A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
— Lao-tzu, "The Way of Lao-tzu."
We all have things that we would like to improve upon, and making changes to our daily routine can seem like a daunting task. You might be worried that giving up a habit, no matter how unhealthy it might be, could send you over the edge. So instead of doing something, you choose to maintain the status quo. Sound familiar?
Empowerment comes from knowing that it is possible to change your thinking and behavior. Generally, this means beginning with small steps.
Here are 20 steps to self-improvement:
This is not to be confused with being lazy. Rushing around in a frenzy can make it difficult to do anything well. If you find yourself in this state, do yourself a favor and give yourself a time out. It might be 10 minutes, but you are taking yourself out of the mad scramble and becoming more centered.
2) Change one small thing.
Years ago, I decided that I hated the feeling of being hurried in the morning. I decided to set my alarm 15 minutes earlier. This might not seem like much, but I use this extra time to meditate. Eventually the 15 minutes became 30 minutes, and I now do a few yoga moves in addition to meditation. This sets the tone for my morning routine. Seldom do I feel rushed.
3) Show up for yourself.
Your actions often speak louder than words, and self-improvement usually takes time. For example, if you desired to improve upon a healthy living lifestyle and you schedule other things during your exercise class, then you are making it very hard for yourself to meet your healthy living commitment.
4) Detach from the outcome.
Sure, you want to see success, but being hyper-focused on the end result can cause you to miss your progress along the way. Growth and insight often comes in the journey. When you are able to see how you developed along the way, you will be able to better embrace the end, whatever it might hold.
5) Be a student.
Be open to learning, and don’t assume that you know everything. This will help you see that there are alternate ways of doing things. You may be able to incorporate something new into your daily routine at home or work that ultimately improves your well-being.
6) Every minute counts.
Keep in mind that using small increments of time each day can help you meet your goal. If you want to read more, then start with 10 minutes. Over seven days, look at the number of chapters you’ve completed.
7) Be wary of perfection because it rarely occurs.
Being overly critical of yourself and expecting success all the time is not realistic. Perfectionism can lead to unnecessary stress and this ultimately can impact productivity. Instead of moving forward when things aren’t perfect, perfectionists often stop in their tracks and stop doing anything.
8) Expect setbacks.
Not having alternate plans can really throw you for a loop. Rarely, do things go as you planned, so thinking ahead of Plan B, C or D can decrease your frustration.
9) Set a meeting with yourself.
Decide what direction you want to go, and be honest about it. Living out someone else’s objectives for your life will only lead to disappointment. Write down what you wish to accomplish.
10) Set small goals.
It is fine to have a big final destination goal, but it is equally important to give yourself small goals. This means that you give yourself a chance to enjoy success.
11) Ask yourself some important questions.
This means that you are turning inward and asking things such as: “Does this next step support my emotional growth? Who can best support me? What do I wish to focus my attention on?”
12) Be positive.
It might be easier to list the things going wrong, but doing this will cast a shadow on your day. Surrounding yourself with optimistic people and ideas will draw your attention to seeing and thinking in a positive light.
13) Surround yourself with like-minded individuals.
Generally, the sense of unity towards a common vision ultimately helps you cultivate success. These are the people who can cheer you and offer helpful suggestions when things become difficult.
14) Envision success.
Believing that it is possible to change your behavior is part of self-improvement. Your thoughts influence your actions. Picture yourself graduating from the program or crossing the finish line of your first distance race.
15) Passion is the x factor.
Become passionate about your cause, whatever it might be. Passion will help you stay committed to your long-term goals when things become difficult. When you lack that x factor, stress increases, you become fatigued and you are tempted to give up.
16) Forgive yourself.
Because you are human you will make a mistake. Beating yourself up for this blocks the way for future progress. You might be quick to give others compassion. Be sure to extend this mercy to yourself.
17) Live in the moment.
Distance runners often hear the mantra, “Run the mile that you are in.” This means that the runner is focused on what they are currently doing. Not being focused on what you are currently doing can lead to costly mistakes.
18) Find a mentor.
Look for someone who is currently doing what you wish to achieve. Don’t be afraid to ask them how they cultivated success. A mentor can offer you goal-specific tips that will aid you along your journey.
19) Retain perspective.
Few people are truly overnight successes. Most people spend countless hours transforming their lives. Embrace your path and understand that you are farther along than you were yesterday.
20) Practice gratitude.
It is easy to make a list of the obstacles that prevent you from becoming your best self, but this is wasted energy. Instead, begin to say “thank you” to the stranger who held open the door for you or to your friends.
Practicing gratitude gets you in the habit of looking for things to be grateful for, and this means that you are focusing on positive aspects of your day. Gratitude opens your heart and makes you more receptive to goodness.
Realizing that small things can lead to big outcomes will help you manifest your goals. Small steps are often the agents to positive lasting self-improvement.
Have you made a change that transformed your life? EmpowHER would love to hear from you. Tell us what steps you took to improve your life.
Kristin Meekhof is a licensed master’s level social worker. She is a speaker, writer, and author of the book “A Widow’s Guide to Healing: Gentle Support and Advice For The First Five Years” (Sourcebooks, 2015). She was most recently attended the United Nations conference on the Status of Women.
Edited by Jody Smith