Changing your life is hard. Right? What if I told you the only reason for that is you’re doing it wrong?
This isn’t coming from a “Holier Than Thou” place, this is from me laughing, nudging you with an elbow, and saying “Dude I’ve been f**king this up for YEARS,” place.
I don’t know how many times I was told about small steps, progress, or habits, and just failed again and again anyway. The funny thing is, many of the things working together to help me in amazing ways now I knew in my head, or had heard before, but I just didn’t apply them.
Very tiny steps became small shuffles. Small shuffles became small steps. Then I look back and can’t believe how many miles away I am from the person that I used to be.
These are tips you can start today. Small things that add up in big ways and help you build a life that you love. Or if you love your life, follow some of these to get a life that’s even better!
1: Take a 15 Minute Walk
Fifteen minutes isn’t much time, even for the busiest of us. So what does a 15 minute walk do? Even at a relaxed pace it burns a handful of calories, gets the blood flowing through the body, and has been shown to lower stress and improve mood – often in as little as ten minutes.
But why not add another five for even more benefit? If you find yourself out during a sunny day or walking through a park, you get even more mood boosting and stress killing benefits.
Walking also gets you out to potentially find new places to check out, meet new people, or maybe you’ll just find you enjoy walking and embrace a healthy new habit that improves mood, cuts down stress, and helps keep the waistline in check!
2: Eat 3 Eggs in the Morning
Eggs are as close to a miracle food as you can get in many ways. Assuming you don’t have egg allergies, three eggs is a tiny 240 calories, gives 18 grams of protein, and for those of you looking to lose a couple extra pounds, multiple studies have shown those who ate eggs lost more fat and inches off the waist on average than those who didn’t even when the diets had the same calories.
What a great way to start the day!
Obviously if you’re vegetarian or vegan skip this step – but do add some protein to those morning meals for more energy throughout the day.
3: Read 15 Minutes
Whether fiction for entertainment or non-fiction for self-improvement, reading 15 minutes is great in every way. It’s a fantastic habit, it keeps the mind sharp, and whether entertained or learning new life-changing skills (or points of view) reading just by itself is a great habit you will get better at simply by repeating.
Make a habit of it right before bed and that can help you also sleep better as you stay away from screens and condition your body to wind down at night.
4: Meditate for 5 Minutes
Here’s the thing: I struggle badly to meditate. I know there’s all kinds of studies for how great 20 minutes or 30 minutes or “even” 15 minutes of meditation is.
I just can’t do it. I can’t sit still that long, I can’t clear my thoughts that long, I can’t keep from being antsy that long. I’ve been working on this for 2 years, trust me, I’ve hit a wall.
The good news? Even the most distracted of us can do 5 minutes. And if you meditate daily for 5 minutes long enough, you can move to 10 on most days without too much issue.
Even at these small amounts, the change in mental sharpness, emotional balance, and better ability to deal with challenges without becoming unbalanced is VERY noticeable. The change will be subtle at first, but at some point you’ll simply realize you’re more balanced and handling things better.
The effects are cumulative…and for a mere five minutes per day that is a great investment!
5: Journal to Your Style
There are literally thousands of YouTube videos on journaling, and seemingly dozens of styles. While there’s no right way or wrong way I found journaling did amazing things when I decided no rules.
So I bought an art sketch book, spiral bound, because it gave me permission to do what I wanted. Write, sketch, draw, doodle, whatever. Sometimes I’d write and date things. Sometimes I’d switch color ink form one day to the next. Sometimes I’d sketch, brain storm, or even write out bits of poetry or scripts when inspiration hit in a rush.
Journaling is great. It lets you write out ideas that you didn’t know where there, track progress on whatever you want to track, record moments of your life to reflect on later, or you can journal for skills, growth, and planning.
Whatever the reason, setting aside a few minutes each day to journal simply gives you some “you time” that makes life better. Sometimes in ways that are hard to believe or imagine!
6: Create a Reach Out Time
Keep touch with old friends, acquaintances, co-workers, family members you don’t talk to enough – whoever you want. Take a little bit of time once a week where you always sit down for a few minutes to reach out.
The biggest regret of many people is losing touch with old fiends or people they cared about.
Some won’t respond. Many will. An email here, a letter there. Small efforts that keep your relationship net wide and healthy, keep you in touch with those you love, like, care about, or simply find interesting, and side effects can include feeling less isolated, getting great news from the lives of people you care about, and even in some cases increasing a professional network.
All good things that take a minimal amount of effort. Not to mention the fact you’ll just feel better.
7: Put a Library in Your Bathroom
Never take a cell phone to the bathroom. Since reading is a great habit, and you’re going to be in the bathroom anyway, why not create a library? The amount of non-fiction I read in a year based on books teaching skills, books teaching self-improvement, books about motivation, money management, or business.
