As previously seen on Wit & Delight
Editor’s Note: While broad, lofty goals have their place, it’s no surprise that some of the most meaningful shifts we make in our lives are born from tiny changes, repeated again and again over time. In today’s post, contributor Megan McCarty is sharing ten examples of micro-habits that have the power to transform your life.
With every new job, relationship, habit—you name it—I consider learning in baby steps. You didn’t pop out of your mother’s womb knowing how to walk, much less run, did you? First, you lay there, for months, before rolling over, then crawling, then pulling yourself up, before you wobbled a couple of steps and everyone around you cheered. You got goose eggs on your head and bruises on your knees, falling down and tripping for years to come, but eventually, you got the hang of walking and now you probably take for granted how much easier it makes your life.
The same slow and steady learning process can be applied to these life-changing micro-habits too. The trick to getting a habit to stick is starting now, starting small, and mostly just starting in general.
When I have the option to wait a few seconds to hold the door open for someone, I do. If I’m able to spend five extra minutes in savasana, I take it. If my friend’s been struggling with a difficult pregnancy, I check in. Why? Because it’s the nice thing to do.
Doing the nice thing is not about recognition; it’s a many-times-daily reminder to do the kind thing for both others and yourself, especially when no one is looking. You’ll condition your brain to think considerately, however small the deed. Remember though: If the “nice thing” takes advantage of you, your time, or your generosity, then it isn’t nice to begin with. Know your boundaries.
Credit to The Happiness Project author and all-around very smart woman, Gretchen Rubin, for this life rule. It’s easy: If a task takes less than a minute to complete, encourage yourself to do it on the spot. Recycle the junk mail, hang up your coat, respond to that text, close the silverware drawer, screw the lid on the peanut butter.
It’s easy: If a task takes less than a minute to complete, encourage yourself to do it on the spot. Recycle the junk mail, hang up your coat, respond to that text, close the silverware drawer, screw the lid on the peanut butter.
Most of these mundane chores take mere seconds, but when compounded onto each other, they can quickly feel overwhelming. “I’ll do it tomorrow” turns into another “I’ll do it tomorrow” and then “What’s one more day?” Don’t even think about it. Do it now.
Include one more vegetable on your dinner plate. Drink one more glass of water each day. Learn one more phrase in Arabic. Once those one mores become a part of your routine, consider adding—you know where this is going—one more.
Knowledge is power, even if that knowledge reminds you how awful your credit card debt is. Becoming financially secure and confident begins with consistently having an accurate idea of how much money is in your accounts. Make it a habit to check in on your accounts often, whatever that means for you. Once you have a better idea of how much money you have, as well as how much you’re spending, you’ll make more informed decisions every time you’re tempted to spend frivolously.
Keep in mind—and this comes from someone with severe money anxiety!—there’s a fine line between having a grip on your accounts and becoming obsessed with every penny. I’m the biggest cheerleader for financial literacy, but when the markets crashed this spring I deleted the shortcut to my financial advisor’s site from my browser and chose blissful ignorance over stress from something I couldn’t do anything about. Understand what you can and cannot control and focus your attention on what you can, such as squirreling away for an emergency fund or not buying that impractical jumpsuit.
Do you really think you’ll remember that funny thing your toddler said this morning by dinnertime, much less a couple of decades from now? And why are we trusting our brains, which have been through enough lately, to remember exactly what we need at the grocery store to make that Alison Roman recipe?
Whenever that little flag in your head—the “I gotta remember that” one—starts waving, immediately write it down. That could mean quotes, present ideas for the hard-to-buy-for ones in your life, restaurants you want to visit on your next date night, or anything else you’re likely to forget. Make lists, lists, and more lists, either with good old-fashioned pen and paper or in the Notes app on your phone.
Routinely carving out time to organize your online calendar helps you see important happenings, like upcoming bills, birthdays, and events, weeks and months in advance, signaling you to prepare.
In my Google calendar—bless that piece of Internet gold—green events indicate when scheduled payments are coming out of my banking accounts. Four times a year, additional green events remind me to pay my quarterly taxes—two weeks before they’re due, so I have wiggle room to get my money in order. My yoga instructor’s birthday is noted every December 10 through 2023. There’s a work project I’m supposed to check in about in early summer, but I’d never remember that on my own; anything work-related is color-coded coral. I plug oil changes in my calendar weeks before I need them, to get them on my radar in case my schedule fills up and I need to push it back.
My bedside table would become overrun with a collection of water glasses, tea mugs, and kombucha bottles if I didn’t take one with me each time I took a trip to the kitchen. When you find yourself with a free hand, ask yourself, “What can I bring with me?” Apply this to a certain room, your office, or your car—any area of your life that can quickly become overwhelmed with clutter.
