Most of us think of self-improvement as big, sweeping leaps that we take when we have enough time, money and energy to spare.
Going back to college.
Reading a 600-page book cover to cover.
Saving big money to go on a year-long sabbatical to explore the world.
Doing scary things that challenge us and force us to grow.
Yes, all of these things work, but they also cause us to underestimate the power that small, consistent steps can have on making us better, smarter, kinder and happier.
The best part is, tiny habits can be built up day by day, even if five minutes is all you have each day.
1. Take control of how you respond to triggers.
“How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.”~Wayne Dyer
It’s all too easy to lose your cool when someone makes a rude comment or cuts you off in traffic, but it’s worth remembering that anything that other people do is out of your control and any energy spent on reacting emotionally to situations that you cannot change is energy wasted.
What if you spent a fraction of that energy giving them the benefit of the doubt instead?
Maybe the customer who came off as abrasive was drowning in grief. What if the person cutting you off on the road had a sick child at the hospital?
Often, you’re better off walking away, taking a deep breath and going for a walk to cool off before you even consider opening your mouth to say something.
2. Be patient…just a little longer.
“Patience is bitter, but the fruit is sweet.”~Jean-Jacques Rousseau
How often have you given up on something after failing on your first, second or even third try?
I have…more times than I can count.
What if you didn’t give up, but instead, persisted until you were able to turn the corner to success?
When you feel the urge to give up, just hang in there a little longer. Keep holding on the next day, the day after that, and the day after that.
Before you know it, your little molehill would have grown into a mountain, and you’ll be glad that you didn’t give up when you felt like it.
The journey there may be paved with more hurt, rejection and disappointment, but the taste of success that comes after will be that much sweeter because you didn’t let your dream wither away and die.
3. Make friends with discomfort.
“The more you practice tolerating discomfort, the more confidence you’ll gain in your ability to accept new challenges.”Amy Morin
Comfort zones come in all forms, shapes and sizes.
Sometimes it’s the unhappy relationship that you choose to stay in because being with someone just feels better than being alone.
Other times, it’s the toxic work situation that’s slowly killing your soul. But hey, you’ve spent years clawing your way up to management and looking for a new job means starting over, so why not stick with the devil you know? Plus, the money’s pretty good too.
Or maybe you’re stressed out of your mind but are so used to overworking that the thought of doing nothing makes you break out in a cold sweat.
What if letting go of that comfort created more space in your life for greater happiness, well-being and success?
Try doing something that stirs up some discomfort in you every day: Nurturing your independence by having a meal out by yourself. Speaking to people who’ve transitioned to a new job recently and envisioning yourself doing the same. Setting some time each evening to sit and do absolutely nothing but enjoy the sunset.
When you’re trying to grow, discomfort equals good.
4. Ask someone how they are and mean it.
“The business of business is relationships; the business of human life is connection.”Robin Sharma
Have you ever been asked “how’s it going?” whenever you run into someone you know? Or maybe you’ve done the asking yourself.
I have, both ways, and I hate it. Here’s why: It’s a terrible way to greet someone simply because most of the time, it’s asked way too casually with very little thought, genuine interest or empathy behind it.
These half-hearted attempts feel rushed, fake and meaningless, leaving both the person doing the asking and the recipient not only awkward and eager to move on, but also shortchanged of a genuine human connection.
The next time you ask how someone is, stop and give them your full attention for a couple of minutes. And when they tell how they are you, really listen.
You’d be surprised at how good you’ll feel when you go your separate ways.
5. Challenge a limiting belief that’s holding you back.
“If you accept a limiting belief, then it will become a truth for you.”~Louise Hay
If you’ve ever talked yourself out of doing something you’ve ever wanted to do, you’ve given in to a limiting belief.
Maybe it was that dream job that you didn’t feel good enough to apply for, or that dance class you felt like you were too old to go for. Or maybe you want to switch careers but are afraid to try because you think your friends and family will laugh at you.
The next time a limiting belief comes up — be it about yourself, other people or the world — ask yourself this question: “Is this true?”.
And even if it were true, so what if people laughed at you? If you weren’t qualified for a job, what’s stopping you from upskilling yourself so you will be qualified for it in the future?
