I’m a big fan of TED talks, and there’s always something new and interesting on my activity feed. I also frequently turn to the TED site for talks to integrate into trainings and presentations, so I get to watch them at work, too. Early this week, I came across this talk, where Matt Cutts spends just three minutes outlining a simple way to make life changes:
The idea gels with what I learned from reading The Power of Habit (one of my favorite reads of 2018), and reminded me that I’ve been meaning to post about new habits for a while. If you’re looking to make some life changes, here are few things that I’ve found helpful:
Choose small habits for big goals
Let’s be honest: we usually fail at big sweeping changes. Eating one extra serving of vegetables every day, for example, is a lot more attainable than completely eliminating sugar (especially for me, because sugar is life). Decluttering one area of your house every week is much more doable than completely overhauling your space in one manic weekend. I’m not saying those kinds of things can’t happen, but they’re a lot more difficult, and they often aren’t sustainable. I’ve done the top-to-bottom declutter, for example, and I have to admit that it didn’t take long for things to start piling up again.
Instead, break things down into small things that you can make part of your daily or weekly routine, and as each one becomes a habit, you’re consistently working towards your larger goal.
Create reminders and accountability
When I decided I needed to drink more water (because surprisingly, coffee is not a perfect substitute), I put rubber bands on my left wrist every morning. Each time I finished eight ounces, I moved one to my right wrist. The reminder was right in front of me, and I got a little boost of satisfaction every time a band switched sides. I’ve also used checklists and Post It notes (like “Go clean up the kitchen!” on my bathroom mirror, where I’d always see it when I was getting ready for bed).
You can also ask a friend or family member to help you remember, which creates both accountability and support. One of my friends, who is working on a novel, asked me to be part of her support team about a year ago, so every night around six I send her a text asking if she’s done her writing for the day.
I’ve written before about the impact of small rewards on motivation, and it’s worth mentioning again. Charles Duhigg’s book breaks down why habits form and why they linger, and a huge part of the science is based on mental, physical, or emotional boost that comes from the behavior. If you’re using an accountability system (like my rubber bands), you have a small reward built in already.
I’ve also had a lot of success in delaying something I normally do until the habit I’m building is covered. For example, for many years the very first thing I did every morning was drink a cup of coffee. Then I decided not to allow myself to have coffee until I’d had my first eight ounces of water, and now reaching for water first is automatic.
How do you make changes in your life? What are you thinking about changing? Let’s talk!