This kills two birds with one stone, and is setting you up for success during a necessary time that was going to be otherwise wasted anyway.
If you have a nice bathtub and find a hot bath relaxing, this is a way better excuse to spend time chilling in the tub than a phone. And no irreversible damage from an inadvertent drop.
In fact I have “Two” bathroom libraries – one shelf and one where books just keep stacking on the corner table like they’re breeding, as one housemate put it 🙂
And here we see the “breeders,” lol.
I’m a big fan of this and trust me: the number of “extra” books you put away over a year leads to some incredible results.
Books that I’ve read (or re-read) entirely in the bathroom over the past 12 months:
- The Richest Man in Babylon by George Clauson
- The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
- The Art of War by Sun Tzu
- The 4-Hour Body (well a couple of sections repeatedly) by Tim Ferriss
- The Millionaire Fastlane by MH DeMarco
- I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi
- Everyday Millionaires by Chris Hogan
- The Best Fantasy Writing of 2004 (hey, great read for a ten cent pickup)
- Nightmares & Dreamscapes by Stephen King
I’m also currently reading 2-3 books and have re-read sections of others. Trust me, the bathroom library works and does some pretty amazing things for your life. Not to mention upping the reading numbers big time.
8: Find an Interesting Podcast
Good for drives to work, or times doing chores at home like washing dishes or folding laundry, a good podcast can range from the many good history podcasts (Hardcore History and Pirate History are two of my personal favorites), finance/real estate podcasts (Bigger Pockets, Solopreneur) or a wide array of interesting general topic podcasts like (The Tim Ferriss Show, The Jordan Harbinger Show)
Or if you just need a little more entertainment in your life give the brain a break with Welcome to Night Vale or Hello From the Magic Tavern if you enjoy high fantasy-adventure satire.
There are also hundreds of niche podcasts on every type of topic from scriptwriting to collectibles, traveling abroad to game programming. Not every topic is easy to learn via listening but there are so many options.
Find some podcasts you thoroughly enjoy and go from there!
9: Read a Poem
Poetry is one of the oldest forms of creative expression for a reason. The right lines, the right scenes, they just stay with you forever. Many of my friends have a poem or two that they read again and again, and many of us have bits of poems we’ve memorized.
It’s hard to recommend a poem because poetry is just a language to touch the soul and we’re all so gloriously different it that regards. I think Invictus is the one the most of my friends have memorized. If by Rudyard Kipling is an incredible one for so many young men, and one I’m a huge fan of.
There are so many options out there, and just getting into reading of poetry is cultured, it teaches you to enjoy reading beautiful language, and certain lines will hit home in amazing ways.
Teaching yourself love of language, recognizing some famous quotes via poetry, or for some of us, getting a new tattoo idea all qualifies as great time.
As one potential title of a podcast I kicked around starting says: “Real Men Love Poetry.”
10: Drink One Glass of Ice Water
Yes, you’re supposed to have more. But for those of us who don’t drink water, a single glass a day is doable and makes a big difference to health compared to nothing.
Ignoring the miniscule extra calories burned and all that jazz, ice water just tastes better and helps readjust your taste buds to being wiling to drink more water and less super sweet stuff.
Flavored carbonated water is another option and although not nearly as good as regular water – much better than soda without a doubt.
11: Try Out A New Hobby
The mistake many people make here is either demanding they become an expert or feeling like it’s a full commitment. It really isn’t. Try out a new hobby. Maybe you’ll be interested for a day, a week, a month, or maybe you’ll become obsessed with a new hobby.
If you do stay with this long term you find a new passion, maybe a new side hustle, or even if not something you love to do. What if you only care for 6 months? Well that’s six months of a new skill and time you enjoyed. I’ve had multiple hobbies I loved for a very short time.
I don’t regret dropping them once they no longer held my attention or served their purpose. That was time well spent, it opened up new skills that sometimes you can still just break out, and just the practice of opening yourself up to trying new things and learning new skills is huge.
Try out a new hobby. If it doesn’t stick, try another. The point isn’t to find a 30 year lifelong passion (though if you do, good for you!) but your life just gets better the moment you start simply trying new things.
12: Cook a Recipe
No one has an excuse not to be an amazing cook by middle age. There are literally years that are going to pass in your life, and you have multiple chances a day to cook and get better and better one dish at a time. Find some recipes. Experiment.
If you’re a true beginner start with a crock pot and some relatively simple recipes. Even broke college kids just out of college can add things to Mac & Cheese or Ramen to make it taste better. Learn the difference between spices, get a favorite pot and pan, and just keep trying new recipes.
Eventually you’ll have your own personal cookbook of recipes that not only taste great but which you’re confident about cooking.
