How many people set intentions for the New Year, ready to get up at 5:00AM and head to the gym, or quit drinking alcohol cold-turkey, or spend two hours every weekend learning to play a new instrument? And how many of those people fail?
Most do, in fact, which isn’t news to anyone. We know that resolutions we set an arbitrary beginning and end date for don’t tend to stick. We aren’t going to turn into the next Yo-Yo Ma, for example, after three practice sessions.
That’s because a “breakthrough”, any change in our lives for the better, doesn’t happen on its own. Just like luck, it takes work.
When you look to people you admire for one reason or another, you might think that some part of their success — whether it’s their corner office, their new TV pilot or their beautiful vintage furniture — comes down to dumb luck. And while certainly some things in their life were out of their control, they also created some of that luck themselves.
“A mind-blowing, singular breakthrough is not what changes your life,” writes Brianna Wiest for Medium. “A microshift is.” She continues:
Think of microshifts as tiny increments of change in your day-to-day life. A microshift is changing what you eat for one part of one meal just one time. Then it’s doing that a second time. And a third. Before you even realise what’s happening, you’ve adopted a pattern of behaviour.
Eventually, those tiny changes will add up to big changes. You’ll look back a year, or two years, and everything will feel different. Your new behaviours or attitudes will click into place, and you’ll see the world differently.
“It’s not radical moments of action that give us long-lasting, permeating change — it’s the restructuring of our habits,” writes Wiest.
In other words, there’s likely never going to be a moment when an apple falls on your head and you suddenly know the answers to all the problems you’ve been trying to solve. You have to start small, and keep it up every day.
“If you want to spend less time on your phone, deny yourself the chance to check it one time today. If you want to eat healthier, drink half a cup of water today. If you want to sleep more, go to bed 10 minutes earlier tonight than you did last [night],” writes Wiest.
Any habit you want to build takes practise, and the recognition that you aren’t going to accomplish it immediately.
Whether it’s saving more money, or running a few kilometres, or learning about classical music, you aren’t going to experience a dramatic shift and suddenly have $10,000 stashed away, or be able to run a marathon, or know Mozart’s entire catalogue.
But if you’re dedicated and commit yourself to something over a long period, microshifts will get you where you want to go.