Change doesn’t happen overnight.
Most people think that in order to change some aspect of their lives, they need to do everything overnight. They need to wake up the next day a different person. They need to ditch “incremental thinking” and try to hit personal development “home runs.”
In reality, this approach never works—and if you really want to change, you should do the opposite.
As James Clear famously explains in his best-selling book, Atomic Habits, “If you get 1% better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done.” Change, he says, doesn’t happen overnight. And it shouldn’t. Instead, if you want to make big changes in your life, focus on the small stuff. Just get 1% better, day after day, for a year. And by the time the year is done, you’ll be a completely different person.
As an entrepreneur, but also as a husband and father, improvement and continuing to adapt to new circumstances is something I think about often.
Here are three small changes I have seen make a huge difference in my life, that I encourage others to apply to their own lives as well.
1. If you’re feeling frustrated, do more—not less.
Incremental steps forward are what lead to breakthroughs.
Self-improvement, in any area of life, is all about getting momentum to build so the dominoes can start falling forward. For example, on the days you don’t feel like going to the gym, the easiest way to overcome those feelings is to lower the expectations you have for your workout that day just to get yourself there. Then, once you’re in the gym, and you’ve started stretching a bit, it becomes significantly easier to decide, “You know what? I’m just going to do a few sets as long as I’m here.” And before you know it, you’ve done your workout for the day.
I see this same scenario play out in so many different aspects of my life.
I see it in my business, where whenever I am thinking about how to solve a problem, the easiest place to start is by trying to solve a smaller problem to get the momentum going. Or, I see it in my family, where whenever I feel like there’s too much going on and not enough hours in the day, I start by just focusing on the present moment and doing the best I can, right now. I even see this with my own hobbies, or things I become curious about but are new skills or areas of interest for me.
It can feel overwhelming whenever you are starting something new—which is why the best place to start is somewhere small.
Let momentum build from there.
2. Clump similar activities together to make tasks easier to tackle.
Here’s a quick story that will explain my point here.
Heart disease runs in my family. Two grandfathers and a grandmother have passed away from it. My dad had a heart attack at 55 years old. I have uncles that have passed away from it. It’s rampant in our family, and my mom was diagnosed with some heart issues a few weeks ago.
When I was talking with her recently about steps she could take to prevent things from getting worse, she felt overwhelmed. After talking to doctors, naturopaths, cardiologists, etc., they gave her all different kinds of information and recommendations as to what she should do. “Take these supplements. Start meditating. Change your diet. Do these exercises.” She didn’t know where to start.
As we were talking about it, I told her to try clumping similar activities together.
“Try not to think of each one of these things as separate tasks,” I said. “Let’s find a way to take your list of 50 things down to 5 distinct categories. Meditation and exercise, for example, can go together. Taking supplements and eating healthy can go together.” And so on.
By grouping similar activities, all of a sudden what seems like a long and arduous process of change feels completely actionable. Tony Robbins calls this, “The Power of Chunking.”
3. Focus on “anchor habits” to help move from where you are to where you want to be.
Finally, whether you are trying to change yourself or help others change, you have to remember that everyone is starting within the frameworks of their “anchor habits.”
For example, you don’t have to consciously remind yourself to brush your teeth every morning (at least, I hope not). You just do it. And you do it because that habit has been anchored into your daily routine. Instead of trying to create an entirely new habit, simply add on to your “anchor habits”. Immediately after you brush your teeth, add on taking your supplements and doing a 5-minute meditation. The idea is that by simply adding a few steps to an anchor habit, you won’t forget or have to start from scratch.
The key here is to start small—which is why most people’s New Year’s resolutions and big promises to themselves rarely stick. Instead of trying to replace long-time habits with new ones, you want to put yourself on a path of improvement over time. Again, 1% better each day for a year is better than 100% better tomorrow, but then back to 0% the day after.
I have also seen this same dynamic play out in the business world. One of my personal interests is health and wellness, and I have been a big proponent of eating keto, taking adaptogens, cordyceps, MCT oil, and so on. And a few years ago we had an opportunity to roll out a version of one of our Koia products with all those ingredients, attributes, and a bit of protein. And even though I loved the product, and so did some of the buyers, the majority of the customers at this grocery chain weren’t ready for it. This new product was too far from the anchor attributes of our brand—and so the product failed as a result.
Without this lens of intentional, incremental changes, you can go too far, too fast, even with your product innovations.