If you’re an experienced cook already…why not try something new? Expand that repertoire?
Watch a funny show, watch a funny clip, specifically look for something that tickles the funny bone. Laughing is great for reducing stress, not taking yourself too seriously, and it’s hard to laugh at something funny and not be in a good mood even for a moment.
YouTube is amazing for this – try a Bob Mortimer story on “Would I Lie to You?” if you’re not sure where to start. The right type of British Comedy is just amazing.
14: Introduce Yourself to Kaizen
Kaizen is a Japanese management system that just means continuous improvement. Big changes on the big stuff only come from 1,000 small improvements that are so easy as to be almost imperceptible at times, but they add up.
Don’t like how messy you are? Pick up one thing or straighten up one thing every time you stand up.
Have a bad habit letting dishes stack up? Wash one every single time you’re in the kitchen. Just one.
Sit down too much? Get up and pace for one minute every hour or half hour. Or commercial break if you still watch TV the old fashioned way.
Learning this concept will cause you to think about it. Even if you’re not perfect in implementing it, or not even close (I guiltily raise my hand as I say this) it will pop up in your head and make you do little things to make life incrementally better.
These add up – and even if this habit always stays inconsistent, you always feel a bit better when you do something to help yourself out, and doing this sometimes is better than never. A small bit of study and learning leads to a lot of better days.
Better days = better life.
15: Pick Something Up
I’m a messy person. As many creatives are. Love to cook, hate dishes. Have a hundred notecards scattered about the computer. Why spend half an hour folding laundry when I can just toss the basket to the side?
But the truth that messy mind-messy life and vice-versa is unfortunately very much true. Even if it’s small progress, cleaning up even in small ways will make a huge difference.
A washed dish here, cluttered papers sorted into one pile, a thrown away wrapper or bit of recycling into the bin – it adds up.
Picking up one thing isn’t stressful. Making it such a habit that it becomes second nature helps – even with messy beasts like yours truly.
16: Morning Grateful Journal
Have a journal and a pen right by your bed when you wake up in the morning, write three things right away. One thing you’re grateful for, one thing you’re proud of yourself about, and one thing that makes you smile.
Now 100% full disclosure: I know I got this from somewhere, and I don’t know where despite looking. Let me know and I’ll be happy to link it.
This is a great way to start the day. You’re focused on your wins, focused on something that makes you happy, and focused on being grateful.
A small morning push in the right direction.
17: Evening Grateful Journal
Look at #16 and repeat, only at night before going to bed. If you make this part of a nighttime ritual to help train yourself to go into a deeper sleep then all’s the better!
18: Look at Vitamins B, D, & K
While getting enough vitamins is important, and a multi-vitamin often covers many good vitamins, there are three that stick out that sometimes are overlooked: vitamins B, D, & K.
Vitamin K is a major brain booster and is actually hard to find in many supplements or even many fruits/veggies with broccoli being the best source. Vitamin D is important for mood. This is one of the major benefits of sunlight, and most people have a Vitamin D deficiency, especially in winter.
B vitamins are well known for energy levels, healthy metabolism, and a variety of other positive benefits. If your body is strongly shorn one or more of these vitamins, a supplement or some careful food choices could make a surprising difference.
19: Learn Something New
Maybe it’s a tiny bit of trivia. Maybe it’s looking for weird jobs you didn’t know existed. Maybe it’s browsing some history facts, or looking up how to use a rice cooker. Whatever – just the habit of learning something new, no matter how small, in some way expands your world and opens up the possibilities available to you.
You never know when these lead to you picking up new skills, eventually finding a new interest, or having that interesting tidbit that kicks off a random conversation that becomes a strong friendship down the road.
This is one of those small things that leads to disproportionate results. Even if it doesn’t, the habit of wanting to learn something new is incredibly rewarding and fulfilling in and of itself.
20: Re-Write Your Goals from Finish Lines to Small Work Sprints
My productivity exploded when I made this change during my 2+ year experimenting with productivity. The funny thing is I still have tons of days where I feel lazy and don’t work most the day…and many of those the production is still higher than it was when I used to feel “productive.”
What this means is switching goals to increments of work. Instead of 3 blog posts a week, I put down 600 words a day. Instead of demanding 1 chapter of a novel, I write 300 words of fiction a day. The numbers for each website project, each fiction project, they are made small and achievable.
Many times I will blast past these goals. Even when I don’t, there’s at least several hundreds words added every single day. Even when I’m short on the goal, I do SOMETHING.
And those somethings really add up. Losing 2 lbs in a week came adding 1,000 steps a day. Exercising 15 minutes became one set of dumbbell and body weight exercises. It set a minimum bar and many times these were so low that I would hammer out more even on my “lazy” days than the goals were set at.
