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Micro Habits – Small Steps Equal Big Changes

Micro Habits – small steps equal big changes. Having recently finished the book Atomic Habits by James Clear, I have been thinking more and more about how small changes can add up to make a larger overall change. That when we start tiny and consistently achieve those tiny habits over time this build up to achieving the result you want. You may have heard the phrase.

To eat the elephant, you need to take several bites. The goal you want to achieve or the habit you want to create needs to be broken down into smaller more manageable stages, that are easier to complete, often in no time you have achieved your goal. “You can’t eat an elephant in one bite”.

Micro Habits

Let us take an example, perhaps you want to get fit and eat more healthily. This is a big goal and to decide that you are going to do that completely starting tomorrow will probably mean you will not even begin because the task is overwhelming, or you will find it too much and will give up quite quickly. So, lets break this down.

You want to get fit. What can you do that will only take 1 minute or 10 minutes or 20 minutes or 1 hour a day that will move you towards your goal of getting fit? The amount of time that you can spend will differ from person to person, what feels too much to do will differ, but ultimately most of us could do 1 minute of exercise a day.

Examples of 1 minute exercise.

  • Stand and sit from a chair.
  • Squats
  • Marching on the spot
  • Walking around the garden
  • Jogging on the Spot
  • Star Jumps
  • Stretching

The key is to decide what is realistic and what you can consistently do. If it is one minute, then that’s enough. If you did 1 minute of squats every day for a month, you would have stronger leg muscles. If you did one minute of stretching every day for a month you would feel looser and more flexible. The tiny habit has a compound result.

Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. The same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them. They seem to make little difference on any given day and yet the impact they deliver over the months and years can be enormous

Micro Habits

The second part of your goal is to eat more healthily. What one small thing could you do to contribute towards this goal? Again, something that you can do consistently every day. Examples of what you could do could include.

  • Eating one piece of fruit a day / or 2 or 3 whatever feels right.
  • Making sure you drink a set amount of water a day.
  • Having a healthy breakfast
  • Having 3 kinds of vegetables with dinner.

It could also mean that you stop doing something.

  • Stop having sugar in hot drinks.
  • Stop drinking fizzy drinks.
  • Stop eating the chocolate bar after lunch.

If you had one piece of fruit every day for a month you would have increased your nutritional intake. If you drank 2 litres of water every day for a month, you would probably feel a lot better physically and mentally. Please see our blog on Hydration for Better Mental Health.

If you stopped having sugar in hot drinks every day for a month, you would have decreased your sugar intake significantly, the same would be true if you stopped eating a chocolate bar after lunch.

Results are not instantaneous or fast even, they are slowly built up. Every time you introduce a new habit you are practicing doing something different. You will probably remember from being a child that when you were learning your spellings or your times tables, you had to repeat them over and over, and practice. If you learnt an instrument, for instance piano, you had to consistently sit in front of the piano and try and fail and try and fail. As adults we sometimes forget that the same still applies, we put a pressure on ourselves to be able to do it first time, when if this is something new to us or we have not done it in a while we will need to practice again.

Micro Habits

Let us take one more example. You want to give up smoking. What tiny habit can you chose that will help you do this? Remember the key is not to just decide tomorrow I won’t smoke any more the idea here is to practice a habit that will help you give up. Examples could include:

  • If you smoke in the house, you now smoke outside.
  • When you smoke you do not do anything else at the same time, you concentrate on the cigarette.
  • You allow yourself a certain number of cigarettes a day.
  • Change your brand.
  • Do not smoke at night only in the day.
  • If you always drink and smoke (alcohol or coffee) break that connection.

With Tiny habits you are practicing something new, the more you practice the better you get and the easier it is. The smaller the habit the more likely you are to maintain it, and the more chance there is that it will take you in the direction you want to go.

If you are looking for more formal support on how you can simplify your life or manage your thinking and emotions differently, call Paul Carter now to book an appointment or to discuss your issues further. At the moment Paul is only working online or the telephone due to COVID. To make an appointment please call Paul on 07843 813 537 or fill in the form on the Contact Page, if he doesn’t answer he is probably in a session, please leave him a message and he will call you back as soon as he can.

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