The Secret of Getting Ahead is Getting Started with Small Steps

The Secret of Getting Ahead is Getting Started with Small Steps

Do you have a habit that you’ve tried so hard to get rid of or change? But no matter what you do, you keep going back to the same behavior?

Yep, same here 👋🏻

I was noting down a few goals for 2022 like ‘Start adopting healthier lifestyle’ or ‘Spend more quality time with my kid’, and thought to myself: what should I start doing and how do I make it consistent? Until one day, James Clear’s 2018 book Atomic Habits came highly recommended by many people I know. It probably took me less than a month to read, which for me qualifies as quite fast 😛.

Psst.. I got this self-improvement book by utilising Vidio’s learning coupon. Continuous learning is at the heart of our culture — and thanks Vidio for providing us with the opportunity to enhance our personal and professional growth!

Atomic Habits is a great book if you are looking for something practical which will explain a bunch of do’s and dont’s for creating new habits and breaking old ones. In the long run, the quality of our lives often depends on the quality of our habits, right?

These are my key takeaways from the book.

1% Better Every Day

Huge goals are hard to swallow all at once, and they often just lead to frustration and unreasonable expectations. The secret to achieving real change is just constant, focused effort on a daily basis. According to James Clear, we often convince ourselves that massive success requires massive action.

He writes, “Whether it is losing weight, building a business, writing a book, winning a championship, or achieving any other goal, we put pressure on ourselves to make some earth-shattering improvement that everyone will talk about.”
Buatlah kebiasaan-kebiasaan baik meskipun hanya 1% setiap hari. Dalam satu tahun, kita bisa membuat 37 kali kebiasaan lebih baik dibandingkan saat pertama kali kita mulai kebiasaan itu.

Rather than trying to do something big from the beginning, let’s increase our habits in very small ways and gradually improve. We can pick a new habit that is easy enough and we don’t need the motivation to do it. For instance, rather than trying to exercise for one hour per day, start by light exercise or stretching for 10 minutes per day.

The Power of Habit Stacking

Habit stacking is the idea that when we are trying to incorporate a new habit into our regular routine, we can “stack” it with a well-established habit to make it easier to remember. This is great in theory but quite challenging in practice.

The habit stacking formula is: After/Before [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].

For example:

  • After my morning alarm goes off, I will immediately get up and change into my workout clothes.
  • After I pour my cup of coffee each morning, I will stretch for 10 minutes.

By linking our new habits to a rhythm that is already built into our brain, we make it more likely that we’ll stick to the new habit. Once we have mastered this basic routine, we can begin to create larger stacks by chaining small habits together.

If you want more practical ideas for how to build a habit stacking routine, check out Chapter 4 - Atomic Habits. There is also a great framework from James Clear’s book about 4 Rules for Sticking to Any Habits. I highly suggest you pick it up and check it out for yourself!

How It Helps Me as a Working Mom

As working mums, we fill our day juggling between work and motherhood in a non-stop hustle during the day and night. Most of the time I’m working with only one free hand while holding a toddler with the other. I am sure many of you mums reading will relate to this 😂

There was a time when I felt that my to-do list seemed impossible to accomplish. It was all so big. Whether it was responding to an email, or feeding my kid, every action felt gigantic. I max out my bandwidth to the point that I can’t take in anything more even for my self-care.

Eventually, I realized that everything that overwhelmed me could be accomplished just by building smaller habits on top of other small habits. James Clear reminds us that the “quality of our lives depends on the quality of our habits.” If we don’t make changes in our habits, nothing will really change long-term.

“How to wake up early — before my kid (and not feel tired) every day” was the first habit I wanted to build on.

In the beginning, I started setting my alarm for 5:00 am (inspired by The 5 AM Club Book by Robin Sharma 🤓). I’m not gonna lie, the first week hurt. I consistently pushed a snooze button and went back to sleep at the sound of a particular alarm. I changed the sound of my alarm to help me create a new habit and try to consistently get up quickly when the alarm goes off. Finally, I was able to pull myself out of bed as I had a list of small habits I wanted to do before my kid woke up:

  • Pray sincerely
  • 10 mins workout. Can’t make it without Grow with Jo workout video.
  • Take the first sip of coffee in the morning
  • Write a To-Done-List for each day

So now, I follow a ‘strict’ morning routine. Writing out my morning tasks got me really excited about how accomplished I’d feel if I could just do it. As cliche’ as it sounds, it’s true! It’s only been a month but I feel like I have the most productive days when I made it a priority to wake up early. It also puts me in a better mood overall, since I’m able to have a few moments to myself before the day starts.

Soon, these things became second nature, and I was surprised at how I was able to be less stressed in tackling everything as a working mom. Most importantly, the new habits that I created gave me more self-gratitude in everyday life.

Yep, it’s the small habits that in turn create BIG change in our lives.