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The other day, I woke up early, got into my workout clothes, and did the worst thing ever. I checked email. An hour later, I had to peel my fingers from the keyboard and get dressed for work. I was out of time.
But that's not exactly true. The truth is I had about ten minutes left before I had to start moving. So I had a choice:
- Get dressed and go through my day feeling defeated, or…
- Take what little time I had left (admittedly due to my own procrastination) and use it.
I opted for the latter and did a quick workout. It wasn't much, but it had a dramatic effect on my attitude for the rest of the day. I felt like I had done something, and I had. In fact, this is how all change begins — with something small.
We all do this, don’t we? We tell ourselves we’re going to be better, smarter, healthier, or more disciplined. That we'll finally write that book or quit our jobs or start spending more time with family.
But then life happens. And we forget, procrastinate, or just plain run out of time. We feel out of control, but that’s not the whole picture. There is always something to be done. Something small. Something that looks insignificant.
And it is — if we only do it once. But the power in small things is that over time they add up.
The small habit that makes a big difference
There is one habit I have learned in life — in fact, I’m still learning it — that has led to writing every blog post or book I’ve ever published. It’s the secret I use to get into shape, and the one I forget when I don’t.
Here it is. The small but simple habit that could change your life: Stop waiting for perfect.
- In your work.
- In your relationships.
- In your life.
Instead of waiting for the right moment or for that person to just do what you want them to do, what if you accepted reality for what it is?
What if, after doing that, you took it one step further and decided to do something with whatever life has dealt you? You just might change your life.
In writing my next book (which I will tell you more about in the coming months), I interviewed hundreds of people who are living out their calling. All their stories were different, but do you know the one thing they all had in common?
They all stopped waiting for perfect. Instead, they embraced reality, and decided to do something extraordinary with what they had.
The same is true for the most successful students in my online writing course. They stopped waiting and started writing. They became professionals in their minds first and then started acting like it.
You can do the same. All you need is this one simple practice that will revolutionize everything you do: You must start small.
“Big” is overrated
We all want to do big things with our lives, but the truth is that change, both good and bad, happens over time. It's something practiced gradually.
With habits, it's not the size of the task, but the frequency, that matters. [Tweet]
So here’s what that looks like, practically:
- Set a goal (e.g. write a book, lose 20 pounds, etc.).
- Decide on a habit that, practiced over time, will get you to you goal (e.g. write 500 words a day, run one mile per day, etc.). Make it small and easy to repeat. Repetition is what creates change.
- No matter what, try to practice the habit daily. If you can only do it for a minute, do it. Don’t procrastinate or wait for a better time. Just start. The trick is to do something when you feel like you have time for nothing. That’s how habits are crated.
But what happens, you might be wondering, on the days when you completely mess up and miss the boat? What then? Don’t miss again. Get back onto the wagon as quickly as you can. Don’t wallow in regret; just do the next small thing.
Remember that none of us start perfect in life and none of us, in spite of appearances, ever reach perfection. It’s an illusion that creates disappointment and misery.
If you want to live a life full of joy and creativity, then you have to break up with perfect and fall in love with good-enough. It’s better than you think. (Did you like that? Feel free to tweet it.)
Note: I'm doing a free blogging challenge this month called Intentional Blogging. This is for people who are ready to get serious about blogging and practicing a daily habit. Bonus: It just might teach you something about yourself. You can jump in with us at any point, but it’s best to get started sooner than later. Join us now.
How have you seen small habits lead to big things in your life? Share in the comments.