So often we set lofty goals for ourselves, like “I’m going to the gym every day this week!” or “I’m going to write for 2 hours every day!” And that can be okay, except that often, when we falter or miss a day we feel like we’ve failed and we give up completely.
Sometimes all it takes is a tiny step to create a big change. I call these micro-actions. Micro-actions are seemingly benign actions that can lead to a domino effect of change. Because they feel so small they are easy to do and more likely to be habit forming. And here’s the bonus: that tiny action actually changes our energy and perspective and often leads to bigger action.
Here’s an example: Last week I was leading a training for 4 days in a row. I was inside all day, doing a lot of sitting/standing but not much actual activity. The first day I went for a walk outside at lunch time but I had on “work” shoes (aka leather boots, not made for exercise) and at the end of the day I felt stiff and tired. Because the environment was fairly casual the next day I decided to just wear my running shoes (Super comfortable!) all day. I had no plan other than that. But what happened was that when it was break time I went out for a quick walk/jog. Then I did it again at the next break! And then again at lunch. All told I went out 4 or 5 times that day. When I put the shoes on I did not hold that as an expectation, but because I had them on, it felt easier and more natural to just go. It changed my whole experience of the day. AND the next day, one of the class participants even joined me for walk!
Now I put my running shoes on even when I don’t plan to exercise, and I notice that I am more inclined to get up and walk around, or do some stretching, just because I have them on.
Why do they work?
It’s a way for us to consciously set an intention that may lead to behaviors that take us in the direction of our goals. But because they don’t come with high expectations, even the slightest shift forward makes us feel successful.
Another example of a micro-action that one of my clients tried was writing for just 15 minutes a day. He had a big project to do and couldn’t get started because it felt so big. So, all he required of himself was 15 minutes. He set a timer and when it went off he could stop. But usually by that point he didn’t want to stop and kept going and going. Even when he did stop, he felt successful, productive, and more confident.
Here’s the key to micro-actions:
How to decide what to do try:
Think about what behavior you’d like to change and brainstorm some tiny actions that will help shift your energy. Then notice the impact.
I notice that if I drink a glass of water as soon as I get up in the morning I am more likely to drink water throughout the day – but I don’t set a specific goal, it just happens.
If I listen to a podcast in the morning, I am more likely to be productive in my work.
These are small things, and require almost no effort, but they lead to big things.
What micro-actions will you try?
Sue Abuelsamid is a member of the coaching team at BetterManager!