Want to Change Your Life? Start Small and Keep Going!

As we begin a new year, it’s tempting to make up our minds to accomplish big goals: Stop drinking, go vegan, lose 50 pounds, launch a new career, and create world peace. Big goals are dramatic, inspirational, and memorable: We passed the bar exam! We had a baby! We bought a house. We ended war.

The problem with goals that are too big, however, is that if we lapse—even once—we can feel like a failure and abandon the project altogether. Meanwhile, we often overlook the big changes that would result if we just made small improvements and maintained them over time. As Aristotle famously said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” In other words, big things are accomplished by doing small things consistently.

Here are some small changes that can yield big dividends over time. Choose a few that inspire you, practice them…and watch as your results accumulate.

  1. Want to get a handle on Cultural Stress? Try meditating for two minutes a day. Sit erect in a quiet room, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing for just two minutes. You may be amazed at how much calmer and better you feel after just two short minutes. The key is to practice daily. In meditation, as in other practices that become habits, consistency beats intensity.
  2. Want to lose weight? Eat more water! Try adding even a small amount of vegetables or fruit to every meal. Their bulk will make you feel full faster and the water they contain will be released over time so they can hydrate your cells, rather than being flushed through your kidneys. You’ll also be ingesting vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants, and other phytonutrients your body needs for optimal health.
  3. Concerned about your alcohol consumption? Cut back on two glasses of wine (or beer) per week and drink water or unsweetened soda water instead. Your waistline will also thank you!
  4. Want to build muscle? Do a few minutes of bodyweight exercises upon arising each morning. A dozen push-ups, pull-ups, crunches, squats, jumping jacks, or burpees will clear your head, get your blood moving, and build muscle—which is up to 75% water; whereas fat is only 10% water. Don’t have time for the gym? Choose an activity you enjoy and start slowly. After all, 20 minutes of walking, running, dancing, swimming, rollerblading, or whatever you like is better than 0 minutes! And research shows that just 10 minutes of high-intensity exercise accomplishes as much as an hour-long workout!
  5. Want to be more socially connected? Redirect one of the hours each week you might spend on social media and volunteer for a cause you believe in. You’ll meet like-minded strangers who may soon become friends. Hike for the hungry, tour for the cure, plant trees for the planet, pick up trash for cleaner beaches. Too shy to go it alone the first time? Invite a group of friends or co-workers to volunteer with you!
  6. Want to help the planet? Bring your own bag; buy in bulk; say no to straws; use a travel mug; eat less meat; take public transit once a week; walk or ride your bike whenever possible; set up a monthly donation to a nonprofit doing environmental work.
  7. Want to have more fun? Plan for it! We live in such a productivity-driven culture, many of us have to schedule our “play dates,” just as we did for our children. And it’s just as important for us as it is for them. While children need play for development, adults need play to recharge our batteries, maintain our friendships, and revitalize our enthusiasm for living—all of which boosts our immune system. So take care of your Inner Toddler and give her adequate playtime.
  8. Want to age beautifully? Protect your skin, it’s your body’s largest organ! Make daily moisturizing and sunscreen a habit—and don’t forget the importance of hydration. Eating your water and applying daily moisturizer are two tiny changes that will result in a lifetime of beautiful skin—your frontline to wellness.
  9. Want to survive the 24-hour news cycle? Focus on the positive. Life is good, bad, and indifferent; focus on the good. The news is often filled with horror stories—most of which we can do little about. But we do have the power to make positive change in our personal sphere of influence. Try reading one of my Insight affirmations daily, or better still, download the free app for a daily dose of inspiration.
  10. Want to enjoy life? Honor yourself. While most of the world is too caught up in their own worries and to-do lists to appreciate what’s going on in your life, you have a front row seat. Make sure you’re part of the cheering section, not the jeering section. You don’t have to be a narcissist about it; just quietly give yourself credit for the efforts you are making and the good you are doing. If you fall short of your own expectations, forgive yourself and start again. Years ago I read that deep space probes are never directly on target; they navigate through constant course corrections. The same is true for navigating our own lives. Little adjustments can achieve big results over time. Practice positive self-talk.

To your health!


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