Everybody wants to be in charge of their own life, yet many people feel like they’re being lived. Outside factors determine their daily actions.
To change that, many people think that they have to do a massive overhaul of their life. However, the opposite is probably true.
Below 67 small actions with a big impact that will give you a sense of control over yourself and make your life instantly better.
Small steps can lead to big changes.
What 67 actions will make your life instantly better?
- Write your own definition of success.
´If you aim at nothing you will hit it every time´ Zig Ziglar said. So before you take off on any journey of change and improvement, make sure you know what you’re aiming for. Mine is: Live your values.
- Say No.
There are many roads to success but one sure route to failure and that is to say ´Yes´ to everything. Tim Ferriss was right on that. Be intentional about what you say Yes and No to… And that doesn’t mean you have to be rude.
- Set priorities.
Set 3 priorities for your personal life and 3 for work. Those are the big stones in the mason jar of life. The rest are pebbles and sand. Make sure you fit the big stones first into the jar.
- Eat slowly.
The most important nutrition habit to practise for health and weight loss. More important than any diet. It creates body awareness, and you can tune in to your hunger cues.
- Eat to satisfied (80% full).
The second most important nutrition habit. If you listen to your body by eating slowly, you can get up from the table being satisfied without feeling stuffed or full.
Don’t take life (or yourself) too seriously. It’s not like you’re going to get out alive.
- Pet your dog.
Nobody has ever said ´I wish I had spent less time with my dog´ and giving your canine the love it deserves is a great stress relief for you. Really, it is! Win-win.
- Go for a walk.
Leave your phone at home and listen to the sound of silence in your head while your body is doing one of the healthiest (and normal) things it should be doing.
- Go for a walking meeting.
A walking meeting is a great way to discuss opposing views. Instead of facing each other across the table, walking together in the same direction creates a sense of joint destiny. Don’t believe me? Check out this YouTube video at 10;35.
- Switch off your phone.
I promise that the world won’t end if for a brief moment you go back to the 20th century. Go on. Now go and do something. Whatever it is you do, you will get a sense of accomplishment or relaxation.
- Set your alarm.. to go to bed.
Newsflash: You’re just as human as everybody else and to be the best version of yourself you need enough quality sleep. Check at what time you need to get up in the morning, set your bedtime 8 hours earlier and put an alarm on your mobile to go to bed half an hour before that.
- Drink good whisky.
Or Gin Tonic, or wine or tea. Stop considering every moment, meal or drink as an exam for your diet and your willpower. Treat yourself to something you enjoy and make sure you live that moment of enjoyment. Let’s call that intentional enjoyment.
- Talk to people.
Especially if you’re young. Just have a chat with someone when you wait in line at your Starbucks, butcher, or bus stop. It will help build assertiveness and self-confidence.
It will not only make you look smart, but you will also actually become smarter. And personally, I think flipping the page of an old-fashioned book is like taking another step into a new world.
- Eat sufficient protein.
Whether you want to lose weight, build muscle or both, eating adequate protein is crucial. It helps you eat less without feeling hungry. It helps shed fat, gain muscle or maintain muscle mass and it will help you to stay lean for life.
- Enjoy your movement.
Stop punishing yourself with exercise you don’t enjoy. Find something you like because you will be able to sustain it. Weightlifting, running, frisbee, salsa dancing.. you pick. Just make sure you do it with a smile on your face.
- Put in a few extra steps every day.
Park your car further from the entrance, take the stairs, go for a walking meeting, walk the dog a bit longer. It impacts your NEAT (yes, you should Google that) and it really helps to get healthier.
- Lift weights.
No, you will not get bulky. You will gain strength, confidence and muscle mass while burning fat. All experts know this. Stop thinking you know better.
- Darken your bedroom.
Light and especially blue lights have a massive negative impact on the quality of your sleep. Make your room ´Kentucky trailer park´-dark to ensure a restful night of sleep.
- Cool down your bedroom.
Your brain and your body need to drop their core temperature by about one-degree Celsius o two to three degrees Fahrenheit to initiate sleep and then to stay asleep. So aim for a bedroom temperature of around about 18 degrees Celsius (65 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Drink good coffee.
A moment to yourself. Don’t add quantity, add quality. A short shot of espresso can give you that ´eye-closing, aaahhh-this is good’ feeling. A quick break from everything. And yes, we can still be friends if you’re a tea person…
- Have a hot shower before bed.
After the shower the body will do a heat-dump and your core temperature will lower (as surprising as it may sound) which will help you fall asleep better.
- Experience a different culture.
