“Atoms”: microscopic building blocks that, collectively, form something incredible.
We tend to think that small actions don’t amount to much; that the little things in life are nice, but they don’t cause much of an impact. But what if we stopped thinking of these minute things or actions as solitary factors, and started viewing them as bits of something greater?
When we pause and think about these little things and how the smallest aspects of life, and ourselves, intertwine, we soon realize that every tiny bit of life is a piece of a larger puzzle. These puzzle pieces, no matter how small they may seem, deserve our attention if we are to build the lives we desire.
Despite our desire to achieve our dreams as quickly as humanly possible, the reality is that achievement takes time. The key is to improve one small aspect of your life at a time, “building the foundation,” as mentioned in last week’s blog post, of a successful life. To begin with, focus on the elements of your daily habits and your routine that may be setting you back, as well as aspects of yourself that you’d like to improve on. What is it that is preventing you from achieving your goals?
As an example, let’s say you feel as though time is an issue, like you simply don’t have the hours to allot to reaching your goals or creating the life you dream of. Those goals could be: improving your fitness, starting a business, spending more time with friends… etc. The solution? Examine your day to day, then adjust what you’re doing to ensure what you want to happen WILL happen.
So, you’re short on time? Create the time. As a first step, set your alarm for tomorrow 5 minutes earlier. A few days later, set it back another 5 minutes. Keep setting it back day after day, little by little, as you build toward an earlier rise over time. Eventually, you’ll be waking up an hour or more earlier, allowing yourself an extra hour a day to dedicate to that one thing you’ve been placing on the back burner. What started as a small change will have become your new normal.
To drive this point home even further: the most successful people don’t have more time in the day than you; instead, they’ve built systems for themselves through their daily habits that allow them to accomplish what they need each day. You’re more than capable of accomplishing the same, you just need to create a system to get you there. Start with small habit changes, keep at them, and allow them to build into a positive routine over time. You have the power to give yourself the time you need and to make the essential changes to achieve your dreams.
Making these small changes gradually will help you remain consistent, but we’re human and we all slip up from time to time. If you find yourself falling out of the new habit you’ve created, make an effort to get back on those rails as quickly as possible. One way to do this is to simply jump right back in where you left off. Research shows that one slip up won’t break the habit you’ve spent time forming.
However, if you’re consistently slipping up – if you’ve built an extra hour into your day to work on your dream, but life keeps cutting into it – first, reflect on WHY this keeps happening. We created a plan for progress the day we decided to adopt a small change mentality, but we also have to plan for when times get tough or when we fall off track. So, reflect on what is preventing you from succeeding. Then, form a plan to remove this roadblock from your path. One method could be to create a more sustainable process. If one hour is too long, break it into 20-30 minute timeframes and spread those out throughout the day. Evaluate your life’s processes and adjust accordingly so that you are making your priorities happen.
In addition, while reflecting on why you’ve fallen off track, consider additional scenarios or obstacles that may cross your path down the road. Think about ways you can prepare ahead of time so that these obstacles won’t knock you off track again. We have control of our lives' trajectory, but only if we put ourselves in a position to succeed. Planning for the struggles that may come our way is a part of this preparation.
Finally, remember to take it slow. Change isn’t made overnight, and “slow and steady wins the race,” so to speak. Give yourself the time to allow that one small change to become a reality. Then, move right along to the next small change. All change is difficult at first, but test out this strategy and see for yourself how starting small makes it that much easier, more sustainable, and more lasting. You’ll also see that once you create one new habit over time, a domino effect ensues. Let those dominos fall and keep on building those successful, lasting adjustments over time.
The practice of habit building – focusing on small changes to create big change – is an ongoing one, as we all have portions of our lives and of ourselves that we could improve. To keep the motivation high, consistently fuel your mind with strategies that will keep you moving forward.
This blog was inspired by Atomic Habits, a Balance staff favorite written by James Clear. Our team has put the method into practice, each making small, consistent changes over time, and we’ve seen firsthand the benefits small tweaks make on productivity and more. The results inspired us to continue learning and seeking ways to improve, one small element at a time. Below are just a few additional resources on habit building that have helped us in pursuit of our goals. Our hope is that they do the same for you.