At the end of the day regardless if I felt like I had a productive week or an unproductive week the evidence was there. Even on my worst & “laziest” months setting goals this way, more blog posts were published, more fiction written, more money earned, and more exercise done than before when I would surge for a week, struggle, and then felt like I was fighting from behind.
Trust me, this is the way the go.
21: Find a Nice Local Park
Nature is beautiful, it’s relaxing, and it does wonders for healing stress. Especially for those of us who just can’t latch on to meditating no matter how often we try. Find a nice park to sit in the shade, walk through the trees, listen to the birds, and just get away from screens for a while.
This is great in and of itself, but it can also be a nice place to walk, to journal, to write, to read, or to just get out of the house for a bit. The benefits are all good.
22: Take Obligatory 30 Second Dance Breaks Throughout the Day
Okay, here me out on is one.
See those clips of streamers dancing in place, sometimes right in their gaming chair? See the occasional person just dancing in public and they don’t care who’s laughing?
There’s something inherently joyous about dancing. Do this once or twice a day and it will grow on you. It can start as little as some shuffling shoulders and slightly nodding head to an all out spin in place while Alexa is playing your favorite tune.
Just take some time to do a bit of dancing here or there. You’ll be amazed how the mood improves and you just find yourself smiling.
And no, you don’t need to do this in public. Or in front of anyone else 🙂
23: Open an Online Savings Account
Even if it’s small and something that just gets an extra dollar or two here or there, try practicing at least $1 a week. That doesn’t sound like much: and you’re right. It’s not.
But it can show growth towards a seemingly impossible goal.
Suppose you put in only $1 a week, and then $20 in birthday money and $10 from a random boon once a year. That’s it.
Even at the cruddy .5% interest rate so many of us with online savings accounts are used to, after 11 years you’re over $900 and heading towards a thousand.
Is it life changing? No – but those are ridiculous small amounts. Label it “Dream Vacation to Tahiti” or “Land to Build That Cabin I Always Wanted” or whatever. Even seeing $82 after year one towards the goal, excuse me $82.41 (can’t forget that interest, eye roll), as opposed to $0 starts you thinking it’s possible.
What if even after retirement savings, normal expenses, etc you have extra money? You have an account for that. Or for the spare change you pick up. Or collect recyclables or work one half day a month of gig work. It doesn’t take long to watch that number grow.
The point isn’t the interest – it’s having that separate account where a dream starts becoming a reality and seeing how viable so much is once you take a long view of life instead of a short view.
Yeah 10 years is a long time (kinda – if you’re young). But in 10 years would you rather have savings for a dream or nothing?
Start saving for those dreams – and do it with a separate banking account. This keeps it separate from the emergency fund, the budget, everything else that needs to be kept in order.
24: Use Re-Phrasing to Get Rid of Bad Habits You Hate
If every time you grab a pop you say out loud to yourself ‘I want teeth rotting cancer sugar water” it’s funny how your body starts second guessing those cravings. No joke – done often enough over time you can start to recondition yourself by doing this.
Maybe a donut is a “Flabby stretch mark skin making belly buster” or something. I don’t know – you need to find the phrases that work for you.
And this won’t necessarily help right away. But interrupting that addictive connection your brain has of “bad habit = only pleasure” by inserting some unpleasant but true images of the side effects – over time this makes it much easier to start changing those habits.
Often naturally, without even trying, the number and severity of cravings starts to diminish. Then you only need a small amount of willpower to get the job done.
25: Give Yourself a “Small Daily Indulgence”
I am not someone with strong willpower when it comes to self-control. And one slip up leads to me justifying a floodgate of self-destruction.
If you find yourself in this boat, how do you change it? For me the solution was giving myself a small daily indulgence that I could feel 100% guilt free about. Even if it was from a habit that I put under piece of advice #24.
One can of Cherry Coke when my energy crashed at 3 PM. One Hershey’s bar that I have 1/3 of after each meal.
Something that is small, but enjoy it without guilt. This helps me not only enjoy the small things in daily life but it helps me find discipline. I get one small indulgence – and that makes it much easier for me to avoid the domino effect.
Now this must be within reason. If you try to say your daily indulgence is an extra large specialty pizza from Dominos with a side order of cheezy bread and a 2-liter of Cherry Coke, while I commend your order I have to put the smack down on what “Small Daily Indulgence” Means.
26: Create Some Art (Even If It’s Terrible)
There’s something special about the creative part of the mind. One of Kurt Vonnegut’s major pieces of advice was that everyone should create art, even if it’s terrible. Write bad poetry. Draw terrible pictures. Doodle, sketch, journal, paint, craft, laugh.
Maybe you’ll get good, maybe you won’t. But the process of creating art is good for the creative part of the brain, it’s good for the soul. Life with bad art is better than life with no art.
