How to make small changes that add up to big differences
Making changes can feel overwhelming. The simple way around that is to start small. The strategy below will help you do just that.
Step #1: MAP your way to your goals
To start creating tiny habits for lasting change, start thinking of your habits with the MAP acronym.
Motivation – how likely are you to take action?
Ability – how easy is it to achieve?
Prompt – how can you remind yourself effectively?
If the goal was to eat chocolate every day, motivation would not to be a problem, am I right? The problem is that it can be extremely hard to feel motivated to do things that you don’t have any natural motivation for. This is where the other two points can help.
The trick is to make your new habit very doable. So doable it’s impossible not to do. For example if your goal is to workout for 30 minutes every day, then you can begin with 1 or 2 minutes per day. Starting to build a tiny habit routine into your day is enough to get the ball rolling. Wherever your starting point, the idea is to instil the habit first and foremost. Once you’ve developed the habit, then you can begin to build upon it – go from 1 to 2 minutes to 2 to 4 minutes and so on until your reach your goal – this way it hardly feels like it has taken any effort to get there. You can increase it any time you like, but the important thing is to keep up the habit. If you increase the load too quickly and make it feel unpleasant, then an anti-motivation drive will take over and undo your good work. So, take it easy. Keep it small and manageable so it never feels like a major chore or sacrifice, and just be sure to keep doing it.
The idea here is to attach a reminder to the habit you want to gain. For example: as a prompt to start your new workout habit, you could place a reminder (perhaps a note, or a sweatband or your yoga mat) by the kettle when you go to bed every night. This way when you wake up and go to make that morning coffee, the prompt is there reminding you to workout (however briefly).
This is especially powerful when the prompt is attached to another, already fully-formed habit. You know that every morning, without fail, you go to the kettle to make a drink. By setting your prompt by the kettle, you are leveraging the power of an ingrained habit to help you form another.
Step #2: Create your new tiny habits
If you’re ready to make some changes, you can use the steps below to create tiny habits that will get you to your goals. Remember, start small and keep it manageable. Real changes that last a lifetime take time and patience to nurture.
#1: Write your goal or aspiration on paper and draw a cloud around it.
#2: Brain storm as many small behaviours that will contribute to the achievement of the goal as you can think of (around 10 is a good number to begin with, but it doesn’t matter too much as long as you get some). You can do this alone, with a trusted friend, or with your coach. Write these around the cloud and draw arrows pointing towards your goal.
#3: Draw a star next to the tiny habits that are going to the most helpful and useful in achieving your goal.
#4: Draw a circle around the habits that are easy to achieve (high ability factor). You should end up with something that looks a bit like the drawing below.
You can now see where to focus your attention. The tiny behaviours that have both a star and a circle (3, 6 and 10 in the example), are the ones you need to build into your daily routines.
#5: The last thing is to celebrate. Every time you practice your new tiny habit, celebrate with a ‘yes!’ or ‘well done me!’ or maybe a little dance. Make it genuine. Like when you celebrate your team’s winning goal, or like when you receive some really good news. You don’t have to run around waving your hands in the air (unless you want to!). Just try to make it as authentic and natural as possible. And remember to actually do it. It’s positive reinforcement and it helps.
Step #3: Optional – Work with a coach
Working with a coach gives you the support and structure to make these habits stick. Here’s why:
- You can explore what’s kept you from making new habits in the past.
- You can brainstorm which habits are going to be most meaningful and impactful.
- You can examine and let go of the beliefs that stop you from taking action.
- You can get clear on the root causes of the patterns you want to change.
- You get a compassionate mirror and a judgement-free space to explore your goals and how to make them happen.
- You get a supportive and no-nonsense accountability partner.