Wisdom//

How To Create Micro Wins In Your Life

It's still possible to finish the year strong and step into 2021 with confidence.

fizkes / Shutterstock
fizkes / Shutterstock

“The key to realizing a dream is to focus not on success but on significance – and then even the small steps and little victories along your path will take on greater meaning”- Oprah Winfrey

It has been a roller coaster of a year, you have moved though new levels of chaos, confusion, uncertainty and challenge. In the beginning, you were being fueled by adrenaline just to keep your head above water. Then things started to settle, and you found your groove, even if that groove was increased hours and little time for yourself.

Now that 2021 is around the corner, there is an expectation of you to get back to full capacity. There is a belief that you had the time to adapt and find a new way of being, but you aren’t feeling ready. You wish you could just press pause, slow down a bit, catch your breath, take some time out for yourself to recover but that doesn’t seem likely because you have so much work to do before the year closes out.

You really had every great intention of creating new habits and taking a breather when ‘things slow down’ but here you are…and the truth is things never really do slow down until you intentionally decide to.

The way forward is to get really clear on how you want to navigate the rest of this year and how you want to enter 2021.

Stop thinking big

“You need to be content with small steps. That’s all life is. Small steps that you take every day so when you look back down the road it all adds up and you know you covered some distance”- Katie Kacvinsky

It’s amazing to have bold goals but thinking too big is precisely what paralyzes you from taking action. Instead, the answer is to think small. Break down your goals into small chunks which I call micro wins. Simplify your goals into their smallest actions and then just start working on it.

The secret to getting control over your life and working towards your dreams is making one small bit of progress every single day on the things that matter to you. You probably know this in theory, it is not new information, but I want to share with you the HOW. How do you create micro wins? How do you take a goal on a vision board and translate it into reality?

What I have learnt on my personal journey is that there is no one else who can energize you. No one can do the sit ups for you. The starting point is understanding that any shift you want to make, no matter how big or small, begins with choosing yourself. The formula to create micro wins is all about how you choose to ACT:

Attitude

“The greatest discovery of all time is that a person can change his future by merely changing his attitude.” – Oprah Winfrey

Motivation is a creative myth when it comes to the attitude towards yourself. You probably tell yourself a story that looks like this:

One day when…. {I get that new job, I lose that weight, I get that piece of paper, I get fitter} … then I will….

This is called an external locus of control when you place your self-worth on things external to you. You do it all the time – you link your worth to numbers. To the number on the scale, the number in your bank account, the amount of clients you have or likes you get. If you continue to base your self-worth on things external to you, then you will never feel ready to act on what matters to you now.

You must be your why – today. Irrespective of the external factors you think you need to give you permission. This is why choosing yourself is the way forward. It is this attitude of ‘I am enough’ that will propel you forward.

The power of thought

“Our life is shaped by our mind, we become what we think.” — Buddha

Your attitude is made up of thoughts, beliefs and the extent to which you accept yourself unconditionally. Most of the time, these thoughts and beliefs are old and stale. They become toxic and infect your internal operating system. Think about your phone, it does an automatic upgrade to the new system regularly, so it functions optimally.

When did you last do a systems upgrade? When did you last stop and check in if this software is compatible with your new goals? You may have formed these beliefs a few years ago but they are probably not well-suited to this new way of being.

Change your questions, change your life

“What people think of as the moment of discovery is really the discovery of the question.” – Jonas Salk

The quality of your life is determined by the quality of your questions. In order to upgrade the software, you need to flush out the old beliefs by asking yourself:

What am I still believing?

My greatest insights came from two old beliefs that were holding me back: the one was my self-worth was linked to my work achievements only. If I had a lot of coaching clients and was booked for several talks– then I am worthy. I came to understand that my worth is derived from many other areas of my life including being a nurturing mother, wife and daughter.

The second belief was that taking time out for stillness was a waste of time. I grew up with an incredibly smart overachiever. He always was checking if I was using my time wisely to study or revise my work. This came from the most genuine and caring place and I was grateful to have someone encourage me to be my best.

However, as an adult, it meant I had no idea how to relax. I didn’t know I could take time to pause and be still, my belief was that I was wasting time. Until I questioned my belief, I was creating an attitude of time scarcity rather than time abundance.

The second question that will enable you to change your attitude is:

 What is the story I tell myself?

Is your story, ‘I am too old, too young, I’m an introvert, I am bad with technology, a poor public speaker, etc.” then it will impact what you choose to show up to. If your story is, you can’t speak in public then you will never put your hand up for opportunities where that is a requirement. You won’t even entertain the idea because you are defending these perceived limitations.

Change your story and your whole world shifts. You instantly open up so many possibilities that you had convinced yourself were not available to you. Think about your future self and who you want to be in 3 years’ time. What skills, beliefs and thoughts need to shift in order to make that a reality?

When you are in a meeting, perhaps speaking up feels uncomfortable to you now but you are being true to the person you are becoming. When the voice of self-doubt and her friend the inner critic shows up, remind yourself that you are being authentic to your future self. She is bold, confident and shares her views with self-assurance.

