Productive Leaders

Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame

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10 Positive Things You Can Do Today to Improve Your Life

Living your best life means something different to every person, and it does not have to mean having fame and fortune. Your definition may be drastically different from that of your spouse or partner, and all of your friends.  There is nothing wrong with that.

What is important to remember is the only person who can change your situation, your circumstances, and your perspective is you.

No matter what your dreams, no matter what your circumstances, you CAN change your life’s path by making minor changes. These minor changes compound over time to produce amazing results, without taking a tremendous amount of time out of your daily life.

Here are ten things you can do right now, TODAY, to change your life and your level of happiness:

  1. Figure out who you want to be, then plan the steps you need to get there. Do you want to be CEO of your own business, a partner in a top law firm, or volunteer of the year at your kids’ school? Every path requires different skills and knowledge base, so it is up to you to figure out what you need to be the type of person you desire.
  2. Practice habit stacking – or multitasking. If you have been meaning to read more but cannot seem to find the time, take the 10 minutes it takes your coffee to brew in the morning to read. Do not reach for your phone; grab your book instead. This commitment is much easier because it is not a lot of time and you are already spending that time waiting for your coffee. Another example is to floss right after brushing your teeth. You are already in the bathroom so flossing is the next logical habit to start.
  3. Incorporate the 2-minute rule. Instead of committing to meditating for 20 minutes every day, commit to 2 minutes. Or add an extra 2 minutes to the end of your cardio workout. Relieve stress by doing some deep breathing exercises for 2 minutes. It is much easier to do something for 2 minutes than it is to carve out time for 20+ minutes.
  4. Make clear boundaries. Boundaries are necessary to keep us sane in both our personal and professional lives. Do you want to be on call with clients 24/7 or would you like to manage business only during business hours? Do you want toxic friends or family members sucking the fun out of your family events? Consider who you want at these events and invite who you want, not who you feel obligated to invite.
  5. Identify as the person you want to be. Use some adjectives to describe the type of person you want to be. Are you “someone who doesn’t eat junk food” or are you someone who is constantly tempted by snacks? Are you “trying to quit smoking” or are you “a non-smoker”? The same is true in business. If you run your own business and you have decided that you are a CEO, then you are a CEO. Create the right description of yourself that describes where you are and where you want to be.
  6. Find your community and join them to further manifest your identity. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people helps you keep a positive mindset. If the people around you are spending more time complaining and less time doing what they need to do to be successful, find new people.
  7. Get back on the wagon if you slip up. All is not lost if you make a mistake. If you skip a workout, there is always tomorrow. You have worked hard to develop this habit so do not allow all your hard work to go to waste because you made one simple mistake. It is far easier to reignite the habit than it is to start all over again months down the road.
  8. Set a concrete goal for a certain number of days and do not break the chain. Tracking your habits gives you a visual reminder of all the progress you are making, but make sure it is an attainable goal. For instance, if you want to improve your writing skills and speed, consider a goal of writing five hundred words per day for 30 days. At the end of 30 days, consider tracking for another 30 days. Setting a goal that is too large – such as writing 10,000 words per day – is overwhelming and often leads to giving up. Seeing your progress gives you increased energy to keep moving forward.
  9. Choose concrete goals instead of abstractions. “Getting healthy” or “making more sales calls” are not concrete goals. Goals that are too abstract and do not lead to long term behaviors. Instead, choose to do two pushups a day. Decide to make two sales calls per day before 9 AM. The initial time investment is nominal, and it is doable, even when you are busy. At some point, the habits will become second nature – a new habit – at which point you can add another tiny habit to the mix.
  10. If you start too big, make your tiny habit even smaller. Some “tiny” habits are still too big because we are used to thinking of everything as oversized. If you cannot run for 15 minutes, start with 2 minutes, and then increase by 30 seconds every day. If you cannot get motivated to make those calls, write the names and numbers in your planner and schedule it for 8 AM. Make looking at those numbers the first tiny habit of the day. These tiny habits are meant to become so automatic that you do not think about them, you just do them once they are ingrained.

Tiny habits are the steppingstones on which we build our best lives.

Mary’s note: What tiny change can you make today and commit to doing, that will improve your life?


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