Sounds boring, doesn’t it? It won’t be boring when you can retire early and lounge on Spanish beaches all day because you’ve made decades’ worth of decisions to get you there. On the other hand, a lifetime of living in the moment can be self-destructive and set you back long-term with all varieties of health: physical, mental, relationship, and financial.
Take a micro-moment to consider. What could be the consequences of having unprotected sex with him? I have to drive home—should I have one more drink? Do I buy these shoes or contribute to my IRA?
The good news is, sometimes the wild decision is what’s best for your future self. Sometimes the 2:00 a.m. frozen pizza is the future-thinking choice, if it’ll help you from being hungover tomorrow. Learn your perfect, and likely ever-changing, balance between what you need now and what you’re going to need in the future.
I was rejected no fewer than four times today. It didn’t feel good, per se, but I recovered faster than the last four rejections. What’s to lose? Remember, the worst they can say, whoever they is, is no.
If there’s one lesson I’m repeatedly learning, it’s that we have to ask for what we want in life. Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’t. But you have to ask.
If there’s one lesson I’m repeatedly learning, it’s that we have to ask for what we want in life. Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’t. But you have to ask. Whatever it is you want, career or relationship-wise, subject yourself to exposure therapy for rejection, microdoses of being told “no” over and over. It’ll make the occasional “yes” all the more satisfying.
We’ve all been there, at the coffee shop or bank, behind the seemingly slowest person in the world. In those moments, when there’s nowhere to go, nothing to do, and no need to get riled up, I say to myself, “What a perfect time to practice your patience.”
Apply the phrase to frustrating moments too, such as when your potty-training toddler has an accident or you’re tempted to write a snarky work email. Take a few breaths. Notice your surroundings. Have some perspective. And, yes, practice your patience.
Megan is a writer, editor, etc.-er who muses about life, design and travel for Domino, Lonny, Hunker and more. Her life rules include, but are not limited to: zipper when merging, tip in cash and contribute to your IRA. Be a pal and subscribe to her newsletter Night Vision or follow her on Instagram.
BY Megan McCarty - January 5, 2023
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Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.
Enjoyed the insight and easy to understand concepts. Very well written, it’s like we were having a personal conversation!
Another list of brilliant things men can’t suggest their wives do without immediately starting a hiding puffing hyperventilating denial machine to go on overdrive and insist their thoughtless disorganization is perfection.
Dear Phil, This list is for you. Only “suggest” it to your wife after you have accomplished all 10. Or at least 7. 😆
Nobody wants a spouse to act like a parent or a drill sergeant. Try “suggesting” no more than once a quarter. And perhaps take up the suggestion of the previous commenter so you can lead by example.
I like Phil
Simple but powerful. Excellent reminders. I will write these down (condensed of course).
Lord Trash your name is perfect for you. This is why you are a dumb loser. Even if you wanted to you couldn’t think of these things on your own. Let alone live by them. I bet you are a slob and an alcohol drinking party slut. I will not respond after this since I am better than you. I don’t need to. I know I am. Since your whole life is about starting shit. Your so cool and smart.
READ your Bible each Day when you wake up even if it is a Psalm for that DATE and a Proverb. Also before you go to sleep READ IT AGAIN and thank God and PRAISE GOD for the Day. Say I LOVE YOU. and MEAN IT to those in your life. Spread LOVE. Share!! Say good, kind words to edify and build up all people. Eat HEALTHY. Exercise.
Love this! Thank you!
God’s blessings to you in 2022!
Yes, this is truly a blessing article
Realky likecthis. Readingvthe Bible, Loving God an Loving and caring for others is so thoughtful and being kind, exercising and forgiving at all times and praying for one another is Awesome. Thankyou soo much for your uplifting advice and all the goid thoughtful kind words and wisdom. God bless you and everyone. Shalom. Mary
That sounds so creepy, no thank you. Santa is the only cult I follow and he isn’t a crazed murderer that demands me to fear him
But fyi there is no god. How would an all powerful being allow so many “fake” religions. Why would he purposely make it difficult and cause casualties when other religions kill each other? Atheists have never killed others over their sect beliefs. It’s only religion
Heard of the crusades?
Did you not read the article? Number 1 was kindness.
Also, anyone who actually knows history knows “holy wars” are just like every other war. They are not really about religion, they are about wealth and territory. Every war is about wealth and territory because humans are selfish and greedy by nature, whether they have religion or not.
Omg, I am doing one simple thing like the article said. I fucking love it!!!
Wow, do you have a surprise coming! Should I pray for your soul or just have pity? Think about it…
How about you worry about yourself and stop judging others like your religion teaches, but nobody actually follows. You may find your life a lot more peaceful when you stay out of other people’s business. Think about it…
Ding ding ding trash alert!!