27: Build Something
This might be a bit more of a challenge for those of us who didn’t take shop class in high school versus those of us who did.
Build something big or small. This could be getting wood to build a small bookshelf from scratch. Or turning pallets into fancy decorative shelves. Or starting a quilt. Creating a flag. Making a better end table for by the bed.
Find plans online and follow them. Or try from scratch and learn through trial and error. Get good and simply making things and create something from scratch.
Join a local art collective and learn to toss pottery.
There are so many options and there’s something to be said for knowing you can simply make something from scratch, or recycle materials into something unique and useful to you.
28: Find a Gaming Group
Whether finding a group who does board games or trying out a roleplaying TTRPG like Dungeons & Dragons, these groups can be found just about everywhere, offer face to face socializing, fun times learning new games, and with good groups new friendships.
A gaming group can be a get way to socialize, enjoy recreational time, and learn more about what’s available in gaming, as well. Good group of benefits all the way around.
29: Follow a Quality Self-Improvement YouTube Channel
We’re not much for entertainment for entertainment’s sake. There’s a place for it, but too many people spend hours and hours a day focusing on that and then are surprised/upset when months go by and nothing significant happens in life.
Some entertainment is great. Especially when stressed. But if you’re going to be watching YouTube on the computer then why not find some self-improvement channels that are not only entertaining or well put together but also offer exceptional actionable advice?
Some of my personal favorites are:
Add a couple of these into the rotation and maybe your “mindless down time” ends up inspiring you to new bigger and better things.
Try those channels out to see if they resonate and if not find one of your own. There are so many great options out there that you should be able to find multiple options that can keep your attention on the entertainment front while helping to give you the information, courage, and/or motivation needed to make some awesome changes.
30: Practice Giving Random Acts of Kindness
A random act of kindness not only makes a friend, acquaintance, or stranger feel good, but it does wonders for your own sense of self-worth, happiness, and just gives you an incredible boost that sometimes improves your mood for hours on end.
And I’m pretty sure just by definition “Feeling better/happier for hours” automatically means you are living a better improved life than you otherwise would be.
This is often easy to do and can have a cascading effect that you can’t even begin to fully predict.
31: Try Sardines
Sardines are absolutely loaded with protein and heart healthy Omega-3’s. Sardines aren’t for everyone, but a little bit of garlic powder on some sardines you just drained the oil from is delicious (in my opinion) and make for some extremely healthy snacking.
A healthy heart and making sure you get enough protein, that makes these a great addition to any weekly diet especially if they’re replacing a bad habit like a donut for your occasional snack.
If you’re trying to lose weight or gain muscle, these do even more work for you!
32: Plan Your First Hour the Night Before
I’m most effective when I have a combination of structured parts of my day, as well as open sections where I’m allowed to meander and not feel completely caged in from a dawn to dusk schedule demanding every moment of my day. Some people say plan your whole day the night before and if you can do that, great!
I can’t. For me the first hour is what matters. If the night before I can write down my 1-2 priority things to do and how I’m going to spend that first hour (which in my case is often ‘what blog/freelance work/assignment am I working on?’ while playing the Daily Affirmation video playlist I made on YouTube and anchored focused work habit to) – then that sets the tone.
I don’t meander or squander the whole day. I get that first hour knocked out, know what I’m making for breakfast after the first hour, and my brain wakes up while I’m already in flow state.
Since I start the day productive and focused I’m in a better place to take on new challenges, plan out other parts of my day, and just go from there.
Plan the first hour of your day the night before. Make it a habit. You won’t be sorry.”
33: Practice Forgiving Until You Do
Look I’ll admit that I really, really struggle with this one. It’s always been one of the hardest ones for me even though I know the benefit. But all the cliched things are true: Your hate hurts you more than the other person, you can’t walk towards the future when living in the past, you feel better when you forgive.
This doesn’t mean that you have to let a person back into your life or admit fault when you’ve been wronged – it means mindfully practicing letting go.
When you hold on to too much from the past, you don’t have a future.
This remains one of the hardest things for me to do consistently, and if you have a lot of trauma from your childhood then yeah, there are times where maybe the better expression is “I can’t forgive you, but I’m moving on and forgetting you,” and you do what you can.
But practice forgiveness. It’s a powerful way not to “let your enemies off the hook” but to set YOURSELF free from your own self-imposed prison and chains.
34: Deep Breathe 5 Times, 3 Times a Day
This takes less than a half minute of time, but taking deep breathes calms the nerves, helps cut down stress, and can even help with lowering blood pressure.
Taking in deep conscientious breathes just five times is enough to start the physiological changes in the body and helps you take a moment to stop, be in the moment, and enjoy a short positive respite.
