You’ve always put cream and sugar in your coffee, but today is different.
You went to put that second spoonful of sugar, and you stopped halfway through.
You only put one and a half today. You’re not sure why, and you’re not sure if it matters. It does.
It matters more than you would ever know. That half of a spoonful could change your life, if you let it.
When it’s a negative habit, we just brush it off as a bad habit that doesn’t matter much, although we know what it will do to us over time. When it’s a positive habit, we call it self discipline. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today.
How do you start a new habit? With a small decision to change. A small decision that turns into a large result.
You decide you want to be a runner, so you run around the block. You want to be a daily reader, so today you read one page. You want to start a new writing habit, so today you write 100 words, or just ten words. You start small, knowing it’s going to snowball into a life-changing habit.
So yes, small choices matter. But they don’t just matter, they’re everything. And it’s important to remember that.
When you’re running and you decide to run to one more mailbox, after you planned on stopping, that decision matters. You just made a huge step towards becoming a successful runner, if you continue on that path. How many mailboxes would you run to over the course of a month, if you were constantly “just doing one more?”
It matters. It all matters. More than you know, or at least, more than you used to know. But honestly, you know each one of those decisions matter. That’s why it bothers you when you planned on doing 10 reps and you only do nine. You know how it will compound. If you do nine today, it will be much easier mentally to do eight tomorrow. It’s a downward spiral that happens faster than we think. Every time.
Bad Small Choices, Good Small Choices
Don’t fall for the “I might as well go all out mindset.”
You know what I mean. You’re on a diet, and it’s going great. Until one day, you meet a friend at a Chinese buffet. You think:
“I’m going to cheat, so I might as well go all out. I’ll have a Coke. And…I’ll pack out my plate with fried food, before going back for a second plate of rice and noodles. Yeah, I’ll have some soup too. And I can’t forget the desert bar.”
30 minutes later, you feel like you’re going to die.
Sometimes we need that. Sometimes we need to go all out. But the key word is “sometimes.”
You shouldn’t go all out every time you cheat on your diet. You shouldn’t do absolutely no exercise every time you miss your hour-long workout. You shouldn’t wait until tomorrow to resume your daily reading habit, even if tomorrow is Monday. Read today.
Those small choices are important.
Why Small Choices Are Everything
And it seems like every study says the same thing. Habits start small, you need a cue and you need a reward.
The Study published a tool for creating new habits. Here’s their checklist:
- Decide on a goal that you would like to achieve for your health.
- Choose a simple action that will get you towards your goal which you can do on a daily basis.
- Plan when and where you will do your chosen action. Be consistent: choose a time and place that you encounter every day of the week.
- Every time you encounter that time and place, do the action.
- It will get easier with time, and within 10 weeks you should find you are doing it automatically without even having to think about it.
- Congratulations, you’ve made a healthy habit!
My goal (e.g. ‘to eat more fruit and vegetables’) ____________________________________
My plan (e.g. ‘after I have lunch at home I will have a piece of fruit’)
(When and where) ___________________________ I will ___________________________
The key phrase is “choose a simple action.” If you start too big, you fail. If you start small, it’s easier and you have nothing to lose.
This model is extremely effective. The problem is, we would rather read about how to do it, instead of just taking the first small step. I’ve been guilty of this and so have you.
It All Matters
Every choice matters in some way. And that’s good! Now you can feel good about each one.
When you go for that donut, and decide you don’t need it, you just had a small win, and you know that’s huge!
Small wins are all you need for huge success. You just have to have enough of them.
Every decision you make has some sort of implication on your life. Remember that when you’re happy, and when you’re stressed. Remember that on the weekdays and the weekends. Remember that morning and night.
It makes “micro quotas” and “macro goals.” That means using small habits to create huge results.
Everything you do matters. Take the word “just” out of your vocabulary, unless you use it for good. It’s not “just” one more spoonful of sugar. It’s not “just” one more piece of pizza. It’s not “just” one day without completing your habit.
But it is “just” one more mailbox. It’s “just” one more page. It’s “just” 100 more words to write.
Flip your thinking. Stop making excuses for why you can do the bad, and start doing the good.