Go somewhere where life is different from what you’re used to. Dive in, learn a few words of the language, eat where the locals eat and most importantly; don’t compare with what you have at home! Enrich your life by getting off the beaten track
- Notice and name.
Noticing means pausing to pay attention. Naming means taking an extra moment to describe a situation to yourself explicitly. Slowing down, pausing and paying attention puts your conscious instead of your automatic brain in charge. And when this happens, you are able to make better and healthier choices.
- Allow and accept.
Allow feelings, thoughts and sensations to be present. Don’t fight them. Accept that they are part of life and that they come and go. You are not your beliefs or perceptions. It’s ok to have a bad moment because that’s all it is. A bad moment. It’s not a prelude to the rest of your life.
Only I can do what I do… Well, that´s not true. Only you can do what you do the way you do it. But let others help and do it their way. They might take a different route but if they get there and feel empowered because of it, does that matter?
- Do one thing at a time.
Nobody can do 2 conscious tasks at once. We all switch between tasks. Maybe rapidly but every time you switch between tasks you lose speed. One thing after the other. Do the following test if you don’t believe me.
You don’t have to be a hippie to meditate. You don’t have to put your legs in your neck. Just breathe in through your nose for a few seconds and exhale slightly longer than you inhale. There, you just calmed yourself down. Feel free to take this as far as you feel comfortable with.
- Practice gratitude.
Receiving gratitude is much more important than writing things down you’re grateful for. Observing someone else receiving or expressing thanks is one of the best forms to practise gratitude. Relive the moment when someone expressed gratitude towards you or the moment when you saw someone else receive help (45;50 – 52;25).
- Do a kitchen makeover.
Change your environment and you will change. A kitchen makeover gets rid of the non-nutritious stuff and/or foods that trigger you to engage in poor eating behaviours. Then it replaces the junk with a bounty of health-promoting foods.
- Celebrate success.
Celebration is the bridge from small habits to big changes. Nothing feeds future success more than feeling successful. Celebrate immediately after you´ve done something good. Success momentum gets created by the frequency of your successes, not by the size of them.
- Breathe through your nose.
When you breathe through your nose working muscles receive more oxygen; recovery is quicker and injury risk lessens; your core, spine and pelvic floor are stronger; Your nervous system is balanced, reducing performance anxiety and oxidative stress. Check out the oxygen advantage for more info.
- Let your children explain what they learned.
It will help them understand if they understand what they learned and you might (and probably) will learn something as well. And check out the smile on their faces when you give them your undivided attention
You don’t have to become a full-time member of the peace corps. Just ask if you can lend a helping hand at your local sports club. It feels great to contribute to something greater than you.
Pick one improvement you want to make. Break that one improvement down into a very, very, very small and simple chunk. Commit to practising one 5-minute action every day. Ask yourself: What’s one small action I can take today that would make me feel just a little more awesome? Then do it.
- Let go of all or nothing.
In spite of what motivational gurus on YouTube and Instagram make you believe, all-or-nothing tends to end up in nothing. As of today: ´Every day something´.
- Eat your veggies.
Yes, your mum was right. Eating your veggies means different vitamins, minerals and fibre. All essential for staying healthy, focused and energised but it’s also very important to avoid the boredom of eating the same thing every time. So go and chase the rainbow on your plate!
- Reach out to an old friend.
He or she probably misses you as much as you miss them. Instead of thinking whether you should or shouldn’t, pick up the phone and call!
- Call your parents!
Yes, they are thinking about you, they miss you and they would love to hear from you. One day, hopefully far away in the future, they won’t be there anymore. Say what you have to say to them now. Don´t wait.
- Stand up straight.
Your posture will decide your mood. Slouch and you will walk around defeated but assume a power pose (stand up straight, shoulders back) and you can face life head on. Body posture influences our emotional health. Ask Amy Cuddy.
- Move like a child.
At Movnat they say that you’re truly fit if you can do what a child does for a day without getting tired. Crawl, jump, sprint, hang, climb. Find the joy and fitness of moving like a kid.
- Stop being a hardaholic.
Are you hooked on things being difficult? Slow down or take a break. If you want to go hard, sometimes you have to go easy. When a plane encounters turbulence the pilot seeks another cruise altitude. Be the pilot of your life and change altitude to make things easier.
- Switch off your email and WhatsApp.
Unscheduled messages are the poison that kills your productivity and your sense of achievement. A quick check is just as damaging as a 20 minute one because it initiates the network switch in your brain. Stop interrupting yourself!
- Progress over perfection.