Keeping it to this few not only makes it so easy to do that it can become easy or even second habit, but it helps balance out stress throughout the day.
And based on the stress and blood pressure numbers in this country, this is a very good practice that is badly needed.
To be perfectly clear: this is not a comment to women being told to smile by strangers all the f’ing time in public…I can’t even begin to imagine how aggro that has to be, but a couple times a day whether by yourself, watching YouTube, doing dishes, whatever, just smile.
Even fake smiles release hormones in the body that relieve stress, encourage positive hormones in the body that reduce blood pressure and pain, encourage mood, and help you think more positively. While for most of us the smile only comes after having these things, we can help create them from thin air.
Just smile while at home every so often. Don’t like doing dishes but they have to be done? Smile. Pacing to get your steps in for the day? Smile.
Just a few smiles to yourself and you can think about the power you have to change your own mood and life.
36: Practice Focusing Long-Term
When you get discouraged day by day or week by week that can become months that nothing gets done. You don’t move towards your dreams, you don’t dig out of any holes you find yourself in…there’s just no progress. Period. This is a good time to learn to start focusing on the long-term.
How would your perspective begin to change about what you could do if you thought about life in 10 year chunks?
If you phrase a question: “Could you learn X in 10 years?” or “Could you save $1000 if you had 10 years?” or “Could you get good at X in 10 years?” there aren’t many things at all where your answer would be no.
Because 10 years is a long time.
So start thinking that way. Where do you want to be in 10 years? What hobby, skill, job, or experience would you want to have? Instead of just getting overwhelmed in a year or two thinking long-term lets you start planning for the steps that get you a little bit closer.
And then a little bit closer. Then with a little bit of progress from an hour here or there you don’t get frustrated and quit after 10 months because you weren’t trying to become exceptional in a year – you were looking at the long-term.
Fast forward 2-3 years of doing this and you’re already more skilled, more focused, and likely finding more and more time to push those goals even harder. Practice taking some time to think long-term and don’t use it as an excuse to do something “eventually” but use that to start planning those small steps forward to build yourself up.
Because 10 years flies by – and it’s best to be mapping out where you want to go or you might not like where you wake up.
And beginning to practice thinking long-term can start with just taking the time to consciously think about this a few minutes a day.
37: Have a Dream Journal
This isn’t referring to learning how to lucid dream with a dream journal, although that is super cool. As a big lucid dreamer I’m not convinced that lucid dreaming can be as effective at “creating a reality” in your waking life as some other names are, but it is cool.
This is about a journal completely and 100% dedicated to your dream life.
Where do you want to live? How much money do you want to have? When do you want to retire? What’s that mean to you?
These are just some of the questions that begin opening up your mind. For the first month to three months I actually recommend free writing as often as possible. What things show up all the time? What shows up repeatedly versus showing up when you are in a certain mood?
This is because you might have goals that you keep consciously shoving aside, but keep down are really important to you. Others might be passing whims.
Also the next stage of a dream journal is brainstorming ideas to get to your goals, thinking about long-term skills you might need, whether you go career, side hustle, freelance, or entrepreneur.
Maybe in thinking about the lifestyle you want you start spotting other options to get to the same place easier and with more stability.
In other words, you want the full flood of ideas you KNOW are important to you and your dreams before you start using brain power on planning and using time/energy/action to putting those plans into action.
And this journal is yours. It needs to be a safe place where you can write down what matters to you, what you want, regardless of what anyone thinks and no one else should ever read it – this is your place to be honest so you actually can work for what matters most.
38: Empower Yourself Through Extraordinary Responsibility
Jocko Willink calls this “Extreme Ownership.” I’ve heard Stoics refer to this as a deeper sense of “Self Responsibility,” and I tend to think of it as extreme responsibility because with how I think, that’s what actually makes it click. This is taking responsibility for self in life even at things that at first glance (and in many ways can very accurately be described as) are not your fault.
You’re stressed because of a dead end job after eight years, but you “don’t have a choice” because you have no skills
You were rejected by someone you had strong feelings for like a potential boyfriend/girlfriend. How could that be your “fault?”
Why were you so focused on that one person? Why did nothing about you grab that person’s attention? If you were nervous, why didn’t you have more confidence in yourself? Why don’t you have enough excitement about your life that someone else’s opinion doesn’t affect you?
For the job, why don’t you have any skills after eight years? Why don’t you have a side business? Why don’t you have any connections? You had eight years to try to meet people. Why don’t you have savings? You had eight years.
So yeah, you can’t control the A-hole supervisor, the nepotism in management, or the incompetence all too many of us deal with, or the local economy. But if you’ve been looking at things on a long time line then you can actually start improving yourself so you will have the talents to lift yourself out of this situation.
