How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time, of course.

It’s easy to forget that when the elephant’s a mountain of ‘to-do’ items, a nagging ‘wish-list’ of improvements, a general tsunami of what life has to throw at us.

We’re not daft. We’ve read the books. We know that meditating every day, getting exercise, eating healthily, making time for our relationships, is important.

And so we come up with Grand New Plans to totally transform our lives. Meditate twice every day! Keep a journal! Yoga, baby!

The next morning (or maybe a day later if we’re REALLY lucky) and we’re running late. We’ll do that really important, kinda time-consuming thing LATER.

(Does later ever come?)

So here’s the deal. Yes, you want to make changes. But doing something (even a tiny something) consistently yields better results than doing a big thing every now and again. It’s not just the cumulative effect of doing something repeatedly (though there’s that, too).

It’s about building a new psychological contract with yourself. A new story that says, yes, I can do something, I can change; here’s proof.

The trick is to keep it super-super small and to cheat. Your brain is lazy and part of what keeps us in our bad habits is how energy-efficient it is to NOT make a decision. Making the choice to go out on an hour’s run means we have to make lots of different choices for that one action. URGH.

  • Want to meditate? Set an alarm in your phone to take a really deep breath and check in with how you’re feeling once a day.
  • Want to exercise? Get off the bus one stop earlier and walk the rest. Or park further away.
  • Want to eat healthily? Swap out one coffee a day for a herbal tea or glass of water.
  • Want to get more sleep? Set a ‘go to bed’ alarm reminding you to switch your light off ten minutes earlier.

And that’s it. Do it for a week, a fortnight, as an ‘experiment’ so you’re not attached to the outcome. Be open and curious. There is no failure, only feedback. Start small. Build up your habit muscle and develop a new relationship with yourself.

Which small change change would make a huge difference?

I’m setting a ‘go to bed’ alarm tonight; how about you?

Photo credit: Phil Whitehouse

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