One of life’s rewards is having great friends that are bright, successful, articulate, and full of valuable information. For those of you that don’t know Mary Kelly, I am pleased to introduce you to my friend, Mary. Mary is an international speaker and the author of 15 books on topics such as leadership, business, and economics. After graduating from the United States Naval Academy and devoting over 20 years on active duty in intelligence and logistics, she retired from the Navy as a commander. She has a master’s degree in history and economics, a Ph.D. in economics, and always has a wealth of information to share. You can read more of Mary’s wisdom at https://productiveleaders.com. But first, enjoy Mary’s article on Tiny Habits You Can Do Today to Improve Your Life.
Living your best life means something different to everyone. Your definition may be drastically different from the people close to you or your co-workers.
One of my favorite moments last week was talking to my Lyft driver. A retired chemical engineer, he drives because it is how he gets other people’s honest perspectives. “No one is trying to impress anyone during a drive,” he pointed out. “Passengers are honest about their lives and their opinions, and I learn from everyone.”
I love his perspective. He is fascinating! Why waste time when you can learn from talking with other people? His role of driving for a few hours a day evolved from his tiny habit of learning from someone else every day.
It is important to remember that there is a lot we cannot control, but we do have control over small amounts of time, and tiny changes in attitude and perspective make a difference.
Many people do not realize that small things add up to big things.
1. Walk a mile a day. That is 365 miles you walk that year.
2. Drink four ounces of water every hour from 7 AM to 7 PM. That is forty-eight ounces of water.
3. Write for 15 minutes a day and you have a manuscript in 90 days.
No matter where you are, you can improve by making minor changes. Tiny habits, compounded over time, produce amazing results.
Here are nine things you can do right now to change your life and increase your level of happiness:
1. Practice habit stacking. If you have been meaning to read more, but cannot seem to find the time, take the 5 minutes it takes your coffee to brew in the morning to read. Do not reach for your phone. Grab your book instead. This commitment is much easier because it is not a lot of time, and you are already spending that time waiting for your coffee. Another example is to floss right after brushing your teeth. You are already in the bathroom, so flossing is the next logical step.
2. Incorporate the 2-minute rule. Instead of committing to something for 20 minutes every day, commit to 2 minutes. Decide to walk for 2 minutes every day. Relieve stress by doing deep breathing exercises for 2 minutes. Clean out a drawer for 2 minutes. It is much easier to do something for 2 minutes than it is to carve out time for 20 minutes.
3. Set clear boundaries. Boundaries are necessary to keep us sane in both our personal and professional lives. Do you want to be available for clients 24/7, or would you like to handle business only during standard business hours? I know that I habitually work on weekends, but I don’t expect others to if those are not their working hours.
4. Identify the person you want to be. Use the right words to describe the type of person you want to be. Are you trying to quit smoking? You are a non-smoker. You are trying to become less messy? You are an organized person.
5. Find your community and join them to further commit to your habits. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people helps you keep that positive mindset. Think about going to the gym. We may not feel like going to the gym, but once we get there, we see other people who are working out and making an effort, so we do the same thing. It is the same at work. Align yourself with others in your industry or others who share your goals. Allow other people’s success to be a source of motivation.
6. Get back on the wagon. None of us are perfect. Donuts are my kryptonite. I really like donuts. One of the best donut stores on the entire planet is Horseshoe Donuts in Monument, Colorado. They have apple fritters, that way about 4 pounds. And they are delicious. Everything they have is delicious. I have dreams about their donuts. But I also don’t get to eat donuts every day. I might treat myself once every few months, but eating one donut is a treat. Eating donuts three days in a row is a habit. There are consequences for the donut. If I have a donut, I have to be extra healthy for a few days. If I skip a workout, I recommit to working out tomorrow. Most of us have good habits, so we cannot allow slip-ups to derail progress. Get back into positive habits right away. It is far easier to restart the habit immediately than to start all over again days later.
7. Don’t break the chain. Tracking your habits gives you a visual reminder of the progress you are making, and make sure tracking is a visual reminder of your attainable goal. For instance, if you want to improve your writing speed and skills, consider a goal of writing five hundred words per day for 30 days. Every day that you write, draw a giant x or smiley face on the calendar. After a few days, you may not feel like writing, but you don’t want to break the chain. At the end of 30 days, consider tracking for another 30 days. Seeing your progress gives you increased energy to keep moving forward.
8. Choose concrete goals instead of abstractions. “Getting healthy” or “start going to the gym” are not concrete goals. They are too abstract, and they do not lead to healthy habits. Instead, choose to do one easy health-related commitment, such as doing five sit-ups a day. You improve health, but the time investment is minimal. At some point, sit-ups every day will become second nature – a new habit – at which point you can add another tiny habit.
9. If you start too big, make your tiny habit tinier. We often set habits that are still too big because we are used to thinking big. If you cannot run for 30 minutes, drop it down to 30 seconds and add 30 seconds every day. If you cannot get motivated to go to the gym, let your first tiny habit be doing a jumping jack at home. Then your second tiny habit can be filling your water bottle. These tiny habits are meant to become automatic movements that you just do not think about once they are ingrained. In the end, all these tiny habits build on each other, and you will find yourself at the gym or running for 30 minutes.
Tiny habits are the stepping stones for our lifestyle. If something is not working, or we are not living our best life, then it is time to explore how to change our tiny habits, so we receive the outcome for which we work so hard.