Starting small, thinking big

Not too long ago, I finished reading the book, The Power of Habit, a book which looks at research as to why do we the things we do, both on an individual level and on a business/global level. It’s a terribly interesting read and I highly recommend the book. While not necessarily a how-to guide when it comes to habits, there are some practical applications to the research. I, however, didn’t necessarily think about the practical implications. Instead, I jumped on one theme in the book which dealt with keystone habits.

Keystone habits are those which unlock a entire series of habits and provide lots of change. They may seem small and unrelated, but they make a huge difference. While there were plenty of examples on a larger scale, the one that struck me was making your bed every morning. For many people, making the bed is a keystone habit. Other things happen because you’ve made the bed. So I started making my bed every morning.

My life hasn’t dramatically changed, but I have noticed small, subtle changes. I’m more apt to clean up my dishes in a timely manner. More apt to keep other parts of my apartment clean and not see tidying up as drudgery. I feel slightly more organized and focused. All from making the bed in the morning? Maybe. Maybe it’s just coincidence. But small changes can ripple through your day, through your life, through your organization. I’ve always believed in the power of small changes. And in his book, author Charles Duhigg explains the patterns in our brains which create habits. Understand the pattern and you can change the behavior, which often involves altering something pretty simple to get the same reward only from a different action.

I thought of small habit changes this week since, well, it’s the beginning of a new year and that time when many of us look to make resolutions, lifestyle changes, set new intentions and goals. And was further sparked by a blog post from Jenny Evans at Powerhouse Performance Coaching which talked about the need to create backup plans to overcome the obstacles we most certainly will face when we decided to change a habit or create a new one.

What all this boils down to for me is this:

Life is not all or nothing. Obstacles come in our way and if we plan for ways to adapt, we still get the benefits of creating new habits and patterns of thinking about ourselves, our work and our lives.

Creating new habits are about creating new patterns. And sometimes something which seems small and inconsequential can have a major impact on how we approach other areas of our life.

Maybe making my bed every day isn’t going to radically change my life in the next year. But it makes me feel good. It gives me a sense of a fresh start. It makes me feel focused and ready. It makes me feel ready to create the rest of my day. And frankly, I don’t know where this may lead, what changes it might provoke in my life. But I’m willing to take two minutes in the morning to find out.

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