Why would you do this? If it’s his fault, her fault, the economy’s fault, the Republicans’ fault, the Democrats’ fault, well then you can’t do anything about it. You have made yourself a powerless victim who needs someone else to come save them. That someone will not come.
Nothing changes. Nothing improves.
But if you take extreme ownership or radical responsibility then you can focus on the little things that you can control that may have led to the outcome you didn’t like.
So how do you start a process like this “today?”
Start with one tiny thing that annoyed you, practice on that, and build from there. You were splashed when a car went by in a puddle? You could have been more aware of your surroundings and stayed back for another moment or two. Maybe you’re jealous of others because of things you wish you did like losing weight, going to the gym, or learning skills.
Take responsibility to what many would consider an unreasonable rate and you might be surprised how things change for the better over time.
Jocko Willink gave an incredible TED talk at the University of Nevada you can see here.
39: Practice “I’m Thankful” Mini-Prayers
If you’re religious, great, pray towards whatever god or force you believe in. If not, take one of the better practices and just “put it out there,” so to speak.
A few times a day when you’re by yourself, take a couple of deep breathes, smile, and just say “I’m thankful for…”
This could be something as tiny as ‘I’m thankful for British comedy YouTube videos that make me laugh” or “Thank you for the green lights.”
You might be thankful for big things. If life is going really rough maybe you fall back to a “Thank you for another day to fight” or “Thank you eventually tomorrow will be better.” I’ve been there. It’s still worth practicing even a moment of slowing down and bein thankful for the small things.
This will radically change your mood over time and make you feel better prepared to deal with what life throws at you.
40: Replace Social Media with Anything
A lot of time on social media has major negative effects on one’s mental health. This has been proven over, and over, and over again.
Replace the time spent making yourself miserable with literally anything. Do some push-ups. Try your luck at mediating. Practice journaling. Pick up a new hobby. Take a walk.
A little bit of social media to keep in touch can be a great thing. However, almost all of us are on social media too much. Cutting some of that out to do other better things will have a positive impact on emotions, on self, on life.
41: Use a Productivity App While Online
I’m a big fan of StayFocused as an app while at the desktop. I put a lot of sites on this app so all of those timewasters and troublemakers together.
This is great way to stay on task with the things you want to do online while also keeping you away from bad influences. This app trains you to stay on task and stay off the sites you want less time on…and then it stops giving you a choice after a certain point.
I don’t spend much time on smartphones so I’m not as familiar with apps that do the same for smartphones, but I’m sure they exist.
42: Try Intermittent Fasting Once a Week
Intermittent fasting involves having an 8 or 10 hour window where all your eating in a day is done and you don’t eat or drink caloric drinks the rest of the day. Most people do this by skipping breakfast and eating from noon to 8 PM.
Intermittent fasting has been shown to have strong potential benefits including lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels in the blood, better weight loss or weight management, and a lower blood pressure among other health benefits.
While many people have switched to this as a full-time habit, just start off with a single day and you might be surprised how much it grows on you.
43: Listen to Some Music
If you’re an old school classic rock fan then hopefully the Doobie Brothers’ “Listen to the Music” popped into your head when you saw this one. Music is awesome.
You knew this as a small kid. And a regular kid. And as a teenager and young person who played their music too loud all the time.
Then so many of us just…stopped. Or don’t listen to music nearly as often.
Listen to some of your favorite music. Focus on having playlists to get motivated, get happy, to feel carefree. Having these at the push of a button is a great way to make not just today, but many days a bit better.
Now with a soundtrack!
44: Down Day? Take a Cold Shower!
Yes, to answer your first question, I am insane. But stick with me, this tip has merit!
No one likes a cold shower…but you would probably love the effects of cold shower. For one there are multiple scientific studies suggesting cold showers have shown dramatic increases in health. Not mention the activation of “fat burning fat” in overweight individuals, as well as remarkable boosts to mood.
Not saying a cold shower is a cure for depression…but within 20-40 minutes after a cold shower there are many cases from studies where individuals reported a radical improvement in mood, which sometimes stayed for days.
Unless you’re insane (like my brother) you’ll likely never love cold showers themselves. But the results are amazing.
Start with your normal hot shower. Then go to lukewarm. Then cool water towards the end, then move into cold water, starting on the back to get as used to it as you can before then spinning around to hit the effect.
Those 1-2 minutes at the end may suck, but 120 seconds of sucking for a full day of feeling better and much better overall health is a pretty good exchange.
45: Prime Your Environment the Night Before
Preparing little things the night before make it more likely you’ll pick up those good habits the next day. Pair of dumbells on the dresser when you wake up? You’re way more likely to pick them up for even a few hurried reps.
Have a Tupperware container in the fridge with a sticky note for that day’s lunch? You’re way more likely to take the healthy lunch instead of going for fast food.
