I had been feeling low lately, and then I saw a photo of me with my older sister when I was about 4 years old. I looked happy and optimistic, fresh and ready for adventure. What had become of her? What I realized was that my habits — both my behavior and my attitude — had been weighing on me.
I knew that trying to make huge changes all at once would be daunting and I’ve seen many of my mastermind group members struggle when they tried to make too many changes at one time. Your brain balks at massive change and then you self-sabotage. So, I created this exercise for myself and my clients — I hope it helps you (and your clients), too!
It’s deceptively simple
When you read the rules for this exercise (below), you might think it’s too simple or easy. Writing the list is easy — doing the list and changing those habits is hard.
I speak from experience: I did the exercise myself and asked some of my mastermind group members to try it. It takes some deep thinking to create a list of truly tiny but possible habits to embrace.
Let’s get going!
The rules for this exercise
Make a list of all the changes you’d like to make in your life, and why you want those changes.
Psychologists know that fear only motivates us for a short time. If one of the changes you want to make in your life is based on fear, reposition it in your head to think about the positive outcome instead of “avoiding the negative outcome.” Fear is a short-term motivator — but pleasure rewards can motivate us for up to six months! When you pick the changes you want to make, associate them with a positive reward or result you’ll get. Remember, rewards are both tangible and emotional.
From the list of changes, choose only 7 habits that you can adopt that will move you towards the bigger changes you want to make.
Make them tiny habit changes, something highly doable. It has to be a habit you can truly stick with, like getting 20 minutes of exercise each day. If you find you can’t commit to 20 minutes, scale it back to 10 minutes. You have to start somewhere, right?
The key to this exercise is to start where you are today, without judging yourself, and work up to bigger habit changes later. This isn’t a competition — you’re simply trying to retrain your brain. Consistently changing one habit for a week strengthens you, builds confidence, and gives you freedom to tackle another habit change.
Create a scorecard, listing the habits across the top, then a checkmark each day or week that you complete that new habit (see example below). Put it somewhere you’ll see it every day, like on your refrigerator or on your desk. Tape it to the bathroom mirror if it helps!
If you’re part of a mastermind group, share your list with the other members and hold each other accountable for keeping firm to the new habits.
My 7 Tiny Habits
Here’s my list. Simple, right? Yet, last night, I still went to bed at 11:30. And I’ll do better tonight.
Go to bed by 11:00 pm each night
Get 20 minutes of movement each day
Take my multivitamin
Be in the office by 8:00 am
Do one small house task each evening for 20 minutes
Pick 3 tasks to accomplish each day in the office; make a list for the week ahead of time to prioritize
Be the girl in pigtails – she was optimistic, sunny, and full of vitality (I put this photo by my desk to remind me!)
I’ve been working with this exercise for the past few months. Sometimes I fall off the wagon and get back in the habit of going to bed at midnight. I just pick myself up and start again. There’s no use beating yourself up if you lose track of your tiny habits, just re-commit to them or scale them back to something you can commit to.
It’s not easy making changes, but this simple exercise can put you on the path to growth and renewal!
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