This lesson will talk about small actions with big impact.
If you’ve read my blog or taken a course with me before, you know that I often talk about small actions and the power of small steps, so you may be tempted to skip over this lesson. I highly recommend you watch this video.
We will be taking about why taking small actions are so important for building self-discipline. We will discuss what self-discipline is and how you build it.
- Exercise: sun salutations yoga poses, easy set of push-ups, short jog or walk that is easy to do
- Meditations: 2-minute meditation
- Writing: write a paragraph or two
- Sketching: Get a sketchpad and start a sketch. Are you limited to drawing just a small sketch or can you do more? Absolutely do more if you are in the flow. Look at it as an added bonus.
The action should be so easy you think it’s kind of ridiculous. Do a small task and don’t aim for something bigger.
Why is this important? This is important so we can lower the resistance.
- Resistance in our minds. It addresses one of the main problems with self-discipline, which is the resistance in our minds. We resist because we fail to do it consistently. We see very clearly our minds have some sort of resistance to it.
- Decrease Resistance. Make the task more pleasant. Make it a more enjoyable task. Do a small action to make it manageable. Simplify the task. What is the simplest way to do yoga, meditate, or write the book? Shorten the duration.
- Increase Motivation. The best way to overcome resistance is to lower it. We can increase motivation to overcome resistance. Think of “what are the stakes?”. If we don’t do the task, what happens? You can think of the positive, joyful rewards or the negative consequences to help your motivation.
Why does this work? What is going on when we are building self-discipline? The metaphor of building a muscle is useful. When we build an actual muscle, we use some sort of resistance training. We use our body weight or gravity. We use something that will resist us and we lift us. It helps us to become stronger. This works through progressive training. You will grow through progressive loading as your muscle gets stronger and stronger.
When you build the muscle of self-discipline you start with a small load and increase it over time. If u have been having trouble with self-discipline, then your self-discipline muscle isn’t very strong. You will want to start out as small as possible and increase gradually over time. For example, with meditation, start with two minutes and increase over time. Don’t try to do 45 minutes right away. Over time you are building the self-discipline muscle. You will also want to do one muscle at a time. If you did five at a time in one day, that is like doing a massive workout. Try not to overload yourself, so start small.
What we are actually doing is building new neural pathways in our brain. Our brains have pathways for how we handle resistance, and exercise that we have built up over the years. Our phones have retrained us. We are much more addicted and distracted by our phones. That has been built up over a number of years. Before these distractions, we used to have other things we would go to instead of checking our phones compulsively.
We have built these neural pathways through repetition, so we need to undo them the same way. Instead of taking the familiar path home, you try some uncharted territory. Over time. it becomes more familiar and will become your new pathway.
How do you build new pathways?
- Slowly. In the beginning, you must consciously choose the new pathway. If you push yourself too hard and then you fail, it is going to result in you not doing the new pathway. In the moment when you are feeling tired and not motivated, you choose the old way.
- Build a shortcut. Make the action so easy that you cannot say no. After you do it over and over, you have created a new pathway and it becomes the default. Go on the short pathway a little bit longer. The two-minute meditation is the shortcut and adding a minute or two over time then becomes easier.
- Repetition. Do it over and over. Do it until it becomes familiar and is the new default. Do this in a lot of different areas. We need to continue to build these neural pathways. We need to be consistent about it. After a while it gets easier.
Small tasks, big impact. Just by doing a small task, you are having a big impact on your life. You are choosing to do something that will make a difference in your life.
- Choose is a tasks that will make a difference in your life. This could be exercise, taxes, meditation, writing. Do something that will improve our relationships, get that dream job, improve our health, or benefit other people’s lives. These are areas of big impact. Make it so easy and so small.
- Do one step at a time over and over. This will have a big impact while you build the self-discipline muscle, lower your resistance, and build new neural pathways.
What small action are you going to take? Share in the Slack channel.