How To Create Major Change By Starting Small

In his book, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life On Earth, Colonel AND Astronaut Chris Hadfield describes the mindset shift that occurred when he first watched the race to the moon.

He was still a child as he watched the countdown and rocket launch on his black and white television with his family but it inspired him to make the conscious decision to become an astronaut someday.

Chris Hadfield’s book

At ten years old, he knew he was still too young to study or train for space travel so he did the next best thing: he created habits which would pave the way to his goals.

He asked himself: “What can I do RIGHT NOW so I can become an astronaut when I’m an adult?”

He knew that astronauts had to be disciplined so he made his bed every morning, did his chores before his mother asked, and kept his room tidy.

He knew that astronauts had to be healthy and agile so he stopped eating junk food, slept earlier, and exercised at home.

He knew that astronauts had to pass a series of physical, mental, and academic tests so he focused on his studies, limited his distractions, and read plenty of science and space books.

He was TEN. At ten years old, I didn’t even have the self-awareness to think about goals.

It’s never too late to start. There is always room and time for improvement.

Human action is just a collection of habits we’ve formed over the years. Most of the things we do are just habit loops.

We wake up, brush our teeth, drive to work, stay there for 8 or so hours, drive back home, catch up on our shows, eat dinner, sleep. Of course a few things happen in between and then we repeat.

Most of the things we do in our day are autopilot tasks. For example, have you ever driven home from work without even remembering the drive? That’s a habit loop.

When I used to think about transformation and making changes, it felt daunting as hell. This was because I was looking at it from a big picture perspective. It was difficult to see how I could get to the end goal when I couldn’t even muster the motivation or discipline to get started.

The Tao Te Ching says:

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.

Motivation is a paradox. In order to cultivate the motivation for the thing we don’t want to do, we have to do the thing we don’t want to do.

It can be done!

How to start where you are RIGHT NOW:

  1. Write a list of goals.
    Writing will help solidify what we really want. Creating a list will also give us a visual of our priorities.
    Sometimes we THINK we want something but upon taking inventory, we might change our minds.
    If you can’t think of goals, visualize an ideal version of yourself.
    What are they doing? What do they look like? What kind of stuff are they enjoying in this vision?
    Just because you don’t know what you want just yet, doesn’t mean you can’t make improvements.
  2. Make sure one goal doesn’t contradict or get in the way of another.
    If one of your goals is to spend more time with your family but then another goal is to land a career where you travel all the time, then you wouldn’t be able to spend quality time with your loved ones like you wanted.
  3. Cultivate awareness.
    Awareness is necessary in order for us to break habit loops. Often, we do things without making the CONSCIOUS decision to do them.
    For example, smokers often reach for their pack of cigarettes as soon as they get outside, turn on their vehicle, or after they finish eating.
    People often turn their TVs on as soon as they change out of their work clothes because that’s how it was yesterday and the day before.
    How do you cultivate awareness?
    a. Journaling EVERY DAY.
    b. Meditation.
    c. Observing the present moment – Observe the color of your coworker’s jacket, the way a flower moves in the breeze, the sound of the old door in your study, etc.
    d. Ask yourself deep questions and answer them – Google “deep questions to ask yourself” if you are feeling stuck on this.
  4. Make conscious decisions in order to break the habit loops.
    If your goal is to lose weight but you have a habit loop of buying a danish every morning for breakfast, then adjusting just that ONE decision is a step closer to your goal.
    If your goal is to quit smoking but you have a habit loop of lighting up as soon as you get outside, making the decision not to grab the pack as soon as you walk out the door is a step closer to your goal.
    If your goal is to have less emotional reactions to things you can’t control but you have a habit loop of creating scenarios in your mind before something happens, making the decision to take deep breaths and allowing life to unfold as it should is a step closer to your goal.
  5. Arm yourself with tools.
    Can we build a table without a hammer? Can we complete a painting without paint? Would we be able to write a research paper without internet or books?
    I mean…honestly, we PROBABLY can…but it’s going to be REAL difficult.
    Without tools, quitting will be EXTREMELY enticing.
    So what kind of tools am I talking about?
    Here are some tools that I have found effective:
    a. My Affirmations – an app on Android
    I’m sure Apple has something similar.
    I have placed this widget on my home screen and every day, it gives me a new affirmation. You can even customize affirmations based on a specific category (ie health, abundance, self-esteem, happiness, etc)
    b. Audible and YouTube

    Take advantage of the time you sit in traffic and listen to audio books and videos that would inspire or help shift your mindset.
    I even put these on when I’m cooking, making art, or doing mundane tasks like cleaning.
    c. Sticky notes
    I wrote a bunch of mantras once and gave them all to my fiance so he could stick them up randomly around the house. That way, I had no expectations of where they would be and it helps get the message to my subconscious.
    d. An alarm
    I used to have this alarm that would go off at 12 pm ( after lunch) and it was titled, “Remember, no dessert”.
    e. Google
    Fill your senses with reminders, notifications, and messages holding you accountable so you can stay on the trajectory.
  6. Be gentle with yourself.
    Often when we don’t see immediate results, our brain convinces us that we’re wasting our time and it’s not working. And we believe it and go back to our old habits.
    Be patient. Transformation takes time. Change is a bunch of little steps combined.
    We’ll have bad days and fall off the wagon. Get back on, that’s it.
    Just because you couldn’t help yourself and had dessert with a friend, doesn’t mean “you screwed up” and it’s all over.
  7. Don’t allow shame inside.
    Shame is an addictive and stressful emotion.
    During a stress response, our adrenal glands release epinephrine.
    Constant subjection to shame, stress, and anxiety can become adrenaline (epinephrine) addiction.
    And just like most addictions, long term exposure to these vices will have severe effects on our bodies.
    Shame creates unsavory habit loops.
  8. Take action that will lead towards the best version of yourself and not how you were yesterday.
    *****This is just a short list of things we can do to take the small steps – ultimately leading to our destination.

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