Do not let your thoughts and beliefs hold you back because the truth is your own inaction will continue to reinforce the story.

But as powerful as a positive attitude can be, it is not enough to create a micro win. You cannot think yourself to action, you need to show yourself you can do it. This brings me to the second step to ACT:

Consistency

“Part of courage is simple consistency.” – Peggy Noonan

Consistency is the bridge between feeling like you don’t have enough time and making progress on your goals.

Do you think you could carve out an additional 15 minutes a day for yourself if you checked the socials less and stopped hitting refresh on your inbox every half an hour? I think so too.

When you want to create progress on your new goal or skill, take those 15 minutes and schedule them into your calendar as a recurring event. Consistency compounds and those 15 minutes will go a long way if you use them wisely. It could be 15 minutes of reading, walking, meditation, yoga, studying, painting, journaling, scrapbooking – you fill in the blank.

When you act, you have created your micro win, the first Lego brick towards your goal. Next acknowledge and celebrate that action – even if you did one push up or wrote one sentence. That’s how you lock in the habit but more importantly, you are cultivating the habit of self-praise and acknowledging your wins.

What is missing from your world now that will energise you from the inside out? If you can do more than 15 minutes of this activity, even better.

It’s not always about quantity of time spent on a task but the quality. If you know you only have 15 minutes, you will put in all your effort. Also, that amount of time isn’t mentally taxing. If I told you to put aside 2 hours, I’ve already lost you because it feels like too much of a sacrifice. 15 minutes is palatable and if used correctly, can yield tremendous progress. Micro wins are the antidote to inaction to make your dreams a reality because all you need is a daily dose of progress to show yourself you are worth it.

Mind the gap

“Confidence is directly proportional to the promises you keep to yourself”- Chase Jarvis

There is often a gap between knowing and doing; common sense isn’t always common practice especially when you feel stressed and that there isn’t enough time in the day.

How many times during lockdown (and before) have you heard yourself say ‘Tomorrow, I am starting to be healthier, take more breaks and manage my mind?’ You set your alarm for a slightly earlier time to fit in this newfound habit. However, when the time comes, you pick up your phone and hit snooze!

This innocent ‘one time’ offense leads into a downward spiral for the rest of the day. You find yourself procrastinating on your tasks, you figure you will ditch the entire day and feel justified to get that sugary doughnut and then the inner critic arrives to remind you how you let yourself down. The bottom line – you broke the agreement with yourself and damaged your self-trust and confidence.

When this happens consistently, the self-talk elevates to ‘I’m the sort of person who can’t do those things. It’s not just about self-care, it spills into other areas of your life too.

Time for a new set of tools

“The most important thing is transforming our minds, for a new way of thinking, a new outlook: we should strive to develop a new inner world.”- Dalai Lama

The way to break the pattern is to realize that it’s not enough to schedule yourself into the calendar. You may have every great intention of doing the activity, but the key lies in showing up to yourself. You need to prove to yourself you are worth making the change for and show yourself you can do it. This is why choosing yourself as your why and upgrading your beliefs are critical to create micro wins.

If you can’t commit to the act of showing up, then you have little hope of mastering the finer details. Make a very specific decision about something you want to do and do not question it. ‘When I wake up at 6AM tomorrow, I am going to journal, meditate, walk, read, study or think of something I am grateful for’.

When you mind starts to argue with you that it’s early, cold and you can do it tomorrow; you need to override the temptation. Just ignore your mind! Get up and act. This could be 3 mindful breaths, 10 sit ups, read 2 pages of a book or watch an inspiring TED talk. The point is not about how much time you spend or even the result you achieved during the slot; it is about demonstrating you can rely on yourself to make progress.

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits says true behavior change is identity change. Your actions need to create the evidence that you are the kind of person who can achieve what you set out to. That’s why ‘fake it till you make it’ is deranged. You are asking yourself to believe something with no proof. Take the smallest action that confirms the type of person you want to be and reaffirms your beliefs.

Each micro win not only gets results but also teaches you something far more important: to trust yourself. You start to believe you can accomplish these things and your confidence builds as a result.

Once you have mastered the habit of showing up to the 15-minute slot, you can then decide on when and if you are going to expand it. Chances are when you begin to see the progress and results from your effort, you will want to increase it. And if not, then at least you are making space for your personal development.

The barrier to micro wins

“Don’t give up what you want most, for what you want now.” Anonymous

Let’s recap. You have upgraded your software and created new empowering beliefs and thoughts. You scheduled in your 15 minutes for walking three times a week and have kept this up for 2 weeks now. But…you aren’t feeling like you are making any progress. You feel the same and look the same, so you figure, it works for other people and not me. Before you know it, you have given up despite your amazing efforts.

Sound familiar?

A barrier to creating micro wins is that we are a culture of instant gratification junkies. Everything we want is a click away. And when we start on a new habit or goal, we expect the same – ‘I want to instantly download my new body, stream my learning curve so I don’t need to feel any discomfort of going through a new process’.

This is why there is a third step to ACT; it is the glue that holds it all together. It is the invisible ingredient that makes it happen.

