The Power of Tiny Steps: How Micro Habits Lead to Big Change

Hey Flourishing Fiercely readers! I can hardly believe we’re already midway through February 2024. Where did the time go? I had intended to share much more this month about the important topic of micro habits. But life got busy, as it often does, and I’m just now circling back to dive into this theme with you. Even though I’m late to the game, I don’t want that to stop us from exploring micro habits together. There’s that saying, “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second-best time is now.” Well, we may have missed the best time to start building micro habits, but the present moment is a close second! So, let’s start planting some seeds of change today.

What exactly are micro habits? Micro habits are tiny, repeatable actions we do each and every day, often taking just 60 seconds or less. Some examples are doing a few pushups after brushing your teeth in the morning, reading a couple pages of a book before bed at night, or taking a quick 30-second mindful breathing break once an hour throughout your workday. These small habits may seem insignificant when looked at individually. But when done consistently over time, micro habits lead to remarkable results. Our daily habits shape our ability to reach goals.

Micro habits work much like compound interest. By investing small amounts of effort daily into actions that have a high rate of return, those tiny investments grow exponentially over months and years. The effects of micro habits compound rapidly when you stick to them day in and day out. So don’t underestimate the power of making slight adjustments to your daily routine! The key is focusing on just one or two micro habits you can easily maintain each and every day. Consistency over the long run matters far more than intensity in the moment.

This truth extends beyond just micro habits, too. Our habits – not our goals – ultimately determine our outcomes in life. Reflect on what you want your life to represent and steadily design habits, including micro habits, that move you in the direction of your dreams. Pay attention to the small, repeated actions that construct each of your days. It’s more about progress through consistency than sporadic bursts of intensity. While visionary goals can provide helpful direction, sustainable change only comes from practicing small positive habits, day after day.

Now let’s explore how to apply the power of micro habits to create positive change in our lives. An arguable, but alarming statistic says 70% of attempts to change fail. The reasons vary – resistance to change, ineffective systems, lack of support, bad timing. These can lead to frustration when trying to improve behaviors without proper preparation for the needed shifts in attitude and actions.  Change brings growing pains, roadblocks, and difficulty. The key is being ready when challenges arise. Here are some great tips to help your changes stick:

  • Make Micro Changes. For dropping bad habits or starting good ones, begin small. Wide, sweeping changes can trigger problems and be hard to sustain. It’s easier to shift your behavior gradually then build on it over time. I’ve used this micro habit approach effectively in my own life. When I wanted to improve my diet and eat healthier several years ago, I didn’t totally overhaul my eating overnight. That would have quickly failed! Instead, I made one minor change per week, like swapping soda for water or grabbing an apple over cookies for dessert. These tiny shifts added up to real, lasting change over time.
  • Celebrate Small Wins. Don’t just celebrate when you reach your ultimate goals – celebrate small wins along the way. Change fails when you don’t reinforce progress. Every step forward is symbolic and deserves celebration to motivate you to keep moving. I remember when I was increasing my water intake. In the beginning, I could barely drink four glasses a day. But I celebrated each achievement, and those little wins pushed me forward. As I continue to work toward my goal of eight glasses, I still feel as I’m accomplishing something as I am making progress through all those small steps!
  • Plan to Fail. Failing to plan is planning to fail, but you can’t prevent all failures. You may stumble as you solidify changes. Allow room for setbacks – you likely wouldn’t need to change if you knew everything required already. Be kind to yourself and never give up, even if you don’t succeed at first.
  • Get Amnesia. We often assume change attempts will fail like past tries and look for evidence to confirm that belief. But don’t compare current and past efforts. You’re older and wiser now, better equipped for change. What happened before isn’t guaranteed to recur. Most change attempts fail, but not all. With mindfulness of your desire to change, you can be in the successful 30%.
  • Subconscious Resistance. Change is hard – if it were easy, the self-help industry wouldn’t exist! We consciously seek change, but subconsciously resist it. Our minds want to protect us from pain by avoiding change.

Our subconscious reacts without our full awareness. It can hinder our progress in two key ways. First, it triggers a fear of loss – resisting giving up things perceived as good, like unhealthy foods that seem tastier or more comforting, even when change is better for us. To change, we must override those beliefs about what brings value and embrace better habits. Second, our subconscious convinces us we lack the ability or worthiness to change, hindering us with self-doubt. But we must tune out that inner voice – we can change and will be better for it. Though the path may be bumpy, we can stick to changes if we commit, regardless of our subconscious doubts.

Change requires mindfulness, patience and self-compassion. While the process may seem daunting, it simply starts with small steps – micro habits that reshape our days bit by bit until incredible transformation emerges. We have the power to gradually steer our lives in a healthier direction by focusing on consistency through those small positive changes. Progress through persistence, not intensity.

What micro habit will you start today? Let me know your thoughts in the comments! I’m excited to continue diving into the power of micro habits with you.