The key to achieving success is small, simple and consistent actions. In order to achieve your goals, you need to make small and sustainable changes to your daily habits. I share tips of how to implement these changes into your life!
Small and Simple is the key to achieving even your biggest dreams!
There is such an excitement and a feeling of anticipation and hopefulness that surrounds a new year. If your mind is like mine, every time I sit down to set a goal or want to improve myself in some way, my mind thinks that I have to “go big or go home”. I found that that’s not always the most successful way for me to go about achieving my goals. If I set myself up for these big, lofty goals with the expectation that I’m going to do something new every day for a certain amount of time (and it’s a big chunk of time). What I’m actually doing is setting myself up for disappointment. And then I kind of go on a spiral of not being able to achieve what I actually want to achieve. This spiral changed when I applied the concept of small and simple to my goals. I found that this concept of small and simple is really a true principle in so many aspects of our lives. Small changes change everything.
One aspect of goal setting is our habits. When we want to achieve a goal, what we really need to do is adjust our habits–the things that we do every single day–. Because our habits are really what we do consistently and they help us achieve what we want to achieve. As you are setting your goals for for 2021, you should come up with a habit that you can do every day that will help you achieve that goal. That will help you work toward that person that you want to be.
Last week we talked about identity and how we need to internalize and believe who we are as the first step of the process. You visualize that person and then ask that person what kind of habits does that kind of a person have? And then you start with one thing. There is this myth flying around everywhere, especially with goal setting, that it takes 21 days to create a habit. And that’s not always true. It actually can take a lot longer than that. That’s not to discourage you in any way, but the research behind the 21 days was actually from war veterans who had lost an arm or a leg, making them amputees. It took them 21 days to for their minds to accept that they didn’t have that limb anymore. Before the 21 days had passed, sometimes they would still feel like they had that limb, even though it was gone. So the “21 day myth” was not necessarily for habits or goal-setting, but it was just that it took the mind that many days to recognize that the limb was no longer there.
So the notion of the 21 days to create a new habit is actually false. Sometimes it can take months and I think we’ve all experienced this in our life where we did something for 21 days and it still didn’t feel like a habit, and then we wondered where that 21-day fix was. So as you look at your New Year’s goals. I want you to just be patient. It’s the small and simple things that will get you towards your goal.
There is an old story that we’ve heard our whole lives called The Tortoise and the Hare. Usually at the beginning of the year, we all start out like the hare and we just burst straight ahead and end up sleeping along the way. The Tortoise who is slow and steady and consistent and goes one step at a time and the small steps done consistently over time actually ends up winning the race.
I think there’s such great wisdom in that fable and the principal is true that small and simple things help us become who we want to be. Our society is fixated on the quick fix…the idea that we can lose weight quickly or get rich fast and really the quick fix isn’t usually successful.
It’s the small consistent changes over time that create lasting change.
It’s the lifestyle change. It’s our habits. It’s actually what we do most every single day that matters.
There’s a principle of compounding, which is usually brought up in the financial world in conjunction with interest, compounding interest, and all of us are familiar with that. But this idea of compounding actually works for us and against us every single day of our lives because of the habits that we have and the things that we choose to do every single day.
So compounding is consistency multiplied by time. Consistency and time and it compounds. One soda a day might not sound like a very bad habit, but over time compounding it may lead us to a lifestyle that we don’t desire. Yet cutting out one soda a day could lead us closer to the lifestyle that we desire. That’s such a small thing, but I use that example because it can really impact your life. It can impact your caloric intake, your blood sugar, and how you feel. So we want to be consistent and we want to be consistent over time and that’s where we can really see these compounding effects.
I mentioned earlier that sometimes our minds, as we are goal-setting, want to go big or go home. We always hear that phrase and other ones like “attack your goals” and “go all in” and I wholeheartedly agree with all of those phrases. However, I don’t want you to bite off more than you can chew. I want you to make a habit that is so simple that it’s just impossible not to do in a day.
We talked about our identity. And now that you have your identity of who you want to be, what are the habits that that person does? Once you identify a habit that person does, make it so small that you can’t not do it. You want to start tiny and then build up. You want to start really, really small. If you want to change your life, you have to change something about your everyday choices.
There’s a lot of buzz in the world about habits lately, and there are lots of books on the subject and they all seem to agree on this one aspect. We need to start small and simple. There are several leaders in habit research including James Clear, BJ Fogg, and Darren Hardy who wrote The Compound Effect. The words that these people are using to surround habit formation are small, tiny, micro, and atomic. Do you notice the trend? In order for habit formation to be successful it has to be small. It has to be really easy to do. And if it is really easy to do, it makes it hard to fail, right? That’s the goal is that it has to be so small that it would be hard to fail.
As an example, let’s say that your identity is that you are a strong person who takes care of your body. So that’s your identity or your goal for the year … that you’re a strong person who takes care of your body. What’s one tiny habit that you can incorporate into your everyday life? How about two push-ups? Could you do two push-ups every single day? It seems silly right? The notion of just doing two push-ups seems so silly, yet it’s so small that how could you not do two push-ups? And then maybe the next week its four or five, and you learn to build upon a habit that you’ve already created.