Just this simple act of questioning a potentially false belief can help push you out of your comfort zone to try new things so you don’t rob yourself of opportunities to grow.
6. Make time to eat better.
“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.”Ann Wigmore
If I had to pick just one thing that I can do every single day that makes me feel more energized, focused and just all-round better even when I don’t get enough sleep, it would be eating well.
For me, this means opting for primarily plant-based meals that pack in a good amount of veggies and protein to beat inflammation, as well as some carbohydrates and fat.
And because I don’t believe in complicated, restrictive diets, I’ll have a reasonable dessert portion once a day to satisfy my sweet tooth.
I can always plan what I’m going to eat ahead of time and spend a couple of hours on the weekend preparing my meals (or deciding where I’m going to eat if I want to eat out), so this is easily one of the few daily habits that helps keep me healthy in the least amount of time.
When in doubt about how to go about eating better, don’t even think about revamping your diet just yet. Instead, start small by being mindful about how you eat: Slow down your meal by putting your fork down in between bites and really savouring every mouthful.
And when you’re no longer hungry, stop eating altogether and doggy-bag the rest rather than force yourself to finish everything on your plate.
The simple act of not overeating is eating better.
7. Write down one thing you can simplify.
“We have lost contact with reality, the simplicity of life.”Paulo Coelho
Life is complicated.
You’ve put the linear career path to rest, embraced the immediacy of today (and likely, tomorrow’s) technology, started grappling with the prospect of living in a metaverse, and are still struggling with having way too much information coming your way, every single day.
And you haven’t even gotten to the part where you’re expected to do a spectacular job of nurturing your relationships, managing your personal finances, taking charge of your professional development, fulfilling all your family obligations and keeping your body and mind in tip-top shape, all while juggling the effects of aging.
Did I miss something? I probably did, which brings me to my point: There’s not enough time in your already packed days to ace all of the above without losing some part of your sanity and burning out.
So how do you keep all your balls in the air without losing your mind?
The most logical answer, which has become very obvious to me of late, is this: By simplifying as many things as I can.
Taking a minimalist approach with my cooking (one-pot meals, please), finances (putting a cap on asset diversification), clothes (I’m loving my capsule wardrobe) and work (taking time out to focus only on work that brings me fulfillment) have helped make the juggling act significantly easier.
If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed, try this exercise: Write down one thing in your life that you can start simplifying right now.
You’d be surprised at how cathartic and motivating these few minutes spent can be.
RESOURCES YOU MIGHT FIND HELPFUL
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Simplify Your Life: 100 Ways To Slow Down And Enjoy The Things That Really Matter by Elaine St. James I got my hands on this treasure over 15 years ago, way before simple living and minimalism became popular, and it was the first resource that introduced me to practical, everyday steps I could take to ‘un-complicate’ my life. I didn’t have enough life experience then to ‘get’ everything that St. James presents in this book, but when I revisit the pages of Simplify Your Life now, they make perfect sense. If you’re just starting out in your simple living journey and are exploring your possibilities, I highly recommend giving this a read first.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A Simple, Effective Way To Banish Clutter Forever by Marie Kondo Being able to pay attention to the little things in your life starts with decluttering — not the easiest thing to do if your living (or even work) space is disorganised and drowning in stuff. This is my bible as far as tidying up my space and keeping it that way goes.
Think And Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill This classic is so much more than what its title implies — it’s also a guide to taking control of the biggest driver behind everything you do and the reality you create for yourself: Your mind.
The Simple Living Guide When life feels overwhelming, this guide-and-workbook-in-one will help you gain clarity with your values, well-being, career, relationships and money.
The Good Morning Guide If your mornings are typically rushed, chaotic and stressful, I made this guide to help you start your day calm, sane and strong.
Tribe Of Mentors: Short Life Advice From The Best In The World by Timothy Ferriss Nothing beats having a mentor in your life who can personally guide you from day one. But not everyone does, and if (like me), you don’t, it doesn’t mean that you can’t learn from the best virtually or through books. Take what you need from the likes of Ray Dalio, Ben Stiller, Bear Grylls and more in this varied but comprehensive compilation of bite-sized advice on life, work and purpose from some of the best minds in the world.
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