Stop being a perfectionist. Progress will take you much further. Perfectionism is procrastination masquerading as quality-control (Chris Williamson). Just take the next step. It will take you one step closer to where you want to go and one step away from where you don’t want to be.
- You have enough information. Now get on with it.
You don’t need all the information to proceed. If the person with the most information would be the most successful, the person that read the most books would be the richest in the world. Just keep going!
Things will go wrong. Count on that in your planning. Make a resilient schedule where your priorities still happen, even when life doesn’t go as planned.
- One big adventure, one little adventure.
´Each week do at least 2 things worth remembering´ Laura Vanderkam says at 43;19. And she’s right. Date night, a weekend away, go for a bike ride with your kids… Your pick but do things worth remembering.
- Change your inner dialogue.
Talk to yourself as if you’re talking to a good friend. You would talk to them in a loving, kind and caring way trying to help them to become the best version of who they can be. So treat yourself as your own best friend.
- Take a chance.
Nothing wonderful is going to happen to you unless you take an uncomfortable risk. So get good at taking them and start practising today. Pitch that idea to your manager, send that email to potential clients or simply go over and say ´hi´ to the guy or girl you like so much.
- Keep it simple.
Most people need clarity and consistency. Not more complexity. As Leo da V said: Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Remove clutter and focus on the few vital things and not the trivial many.
Getting to touch, cut, prepare and enjoy the food you cook will help you make better food choices and will be a (probably much needed) break from your busy life. And if you can cook with someone else you can share and spread the love.
- Look for an opposing view.
´The sign of intelligence is that you are constantly wondering. Idiots are always dead sure about every damn thing they are doing in their life´ – Jaggi Vasudev. Don’t be afraid to challenge your own beliefs and listen to opposing ones. You might and you will learn something.
Psychology Today says: The anticipation and sense of hopefulness for better times can keep us motivated and excited for the delayed gratification of a getaway. This “light at the end of the tunnel” often has a long-term mood-boosting effect and can help us relax as it puts us in the mind frame of a more soothing future. So start planning.
- Learn a new skill
It helps you discover your unknown potential. Growing your skill set will help you realise how useful you are to many people, and that will make you happy and mentally sound. And the transfer effect is when practising one skill improves performance on another skill.
To-do lists are usually nothing more than wish-lists. Make a list of tasks you, no matter what, don’t do. The most important use of a Not To Do List is to get out of the clutches of bad habits you have already formed.
- Write in a journal
“Journaling also improves mental health and allows for stress relief, because it can provide a safe space to unload your pent-up thoughts and feelings,” said Dr. Carla Manly. So, without judgement, get your pen and paper out and start writing.
- Learn to add.
Instead of taking 100% as a base and subtract, use 0% as a base and start adding. Add more good habits and choices and the bad ones will disappear.
Research has shown barefoot contact with the earth can produce nearly instant changes in a variety of physiological measures, helping improve sleep, reduce pain, decrease muscle tension and lower stress. Your chance to go all hippie!
- Set behavioural goals.
Step away from the outcome goals and set yourself behavioural goals. An outcome goal would be I want to run a 5k race in 20 minutes. A behavioural goal is ´I run 3 times per week no matter what´. We often can’t control outcomes, but we can control our behaviour.
- Do something… Anything!
Action cures anxiety. Get off the couch, cancel your Netflix subscription, block sites and apps on your phone and go and see what’s out there in the world. The world needs you out there instead of on the couch. Get involved in life!
- Take a cold shower.
Yes, join in the madness! Increase your focus, build resilience, enhance your mood. Get the hang of it bit by bit. 10 seconds the first day at the beginning and/or end of your shower and try to extend that.
- Have a crucial conversation.
Crucial conversations happen when the stakes are high, there are opposite views and strong emotions are involved. The success in your life will probably depend on the amount of crucial conversations you are willing to have.
- Bask in the sun.
- Make your bed in the morning.
It will give you a sense of accomplishment at the start of the day and it kick starts a chain of good decisions throughout the day. And I dare you to disagree with Adm McRaven.
- Shut up and listen.
You have one mouth and two ears. Use that proportion when it comes to communication. Make sure you listen more than you speak. Master the art of listening instead of responding.
- Keep it real.
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are… Thank you Teddy Roosevelt for that one.
- Be a learn-it-all, not a know-it-all.
Don’t try to look smart, get smart. Ask questions instead of giving answers. If you’re the smartest person in the room… get out and find another room.
Small actions can have a really big impact
Don’t underestimate that! Take small steps forward every day and be proud of the steps you’re taking and the effort you’re putting in.
Let me know if you think I missed any.