We talked last week about attaching the new behavior with something that you’re already consistently doing. So maybe every time you brush your teeth in the morning you do two push- ups and you can attach a new behavior and to something that you already do consistently every day. How long does it take to do two push-ups? About 10 seconds? So no excuses there. Then the next week what if you did four push-ups and then six push-ups and then eight and pretty soon your habit is formed and then you can build on.
What if you’re someone who drinks plenty of water to take care of their body? So your identity is, “I am a healthy person who always is consistent about my water intake.” What’s one thing that you can do every day without fail? Well, you can drink a tall glass of water every single day
right when you wake up. And then you can add to that habit by drinking another glass of water whenever you take a break. Or maybe you drink more water every hour on the hour. Once you have a small habit, you can slowly build on it. Then take the initial habit and the one that you want to establish is that every morning you wake up and you drink a glass of water. Make this as simple as you want and of course to fit your own lifestyle. I’m just giving you a few examples.
Some of you want to establish the habit of exercising daily. Maybe it’s just as simple as putting on your exercise shoes and walking around the block. That’s pretty simple. I know one woman whose trainer said, “I want you to stand next to your treadmill for 5 minutes every day for the first week”. She laughed at him. She thought that was so silly. And do you know what happened? She said, “I felt so silly standing next to my treadmill for five minutes that I just got on my treadmill and started walking.”
It’s those tiny small and simple habits that can actually propel you towards your goal. Because by doing nothing you’re not going towards your goal. But five minutes on the treadmill gets you towards your goal. Two push-ups is closer than none. One glass of water is closer to your goal than zero.
For those of you who are not consistent flossers, you could make a goal to floss one tooth every night. And it seems so simple and your mind will immediately say, “That’s stupid small, and how will that help me achieve my goal?” But the reality is that by flossing one tooth the night, you’re still flossing more than what you were if you’re not flossing at all.
Maybe your identity this year is that you are someone who knows another language and can speak fluent Spanish or French or another language. Instead of setting lofty goals that you’ll study 30 minutes a day which may or may not be realistic for you, what if you were to learn just one word a day in that language, every day? By the end of the year, you would have learned over 300 words. That’s pretty incredible, and it would be small and consistent and totally doable each day of the year.
Those of you that have had some goals surrounding meditation, stress relief or mindfulness, I know it’s our inclination to say, “I will meditate for 60 minutes every day.” How realistic is that? But what if you said, “I will meditate for one minute,” or “I will take 10 deep breaths of meditation and clear thinking every day.” Ten deep breaths… see how it’s so small that you really have no excuse not to do it? I can totally take 10 deep and meaningful, cleansing breaths each day.
Those of you that want to incorporate reading, embrace the idea that you are a reader and a pursuer of knowledge. That would be your identity. A small tiny habit that you could incorporate would be to just read 2 pages a day. Two pages. You could totally do that, right? Or maybe it’s just one page. Make it so small that it’s simple to do. Really the key here is not to overhaul your whole system or create a whole new routine. It’s just adding one thing in at a time and then building on it. So then in a few months, you can see how you’ve built upon it and the habit is established really firmly in your life, and then you get to reap the rewards.
If you want to change your life, you have to change something about your everyday choices.
That is true. We are more successful when we do the small and simple things and make it really easy to do. So, I want you to choose one thing. Choose one thing that you would like to establish as a habit. Think about your identity and the kind of person you want to be and the habits that that person has, and then totally think
small and simple. Small, tiny, micro, atomic. Get down to the very smallest level that you can and then build on it.
I have a couple of suggestions for you as we go into this new year. Maybe you are a person who wants to be a little bit healthier and you’re having a hard time fitting into your schedule. Well, then you just park in the farthest parking spot of wherever you’re going. Maybe it’s that you learn one new thing a day because you are a lifelong learner. Maybe you don’t drink your sugar anymore. So any kind of drink needs to be sugar free. Another suggestion is if you were a very productive person then you might want to do your hardest task first. That one tiny habit could change your level of productivity immensely and it could be just a small and simple thing.
Maybe your goal is to exercise or be healthier, and what if you started with just going outside putting on your shoes and going outside every single day and see where that takes you and build upon that? Maybe one small and simple habit you want to incorporate is to make your bed every day and incorporate that into your habit formation and see where that takes you. How about complimenting someone? One compliment a day. That’s a small tiny habit that can change your outlook as well as theirs.
Maybe it’s just saying one affirmation each day. And really internalizing and believing that affirmation about you. It could change your world. It could totally set you on a different thinking pattern for the day. Or maybe you send one thank you card each week. These tiny, small, micro, atomic habits can really yield great results as you incorporate them, really establish them as habits in your life, and then build upon them.
What are you going to do today? I want you to choose one thing and let me know. I want to know what you’re working toward today and this year in your small, tiny habits and good luck. You’ve totally got this! Anyone can be the tortoise. Anyone can win the race by small and simple things.
I just want to leave you with one last an analogy as we go today. I want you to think of an airplane. And if an airplane was off course by just one percent, do you know where it would lead? Navigation specialists have this 1 to 60 rule. It states that for every one degree that your course has altered you end up a mile off course for every 60 miles that you go.
If you want to change your course in 2021, you’re going to have to alter the degree of your destination and even one percent or one degree change will matter. It will add up over time, and it doesn’t seem like a lot at first, but it just keeps compounding over type. The new year is a great time to change our trajectory and alter our course by just one degree, one percent and it will get us closer to our destination that we desire.
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