Trust

“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live”- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Trust is the kryptonite of instant gratification.

The challenge is that trust is not a tangible resource, you must follow it blindly in the dark and sometimes bump into a few walls along the way. But when you can trust the process of creating micro wins daily even when you don’t physically see a result at first and still persevere that’s when the magic happens!

Eventually you see the progress of showing up to yourself day after day – your body getting stronger, the novel forming, your concentration getting better, you are less emotionally reactive – you achieve your goals.

It is about trusting the process of this daily dose of action and turning down the volume of the inner critic’s negative self-talk.  The ‘should be’ mental chatter that constantly reminds you, ‘You should be further by now; you should have more sales; you should have more in the bank account’; you’re wasting your time so why bother!’ You know it well…

How do you trust this initial period of producing micro wins before you see the tangible results?

Let go of Perfection

Done is better than perfect.” – Sheryl Sandberg

When you do something for the first time, you need to accept the fact that are going to be average. When you can make peace with allowing yourself not to be the best on your first attempt, you are giving yourself permission to persevere through the awkwardness.

The world rewards productivity, not perfection and it’s a myth you are telling yourself that you can’t possibly hand in the assignment or attempt a new skill because you want to make sure it’s perfect first. You cannot perfect anything until it’s created.

The solution – chunk it down. Don’t work on the presentation, work on the first slide. If you want to start a blog to develop your personal brand or publish articles on LinkedIn, just write the first paragraph. Do not convince yourself you need a course, or you must study writing in order to give yourself permission to begin. Just write it and infuse your authentic voice into it.

If perfection has held you back from taking serious action, then replace it with progress. Every time you write a blog, make sure it’s better than the previous one. When you start exercising, do one more sit up than you did in the previous session. If you can improve 1% a day, think about the person you will become in one month and one year!

It really is allowing yourself space to be a beginner and laugh at yourself on the journey to progress.  You cannot get there if you have destructive self-talk and a negative internal commentator. You need to recognize your starting point to measure improvement and celebrate the milestones along the way. Don’t judge success on the end product alone, that’s why you give up on the goal in the first place.

Fear

“Our fear keeps us cornered in lives we have outgrown”- The Artist’s Way at Work

Often what prevents you acting on matters most is fear. It could be the fear of failure, fear of not being good enough or the fear of not being perfect.

Your brain is hard wired for protection but there aren’t any Sabretooth tigers anymore – it’s protecting you from the feeling of discomfort that comes with doing something new and moving out of your comfort zone.

You like the known even if it’s not always best for you. This is the reason why you may be holding onto old habits, thoughts and patterns that no longer serve you. When you are forming these new neural pathways, the new way of doing things, there is inevitably going to be feelings of anxiety and unease.

Have you ever used Google Maps to take you somewhere new and there’s this reflex to not want to trust the technology? Like you know better? But you have no choice but to trust this different route than you would normally take, and you land up discovering a better route and this ultimately becomes your new normal.

Similarly, you need to trust yourself to discover the new route – this new way of being – until it becomes your new normal. For example, if you are training yourself to wake up 30 minutes earlier, it’s going to be uncomfortable at first but eventually when you do it for long enough, your body adjusts, and it becomes the new body clock.

If you truly want to let go of the old version of yourself so you can show up to yourself in life and business– you need to ask yourself some tough questions:

  • Am I willing to go through the discomfort of doing things differently?
  • Am I willing to let go of old destructive or out of date habits and thoughts that no longer serve me?

Reframe fear as a compass, it’s a signal you are moving in the right direction. If you think about something you did for the first time – maybe presenting to your team, doing a new skill – it was daunting, but you did it. I’m sure you had the same initial feelings but in time you mastered it. When it comes to creating new actions, just remind yourself that it’s another one of those.

Recognize that your fear means you are moving away from your comfort zone and into your courage zone. If it was easy and didn’t challenge you, you would never have any feelings of nervousness. It’s all feedback you are on track and moving in the direction of growth.

Conclusion

“Remember there are no mistakes, only lessons. Love yourself, trust your choices, and everything is possible” – Cherie Carter-Scott

My formula to ACT has seen me through some of my toughest challenges. It’s not just about career development, it is a way to let go of what no longer serves you, outgrow old patterns and create the life you want.

Choose one area of your life and commit to one new habit or goal in your personal and professional life. Then it is up to you to ACT because micro wins are the antidote to inaction to make your story a reality:

  • Attitude – Choose a positive attitude, upgrade your thoughts and shift your story
  • Consistency – Schedule yourself into your calendar, consistently show up and take action
  • Trust – Trust the process and turn down the volume of the inner critic. Celebrate your wins and press repeat

It’s the difference between day one or one day.

Here’s to choosing yourself,

Warm wishes

Lori

Call to Action

Ready to own your days and not feel like they are owning you?

I’ve created an ultimate guide to Show Up To Yourself: In Life & Business. If you follow this daily, you can build new habits — and actually sustain them; schedule yourself into your calendar, guilt free; and manage your inner critic, free of anxiety and fear.

Get the ultimate guide here!

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