Two sprinters are at the starting line getting ready, right as the official yells “on your mark!”. One athlete is crouched down with their bodyweight leaning forward. The other is standing completely upright with their weight on their heels.
Assuming they start at exactly the same moment, who is more likely to win the race?
The sprinter who is leaning forward will gain more momentum at the beginning of the race. They begin the race in a position to crush it.
We can use this concept of leaning forward and apply it to the rest of our lives. If you are always leaning toward your finish line, then you’ll improve your chance of success.
Leaning forward = winning the race.
Using this mindset to change old habits or creating new ones can be very effective. This is why micro-habits can add up to MAJOR results. Consistent, tiny actions keep you heading toward your desired result(s).
Here are 10 micro-habits that will yield big results:
1. Drink at least 8oz of water as soon as you wake up.
Drinking at least 8 ounces of water first thing in the morning gently wakes up your digestive system. Plus, you’re more likely to stay hydrated throughout the day if that’s how it begins. The major results of this micro-habit are: better digestion, delayed rate of aging, better physical performance, healthier skin, and improved energy levels.
2. Load your meals with veggies and eat those first.
Adding more vegetables to your meals boosts the amount of micronutrients you consume. They are also the best source of dietary fiber which is muy importante. Eating them first ensures that you are giving your body lots of nutrients and fiber. Plus, they have enzymes in them that help break down other non-vegetable foods. The major results of this action are: feel fuller faster, improve digestion, prevent overeating, provide important nourishment to cells, delay aging, maximize physical performance, and ward off disease.
3. The 5-minute daily tidy up.
A cluttered workspace, home or car, can have a big impact on your mental health. It impairs productivity and creativity, and leads to feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Spending 5 minutes to tidy one small area will reduce the total amount of time that you spend on chores. The major results are: improved self-discipline, a decluttered space, better ability to focus on tasks, and maximized productivity and creativity.
4. Set time boundaries around work and non-work.
Maybe you’re the type of person that gets completely engrossed in their work and could work all day & night. Or maybe you’re the type that has trouble focusing on specific tasks. For either personality, setting a timer will confine the amount of time that your brain is in one of it’s two modes: mind-wandering and executive. Your brain can’t do both at the same time, but both are important for optimum function.
A time limit can force yourself to stay focused (executive mode), or remind you to take a break (mind-wandering mode). Giving yourself boundaries is an excellent way to stay sane and avoid burnout. The major results of this micro-habit are: minimized work-related stress, maximized break time (work hard, play hard!), more efficient work time, and less procrastination.
5. Establish a gratitude practice.
Scientists found that showing gratitude can have transformational benefits to mental health. Showing gratitude regularly causes people to be happier and less depressed. It also doesn’t require a lot of effort and doesn’t even need to be shared with others to reap the benefits. As for the major results, people who express gratitude consistently tend to have better relationships, are less stressed, have more success at work, have higher self-esteem and report having less physical pain.
6. Take 5 long, deep belly breaths.
Diaphragmatic (or deep belly) breathing is one of the best ways to activate the vagus nerve. This supports your body’s ability to combat the negative effects of stress. It helps your body get full oxygen exchange compared to normal shallow breathing. This improves focus in our brains and can even lower pain levels in our body. Breathwork is often included in yoga, mindfulness meditation, and tai chi. But you don’t have to do one of these to get benefit. Taking 5 deep breaths which takes about 60 seconds, can provide significant benefit. The major results of this micro-habit are: increased self-awareness, the ability to control your fight-or-flight response, relief of tension throughout the body, decreased anxiety, and lower and more stabilized blood pressure.
Got 60 seconds to spare? Stop reading this and take your 5 deep breaths before continuing. Your brain and body will thank you.
7. Do a 5-minute brain sweep.
When you are feeling frazzled and overwhelmed because you have too much to do and not enough time in the day to do it, take 5 minutes to complete a brain or mind sweep. Like breaking out the broom and dustpan, the idea is the compile all your thoughts in one single pile or list. Set a timer for 5 minutes and write down anything and everything that’s on your mind right now. By creating this list and offloading what’s in your brain, you’ll notice a HUGE difference. The major results with the brain sweep exercise are: free your mind of clutter and free up space to focus on what matters most, relieve stress, spark creativity, improve focus, and feel more in control of your world.
Also Read: My secret to surviving stress
8. Complete one small act of kindness.
Whether it’s directed toward a stranger or someone you love, showing compassion can influence your own well-being. When you do something nice for someone else, your brain releases oxytocin. This hormone, often called the “love drug”, is released when people socially bond with another human or pet. It has an anti-stress effect on the body and promotes growth and healing. The major results associated with acts of kindness include: increased self-worth, a boost in personal happiness, improved recovery and healing times, improves relationships with others, and increased longevity.
9. Learn one new thing every day.
The act of learning something new every day is a great way to keep your brain sharp and youthful. Small doses each day stimulates your brain and adds knowledge to your repertoire. Stick with a topic that interests you, or step outside your comfort zone to boost the benefit. Major results for this micro-habit include: mastering a new skill, warding off aging in the brain, strengthen your neural pathways which makes future learning easier and faster, improves empathy towards other people, makes you more interesting to others, builds self-esteem, allows you to make more informed decisions, fuels creativity, improves social interactions, and builds your personal skills. Just to name a few.
10. Measure your progress toward achieving goals.
Measuring the impact of your actions is the best way to determine if you’re on track to achieve your goal(s). It’s also a fantastic way of keeping motivated and holding yourself accountable.
You can quantify progress through smart watches, cell phone apps, progress photos, and good ol’ fashion tracking worksheets. Any data that you can gather over time will help tell the story of how your actions are working (or not working). The benefits of tracking your progress toward goals, however, only helps when you have goals that are measurable. So keep that in mind when you’re setting them. Major results of measuring progress with data include: improved self-awareness, staying on track for longer, achieving goals faster, increasing chances of succeeding and increasing your self-discipline.
Sticking to a micro-habit will give you GIANT results.
This list is by no means exhaustive and I hope it helps you identify tiny actions that will get you the big results you’re looking for. Every positive action we take adds up over time to yield amazing results. And negative actions that push us in the opposite direction of our goals can also add up – but those have the opposite effect. The most important thing is to be as consistent with those positive actions as possible.
Not sure where to start? Start with identifying the results you want first, then work backwards to identify the small actions that will get you there. My free Adult Athlete Playbook get you started on choosing your goals and creating your own game plan.
Keep leaning forward, my friends!
Adult Athletes Playbook
A Guide to Peak Performance and Athletic Longevity
This playbook will help you develop and implement a personalized game plan for improving athletic performance.