I don’t think there’s ever been a time in my life (at least not in my adult life) where I haven’t been trying to accomplish something. Whether big or small, there’s always something going on – paying down debt, learning new things, weight loss, clearing my head, running more often…the list goes on and on.
So I’m sure it’s not surprising that I love coming across new ideas and ways to accomplish more, especially if it saves time or effort. And I’m always on the hunt for new ideas. My last source of inspiration (from The Power of Habit…not as amazing as The Miracle Morning, but still a great read!) has me really excited because it outlined a brilliant and simple way to accomplish anything and everything:
Focus on small wins instead of big wins.
This doesn’t mean that you should throw away major goals and milestones, or that they’re somehow less important. But by focusing on small wins, you’ll actually make it far easier to accomplish the big wins and usually you’ll do a lot more in the process.
There are a few reasons this happens…and excitingly, these reasons aren’t just hypotheses. They’re all backed by science and I’m sure when you think about them you’ll realize you have your own anecdotal evidence that proves them true as well.
Here are the main reasons you should focus on small wins instead of big wins:
- They are Practice in Habit Formation. Habit formation takes energy. It’s just like building a muscle – you’re basically retraining your brain how to do things. And just like with the rest of the muscles in your body, the more you do something and the better you get at it, the less effort it takes. You don’t run a marathon without training for it first.
- They Make Every Small Win After Easier. Since building habits is like working a muscle, it makes total sense that new habits will be easier and easier to accomplish. Not only will it be taking less personal strength to persevere, but you will also be learning what works and what doesn’t, so you’ll be able to focus your energy in the right places.
- They Form a Chain Reaction & Grow Exponentially. Change begets change. But also, many small wins grow exponentially by their very nature – it’s what makes them small wins. Set-It-and-Forget-It wins (you already know those are my favorite kind!) fall into this category. The snowball method of debt repayment is a perfect example – you start by paying off your smallest loan first and are able to pay off everything much faster by taking advantage of the completion of each small step.
- They Provide Mental Motivation. We’re human! There’s a mental component to accomplishing something that can either propel us forward or hold us back. Sometimes small wins feel just as good as big wins, so it’s a much better way to keep yourself motivated. It’s almost like being able to plan out motivational milestones along your path towards the big wins.
- They Give You an Advantage. Plain and simple, small wins make you more likely to keep winning!
So what are some great examples of small wins (and the ones that you should start with)? Give some of these a try and see what happens:
Start a Something Journal
We’re not talking about Dear Diary journaling here. The kind of journaling that is a small win is the journaling that is purposeful and focused. Food journaling, spending journaling, exercise journaling, thought or habit journaling. You should be journaling about whatever win you’re trying to accomplish. Not only is this a pretty easy task, but you are guaranteed to see some major trends that you had no idea existed. You’ll be able to easily pick out more small wins that will help you accomplish your overarching goal.
Exercise is probably the most obvious small (and big) win, but it’s also one of the most important, so there’s no way to avoid it! What is important is to realize that major exercise goals (like running a marathon) are often less likely to be accomplished than small exercise goals (like going for a walk everyday). The irony is that once you start accomplishing the small goals, you’ll find that it’s much easier to accomplish the big ones.
Eat Dinner Together
Study after study shows that when families eat dinner together, everyone is better off. Now, this certainly could be a chicken-or-egg scenario (does eating dinner actually make everyone better off? Or are they already better off and eating dinner together is just something that better-off people do?), but the facts still remain that there are a lot of easy benefits we can draw from this one simple practice. Making dinner is often healthier and less expense. It can also be a technology-free time and a chance to check in with everyone.
Recite Daily Affirmations
I started doing this after reading The Miracle Morning and it has been one of the best, easiest, and most profound changes I’ve ever made. It is the epitome of a small and easy win. If you take one recommendation from this post, please start doing this! Basically, your daily affirmations should be statements you say to yourself every morning that help you achieve your dreams and live the life you want. They can be about anything – your family, money, your career, weight loss, confidence. Nothing is off limits. You just want to make sure that when you finish reading them, you are happy and motivated to start your day. I promise you will be shocked by what a difference it will make.
Drink More Water
This is such an easy, tiny, free adjustment, it’s a shame it is something that most of us take for granted. Drinking more water has profound changes for not only physical health, but also mental health. Even things like your energy level can be seriously affected by lack of water. With more water, your skin will have a healthier glow, your mind will be sharper, you will be less tired in the afternoon, you will lose weight easier, and every organ in your body will thank you. If you’ve got any tricks up your sleeve to get yourself to drink more water, now’s the time to use them!
Reread Your Something Journal
This small win was yet another life-changing tip that I got out of The Miracle Morning (have I told you to go read that yet??). And again, it is sooo simple, I can’t believe we don’t all do it regularly. Journaling in itself is beneficial, but you would be shocked by what happens when you actually go back over your journal periodically. And not just on a daily or weekly basis (because that will probably happen naturally). It can be even more effective on a larger scale – going over it every few months. By that point, you’ve probably forgotten some of the things you were thinking or doing, so reviewing your journal will be eye-opening.
Create a To Do List the Night Before
I used to sit down each morning with a cup of coffee and go over my list for the day. For me, it was a great way to get moving and I always felt productive. Then, after reading article after article of the habits of successful people, I decided I would try to go over my To Do list the night before. WHOA. I can’t emphasize enough what a dramatic impact this had on my actual productivity. Those early morning hours are very, very valuable – they’re the most productive of our day! Now when I pour that first cup of coffee my time is immediately spent getting real work done. For me, this means spending the first hour of each day writing. So by the time the rest of the world is up and ready to go, I’ve already created something and am ready for more.
Engage in Personal Development Every Day
When you think about it logically, it makes perfect sense to spend a small portion of our day investing in personal development. But when was the last time you did something that would be classified as personal development? For some reason, this is one of the first things we push off our plate when we’re trying to find more time for things. The irony is that if we prioritized personal development above most other things, we’d most likely be able to accomplish way more because we’d be growing and learning new skills every single day.
Reading has so many amazing benefits that can’t be found anywhere else. Whether fiction or nonfiction, books will give your brain a workout while at the same time giving it a break from the over-stimuli it’s usually exposed to. You don’t have to be reading textbooks to be learning! Just read more of anything.
For some reason, meditation still seems to make some people squirm a bit, which is a huge shame because it’s another small win that can have a life-changing impact. Here’s the secret – you don’t have to be chanting or taking yourself to “a different place.” Just sit in silence for 5 minutes each day. Let your brain relax and your mind wander. You’ll feel calmer, think sharper, and will likely come up with some new brilliant ideas.
Small wins can be found all over the place, so don’t stop here! If you come across something that seems like low-hanging fruit, jump on it! It could change your whole life. 🙂 And of course, let me know what other things have worked for you!!