I love this!
Wait, people actually have trouble with any of this? I get teaching yourself a foreign language on the fly – seriously, who’s got time for that – but putting a glass into the dishwasher, throwing away trash… being a grown-up when you don’t get your way??
I don’t understand it either. I believe everything I needed to know , I learned in kindergarten. “All responsible adults should be doing these things”. I find it just makes life flow better . Although I seem to always end up being around narcissistic individuals who want me to think there’s something wrong with me! I know better. Just pick up after yourself! Thankyou
I’d love to say I agree, how ever some people dont have this concept, that other consider general common sense, but what I’ve found with that opinion is, there are a lot of people that simply dont know havent been told or taught some of these things
Like being a “grown up”
In this article, in my personal opinion only, i believe these are just some very basic things that would be helpful to those who obliviously arent you, or at the mildfullness level sometimes we just need to remember that. Maybe being so mindful that, we forget others arent…
Also, I loved this article…thanks!
This is why you only have a kindergarten level of education. You were too dumb.
Some people are neurodivergent. Their brains are literally wired differently and they physically don’t see the clutter sometimes. ADHD and the like aren’t character flaws.
Thank you Claire.
Thank you for mentioning this! Even neurotypical people are living in relentless, distracted, disorienting world, sometimes it’s nice to be reminded.
Seems you have trouble with #1.
I love number 8! To prioritize your future self makes your actions today intentional. <3
Thank you, these are excellent reminders, and so very achievable.
It is such an awakening 📚 simple but powerful for me. I hope my kids receive it with a better understanding that I have because it is a game changer for sure 💐
Same here Bridget
Some of these I needed to see and will be bringing the advice with me into my future. Others though brought crippling anxiety at the mere thought. Both well needed!
This is awesome , a stand-up course to life, body and soul. Thanks
Engaging and thoughtful. Sure gonna take away all of 10. Slowly and steadily. 🐣
This is a great reminder of things that can so easily be done, and yet , we all slip up. I would add one more: meditation first thing in the morning helps calm the mind.
This was sooo good.. thank you for coming up with this article.. I have been trying to improve myself for the better every day and this really helped and I will carry this around with me for a long time so thank you so much for this💙💚
Good inspiring read.
What a nice and soft reminder to create a big positive change.
All the points mentioned here are thought provoking and an eye opener 👏👏Thanks Megan
Hello! I thought this was a do-able list with a fresh perspective from so many of those “Top 10 Lists”. Thank you!
Well Thanks Megan.. Yours thoughts really brightened up my day.. Indeed was a healing pill.. 😜😁..God bless you..
Very nicely stated and uplifting too. Perhaps I’ll be able to incorporate some of it into my own routine.
Thank you so much Megan! Emotional neglect as a child told me I was not worthy to ask for something. 65 now, I still struggle to know what I need, much less ask for it. You just gave me permission and mission. BLESS YOU!
Just love these 10 micro-habits as I’m practicing most of them. Thank you Megan
Most stupid article I have ever read
Did y’all start reading at#2?
Great article! You forgot the tried and true adage “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything”. Apparently that didn’t get taught to some folks here…
Nice article. Whatever reason someone may have for needing these gentle reminders is ok! Life (chronic illness, kids, depression, ptsd, ADHD, never learning them in the first place ETC.) happens. And it happens differently to us all. Thanks Megan.
I read this article a few days and have some thoguhts to share. If these 10 tips are already habits for you, congratulations, you can pat yourself on the back and move on, safe in the knowledge you’re a well-rounded human being. But logic and compassion would suggest that some amongst us would benefit by adopting or even just refreshing at least a few of these behaviours, perhaps because we weren’t taught them as children, we’re new to the concept of self-awareness, or we’re neurodivergent. And might I suggest to those who think this article is too basic and too… Read more »
The ads on this are horrendous i could barely read the article becaue i didn’t want to see that.
Kali….I read a lot of articles online 🙂 I use AdBlocker + and it has been a lifesaver. It’s an easy extension on Chrome.
Wow that 1-minute task thing really caught my attention. My house is always cluttered with things that would take 30 seconds to put away.
This may be life changing, thank you!
Get rejected more, was new and eye opening for me. I hate rejection, that I don’t even ask anticipating rejection. And then I take it personally. I’ll look at rejections in a new productive way now!
Like you are good enough for her. Trash
LOVE the life rules in the bio Megan and of course the tips- like prioritizing the future self- make it feel less like a “should.”
Love this! I do some of them now but wish I hadn’t waited until 59 to do some of them!
I enjoyed reading you thoughts. Thank you for sharing these helpful tips!
Learn to prioritize your future self. I love that.