As humans, we constantly strive to be the best. The best at our job, the best parent, the best friend, the best son or daughter, etc. As such, we consistently look for ways to improve ourselves. While there are countless books and hundreds of blogs on self improvement, what stops so many of us from making real, significant progress? Fear of change. “In most cases, fear of change stops us from taking action,” according to Change Management Coach. “It often works with anxiety, self-doubt and guilt to help it to do this.”
It’s natural to feel some amount of fear when trying to make life changes. Much of this fear, however, stems from the misconception that we need to take grand, drastic action to make real changes and see positive results. This false belief makes us feel anxious and intimidated, and in many cases, hinders us from taking action.
In his best-selling book The Compound Effect, success coach Darren Hardy explains how little everyday actions compound over time to shape your life. As Hardy says, “You get started by taking one small step, one action at a time.” Based on this idea, let’s look at the little things successful people do each day and how they can help us improve our own lives.
Be Kind to Others
Forget all the clichés you may have heard: “It’s a dog eat dog world,” “Only the strong survive,” “Take care of yourself and don’t worry about other people.” I get it, the world is a competitive place and you need to take care of yourself, but the world is also full of about seven billion people, so we might as well try to get along and be cognizant of how we treat others.
Personal relationships are very important. According to Theodore Roosevelt, “The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.” Your relationships with family, significant others, friends, coworkers, and even strangers can have a major impact on your life. While most people are naturally kind, we can increase our capacity for kindness with practice. Studies show that spending time each day to cultivate an attitude of compassion promotes happiness and life satisfaction and helps it come more naturally to kids and adults alike.
In his monologue for his last episode of “The Tonight Show” in 2010, award-winning talk show host Conan O’Brien also touched on kindness in relation to success: “Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen. I’m telling you, amazing things will happen.” So take Conan’s advice and figure out how to be kind to others. There are lots of easy ways to practice kindness every day: smile, give hugs, compliment a coworker, offer to help someone, leave a big tip at a restaurant, buy coffee for the person in line behind you, etc. No task is too small and most acts of kindness require minimal effort.
When was the last time you sat down and thought about the things you’re grateful for? This is something we should all be doing every day. Rather than just making a mental note of what you’re grateful for, however, make a commitment to put it in writing. You can keep a gratitude journal or just keep a notepad next to your nightstand. If you need some accountability, start an email chain with close friends where you each send your lists each day.
When you keep a gratitude journal, you have a constant awareness of the things you’re thankful for. You’ll remember not to take things for granted and you’ll appreciate all the little blessings in your life. Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post and founder and CEO of Thrive Global writes about the real-life benefits of keeping a gratitude journal in her book Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder: “According to a study by researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of Florida, having participants write down a list of positive events at the close of the day – and why the events made them happy — lowered their self-reported stress levels and gave them a greater sense of calm at night.” Research has also found that gratitude can improve your relationships, boost physical health, and improve self-esteem and mental health.
Making a gratitude list takes less than 10 minutes and has a number of benefits. Also, remember to express gratitude throughout the day; say thank you and let people know you appreciate them.
This one may make some of you want to stop reading but before you close your browser window, let me explain. I’m not telling you to commit to an intense, grueling workout program, join a CrossFit box, or sign up for a body-transformation bootcamp. (Note:if you are into these things, however, there’s nothing wrong with that.) Remember, our focus is making small, realistic changes, so when it comes to exercise, let’s take a easier, softer approach.
Think about how you can be more active during your day. Can you go for a walk at lunch, do 10 minutes of yoga in the morning, or take the stairs instead of the elevator in your office? If you are up to committing to something, search online for a 30-day challenge. Making exercise a part of your day can change your life for the better.
Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah Winfrey, Anna Wintour and Mark Cuban are just a few of several successful individuals who credit their consistent exercise routines for increased levels of energy and productivity. Put simply by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, “doing anything well requires energy, and you just have a lot more energy when you’re fit.”
Besides the physical benefits, according to Greatist, exercise can relieve stress and anxiety, increase productivity, sharpen memory, and boost confidence, brain function, and productivity. Exercise also releases endorphins, feel-good chemicals that improve your mood and overall well being. Do yourself (and everyone around you) a favor and find ways to move your body throughout the day.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
OK, naturally I don’t mean stop what you’re doing and take a nap right now, but I do mean make a concerted effort to get enough rest and improve the quality of your sleep. When your head hits the pillow at the end of a long day, do you drift peacefully off to dreamland or does your brain spin endlessly about all the world’s problems? Sleep may seem like an arbitrary part of your life but lack of quality rest can take a toll on your body, your mind, and your mood. “When you’re deprived of sleep, your brain can’t function properly, affecting your cognitive abilities and emotional state,” according to Healthline. “If it continues long enough, it can lower your body’s defenses, putting you at risk of developing chronic illness.
Influential people from CEOs to Academy-Award Winning actors have talked about their own sleep routines and how a good night’s rest helps them perform at an optimal level. Former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates shared his thoughts on consistent sleep in a Microsoft FAQ, “I like to get seven hours of sleep a night because that’s what I need to stay sharp and creative and upbeat.”
When you’re well rested, you’re more productive and you’re also a nicer, more positive person. Aim to get seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Decide your ideal bedtime and limit your screen time before going to bed.
Wake Up Early
Yes I know, this tip seems like a complete contradiction of the last suggestion, but hear me out. It’s no coincidence that some of the most successful entrepreneurs and business leaders wake up early and stick to a morning routine. Steve Jobs talked about his daily ritual in a commencement speech at Stanford, and United States Founding Father Benjamin Franklin had a two-hour morning routine where he set a plan for the rest of his day.
Waking up early gives you a head start on the day, but it also gives you precious time for yourself, to do things you wouldn’t have time for otherwise. You can use these extra minutes to write in your gratitude journal, exercise, meditate, read, or pursue a creative endeavor. Think about it, there are probably things you’ve been meaning to do that you haven’t because you simply don’t have time.
“Early birds are more likely to be successful, healthy and happy compared to their night-owl friends,” according to Elyse Loeb from inspiyr. “If you want a boost in productivity, health or well being, try waking up early. ”Just remember, if you’re going to wake up early, you really need to make a serious commitment to getting better, quality sleep.
Being a better, more successful person isn’t about making big drastic, changes. Instead, it’s about committing to simple changes over time. What skills or habits are you currently working on? Let us know in the comments below!