As I was considering what to write about at the beginning of this New Year, I was going to write about reflecting on our accomplishments. I realized I had already written about that so I thought about how we see the New Year as an opportunity for change and decided to go with that. We often think that we need to make drastic changes that require tremendous effort. I want to challenge that thinking with the idea of making small changes over time to transform our lives.
Many of us begin the New Year with ambitions of losing weight and exercising more so the gyms are full…until February. What happens? We have set the bar so high that it is unreachable, so we give up altogether and go back to old habits, waiting until next year to try again. What if we changed our mindset from the idea that we need to exercise six or seven days a week for an hour at a time to increasing our activity by 10%? Not completely overturning our lives and our schedules, but a small reasonable change can lead to long term success. If you already exercise three hours a week that is 180 minutes. Add 10%, 18 minutes, and see what happens. It’s easier to fit into your schedule, doesn’t cause drastic upheaval, and makes it easier to achieve. If you do this in small increments over time, you will have a gradual shift that is easier to maintain as you work your way up to four or five hours a week.
What about sleep habits? If you currently are only getting six hours, what about increasing it by 10% so you get an additional 36 minutes of sleep each night? How would you feel? It may not seem like much, but it is a small change that can make a big difference over time. As you adjust, you can make another small change and before long, you will be getting seven or seven and a half hours of sleep! This makes a huge difference in your health, your energy level and your productivity.
Healthy eating is a huge goal for us. As we start a New Year, many of us start a new diet. Then we realize it is too difficult to sustain because it requires too much change all at once, so we give it up and revert back to old habits until next year. What if we changed this mindset to one of small goals and successes? Instead of the “all or nothing” mentality which says “absolutely no sugar” which causes us to feel deprived and crave it more, substitute the idea of 10% less sugar. Does that sound more reasonable? Would it be easier to maintain than dwelling on the loss of dessert forever? You can accomplish this goal by finding recipes that are lower in sugar or that substitute alternatives like bananas or honey in place of sugar. You can also easily do this by eliminating dessert one day a week or by holding off on sweet treats throughout the day, saving your sweet tooth for one dessert a day. Reducing the size of the treat by 10% is another choice. I like to cut a dessert in half so I don’t feel deprived, but I still get to treat myself.
What about using the 10% rule to increase the amount of vegetables in your diet? Most of us know that veggies are good for our health, but we don’t get enough of them. Instead of trying to go from one or two vegetables to ten a day, wouldn’t it be easier to add one? Face it, who is really going to increase their vegetable intake from two to ten a day and stick with it? We can use the same concept to increase our fruit, fiber and water intake. This small adjustment of 10% makes a big difference over time. (Consider how much money you would have in your retirement portfolio if you made 10% on your investments!) By increasing the positive habits by 10% and reducing the negative ones by 10%, you will notice big changes by the end of the year.
Choose one thing to change by 10% and see what happens. After you establish this change, consider another one. Don’t try everything at once or you will set yourself up for frustration and failure. All or nothing thinking has never worked in the past so don’t keep doing something that doesn’t work. This year, make small changes for lasting results.