on the big picture can feel overwhelming. Sometimes, we’re better off starting small and letting each small success give us the confidence to go a little further, then further still.
Here’s an example from my life. A few years ago I wanted to lose fifty pounds as quickly as possible (achieving my goal in a week wouldn’t have been too soon for me!) I launched a megamongo workout campaign and three days later I was not only too sore to move, I was still fat! I was so depressed that it took an entire tub of Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk just to lift my spirits enough to reach for the Twinkies.
So… maybe I was a little over-ambitious.
Rethinking my approach, I decided to set a kinder, gentler courser for myself. Here was my new strategy: five days a week my goal was to put on my sweat pants, drive to the gym, and stand on the treadmill.
That was it. Just stand.
This was a small change, to be sure. Some people might even argue it was too small. And yet it was a place to start.
A lot of days I’d find myself standing on the treadmill and think, Well, heck, as long as I’m here, might as well turn the thing on. So I would turn on the treadmill and walk for ten, fifteen, even twenty minutes. Once I got really crazy and broke a sweat.
I soon realized that something was being trained and changed: my mind-set. I stopped asking myself if I would go to gym, but when. Within a short time, going to the gym became a nonnegotiable part of my day.
My small change transformed my mind and my habits and, once those were transformed, changing my body seemed like the next natural step. I started drinking more water, keeping a food journal, and going to bed earlier (they say that helps with weight loss). Over the following ten months, I lost sixty pounds. And it all began with a very, very, very small change.
And guess what? The success I had in changing my body and health gave me the motivation to tackle improvements in other areas of my life as well.
What small changes could improve your life and lead to something more? Here are a few mini-changes to get you started (and remember, don’t tackle all these at once! Not to sound like an underachiever, but start small!)
Want to improve your health? Start with one of these:
- Make a conscious choice to drink the recommended amount of water every day
- Replace all your unhealthy snacks with fruits and vegetables
- Walk for 20 minutes three days a week (for starters, when you run errands, stop trying to find the closest parking lot! Park at the far end of the lot and enjoy the walk!)
- Start keeping a food journal (one study found that dieters who kept a food diary for six months lost twice the weight as those who didn’t keep a food journal!)
- Give up soft drinks
Want to increase your joy? Start with one of these:
- Unplug from your phone, computer, and mobile devices one day a week
- Have you been meaning to get to know your neighbors? Take cookies to one neighbor every week for 2 months. At the end of that time, host a barbecue and invite your new friends.
- If you tend to over-commit, make a goal of saying “no” to one thing every week
- Every morning, say aloud 10 things you are thankful for. Do the same thing each night before you go to bed
- Find a church you like and start getting involved
- Spend less time with people who are negative influences in your life
- Do one nice thing for someone every week–but don’t let them know it was you! You’ll be smiling to yourself over your secret for days
- Add exercise to your daily schedule. Yes, I know I included exercise in the list of habits to improve your health, but exercise will also make you happier.
Want to increase your productivity or pursue a dream or goal?
- Read one self-help book every month for a year
- Revisit your budget and find a way to add $25 to your savings every month
- Make your bed every morning.
- Set up a weekly conversation with a mentor who has achieved the goal you want to achieve
- Set your alarm 30 minutes earlier and spend that time praying, reading, or planning your day
- Keep a list of daily “action items” you want to accomplish
- Embrace the slogan “Done is better than perfect.” Perfectionism can be the enemy of productivity
- Start your day with exercise. Even a brief walk will get your blood flowing, get your muscles moving, and even wake up your brain. (See? Exercise is showing up in this list, too. That’s because this one mini-change can jump-start improvements in lots of areas of your life.)
As you can see, I’m not talking extreme makeover here. I’m talking about starting with a single small change. Just don’t be surprised if a small change in one area inspires changes in unrelated areas. After all, sometimes gaining control or experiencing a victory feels so good, it creates confidence and motivation that spills into other parts of our lives.
So pick a change. Any change. And get ready to take flight!