Want to journal in the morning? Having the journal open with a pen underneath your alarm clock has it staring you right in the face.
Customize this to your goals and you might be surprised how much more successful your habit forming and goals are.
46: Unmovable 1-Hour Power Rush
I’m self-employed so for me this is 30 minutes after waking up and going through the morning habits. That might not be possible or everyone, but you want an hour at the exact same time every single day where you put on the headphones, put the same playlist of inspirational videos or songs on (or nothing if you can’t concentrate when anything is playing with words) and spend that one hour getting high priority stuff done.
That way no matter what happens in a day, no matter how lazy you’re feeling, you have one hour of in-depth solid work done on something that is high priority.
This doesn’t sound like much but one hour of intense concentration work on something that really matters to you – it’s huge. Making it the same time, same place, same setup anchors it so you train yourself to become better and better in that hour.
It was life-changing for me, and it could be for you, too. If you struggle with an hour, start with 20 minutes and grow it 5 minutes every couple weeks. You’ll probably hit an hour before the increments are even up.
47: Sit Up Straight
I also struggle with this one. Good posture is healthy, and it’s sexy. Even correcting yourself a few times a day is better than never focusing on it at all.
Better posture is good for posture and appearance. I do notice that when I make an effort to focus on this a bit here or there, I will not only naturally sit a little bit better, but I will think about it a bit more often when I slouch, causing me to correct it again.
48: Make Your Bed
I hate copying advice that is so common that it’s considered cliché, but making your bed as soon as you get up in the morning is a great bit of advice. And I mean, short of having to rush to the bathroom right now, immediately.
You start the day with a small win. Something has been done. You also make your bedroom just a little less cluttered, which is good for the mind.
Also this is a habit that is perfect for habit anchoring, as described in James Clear’s Atomic Habits. Once you get so used to making your bed that it’s instinct as soon as you get up, add in being thankful out loud for three things. Or doing a quick gratitude journal. Or drinking a glass of ice water before heading into the bathroom.
The habit to follow up is up to you but making the bed is a winner.
And here is the obligatory video of the speech that made this tip go viral:
Admiral McRaven Make Your Bed Motivational Speech
49: Try Out a Food Journal
If you are trying to lose weight or maintain weight, or even gain weight, a food journal is a huge help. It’s easy to forget about this or that, not estimate calories, and so struggle with these “hidden snacks” or hidden eating that you don’t even realize you’re doing.
When you can go back a week or two weeks and you realize just how often you grabbed a snack, a soda, a coffee, whatever. They add up. The calories, the sugar, all of it.
When you become aware of habits, often times you can change to better ones with very little to no effort. Tracking is powerful.
50: No Zero Days
Nothing kills progress like zero days. Days where you feel like you accomplished nothing. Even if you accomplish very, very little, just make sure you never take a zero day.
- 1 page written a day gives you the rough draft of a book by the end of the year
- 300 words blogging a day gives you 109,500 words by the end of the year
- 10 push ups a day is 3,650 push ups by the end of the year
- Adding 10 steps of walking per day becomes 3650 steps a day extra by the end of the year
- Attempting to cook one meal a week means 52 cooking experiences by the end of the year
Just don’t take a zero day.
“But what if I shotgun between 10 things and so still get nothing done at the end of the year?”
Good question, but I’d point you to number 36 on this list – think long term. Even if you scatter shot your efforts between 10 things in a year, what happens in 3 years? 5 years? 10 years?
In that case all these small steps still add up. They still move the needle.
So it takes longer – but things will still get done in increments. No zero days.
51: Never Sit More Than an Hour (Online Timers Are Your Friend)
Even at a cubicle job, stand up to get a drink of a water. Walk around a few cubicles (towards the rest room and then back if you have to). If you work at home, get up and stand. Pace for two minutes.
Or just stand in place and stretch for a minute or two.
Sitting for long periods of time is bad for the health. Getting up for even short periods of time to walk, pace, stretch, or standing will make a huge difference in minimizing those problems and you’ll just feel better, too.
Enjoy Your Better Life!
Look, one of the biggest secrets to getting the life you want or at least a much better one, is that it takes tons of small steps that work together to become something much, much bigger. Even if you aren’t working to be in better shape, healthier, wealthier, or wiser – then you can simply enjoy the straight up better quality of life that you will be enjoying from following even a few of these tips.
Take a look at them, try some of the easiest ones out, and watch the effects grow. If someone asked you if you would trade 10 minutes a day, 20 minutes a day, or even an hour a day to be happier, healthier, and to simply have a better life…wouldn’t you take it?
This list is just that. Some simple exchanges that can have a huge effect on the life you choose to live, so try them out and let us know what works for you!