Time to nerd out just a bit on a practice I learned in Jon Acuff’s Full Potential course.
Micro actions. These are small daily practices that help you ladder up to big life change.
The assignment was to pick 3 minor actions off a list of 20 and do them EVERYDAY for 90 days, Initially, I had a bunch of excuses for why I wouldn’t do this challenge.
First of all, the holidays were coming, I had some travel planned which would keep me from achieving a perfect score. Plus, they were such small actions – wouldn’t my limited free time be better spent on doing some bigger? And finally, I was already doing a number of the daily actions on the suggested list like morning quiet time, daily exercise, drinking 76 oz of water, making my bed, flossing, practicing gratitude, and reading success books. Did I really need another set of daily habits in my life?
That’s when I realized all this self talk, that pretended to be helpful, was just negative soundtracks I was listening to in my head that weren’t going to help me move forward.
So I flipped it. What if I could do one action everyday, but others I only did when I was home? What if this exercise is just the thing I need to propel me closer to my goals? What if my current practices were good, but could be improved with a bit more effort?
So I went for it, full in, and even printed out the paper tracking grid with my 3 daily actions:
Here’s what I learned, and why doing this for 90 days was life changing.
Encourage one person
This was the only action I was able to do the full 90 days. It started out easy with making an encouraging comment on social posts of people I know, instead of just reading and liking them. I expanded by encouraging friends and family members who I thought of during the day. I would shoot them a text or even give them a call. Then I got brave enough to say something out on the spot and out loud, like to a work colleague who just nailed a presentation, or a cashier at the store who made my day.
What I found is that I was training my brain to articulate the kind thoughts I had about a person or situation that used to be perfectly content to swim in my head, and occasionally be heard.
Before this assignment, I would vacillate between saying something, and not. If I said something and it was awkward or misunderstood, it might embarrass me or the other person. If I said nothing, it was safer for me, but I would have missed an important moment to encourage a fellow human. And we ALL need some encouragement right now.
What does this look like? Here’s an example from day 55, I ventured out to a store for just a couple of things and a roving cashier plucked me from a long line to check me out on his mobile device. As much as my brain shouted “don’t be weird, just say thank you and hurry home”, I managed to say what I was thinking:
“I really appreciated you noticing me and proactively working to get me on my way. You really know how to make me feel like a valued customer.” He BEAMED with the biggest smile.
Practicing positive affirmations
If the woo woo factor of positive affirmations is making you question all I’ve said, just wait. In Jon Acuff’s book Soundtracks, he addresses all the skepticism I had with the practice PLUS added a few new reasons I hadn’t thought of. Then he masterfully makes a case for why I need to try it based on expert opinions I respect, PLUS statistically significant data. Ugh! I couldn’t argue it any longer, I had to do it. There’s an anthem of affirmations in the book that I began the 90 days with, but decided to mix it up, and also printed out the Zig Ziglar affirmations that were mentioned as a favorite of Seth Godin.
I went 81 of 90 days on this action. After working out each morning, I would stand in front of my mirror as instructed, and read these affirmations that told me who I was and what was true. I went from reading softly, to delivering them like a TED talk by the end of the challenge. The words were burned into my brain, and when I’d encounter a difficult situation during the day, I’d hear “I am competent and resourceful” and “everything is always working out for me” proclaimed in my head. As much as the logical side of my brain wanted to prove this didn’t work, it clearly does.
Spend 15 minutes…
When we think about our day, and the limited time we have before and after work to use for ourselves, It’s easy to turn up the “I don’t have time for that” soundtrack. If fact, that same soundtrack can help up avoid time wasters like TV, social media, or internet browsing. It can also stop us from making ANY progress on goals until we free up a few hours to make it happen.
The idea that I could make progress happen in 15 minute increments feels very doable at work, as that is plenty of time to send a few e-mails, finish a report, or schedule a meeting. But to apply this outside of my work setting felt hard! What could I possibly do in 15 minutes everyday to build the A Better 40 community? Turns out, there’s plenty of tasks I could break into 15 minute increments from creating social content, to writing e-mails, or determining future blog topics.
On this action, I did 65 out of the 90 days. I fully took the holidays off, and also missed a few days. I was by no means perfect, but in this practice of daily 15 minutes, I created a degree of consistency that I needed to move forward. It got the flywheel spinning, which is just the momentum I needed to keep sharing content that is reaching hundreds of people and helping us all have a better work week.
Speaking of our work week, what’s one thing you could do for 60 days, Monday through Friday, that would bring you closer to your goals and aspirations?
Here’s a few ideas to get you started:
- Take a 15 minute walk during the work day
- Each lunch away from your computer
- Include an agenda or objective with every meeting invite you send
- Make an appointment for something after work each day (class, phone call, dog walk, workout, kid pick up, dinner, etc.)
- Use a kanban board to keep track of your actions and move something each day