We’ve all heard the saying “It’s the small things that matter” but chances are that we’ve rarely thought too hard about it. After all, it’s just a cliché isn’t it? It’s the kind of saying that someone turns into a meme and posts on their Facebook wall on a grey Monday morning, and which the rest of us instantly scroll past en route to the next funny cat video. But, in life and in business, “It’s the small things that matter” isn’t a cliché – it’s actually very true. And if we joined the 5% of successful people already doing those small things, we could bring a lot more prosperity and happiness into our lives.
Don’t misunderstand me – I’ve been guilty of ignoring those small things as well. After all, “Life’s too short to sweat the small stuff” is another cliché that regularly does the rounds. But it wasn’t until I recently read Jeff Olson’s marvellous book The Slight Edge that I realised the simple disciplines I’ve been neglecting are the same things I’ve inadvertently been encouraging my clients and employees to do over the past few years. How did I come to that realisation? It started with a conversation…
Giving yourself an edge
My coach recently recommended five business books to me, claiming that after I’ve finished them I won’t need to read another business book ever again. Now I’ve read them all – including The Slight Edge – and the impact they’ve had on me has been massive. I’ve been coaching, consulting and managing people for a long time but those five books have already taught me new ways to add order and structure to the support I offer, and I’m hoping to tell you more about what I’ve learned over my next few blogs. But I’ve come across a few disturbing statistics too. For example, the title of this blog comes from Jeff Olson’s assertion that 95% of the people who read his book WON’T make the small changes needed to give themselves The Slight Edge. That seems insane, doesn’t it? That 95% of us will miss out on so much potential because we’re not prepared to adopt the tiny habits that could make such a positive difference in our lives.
Ask yourself these questions… and be honest!
How hard do you find starting – and sticking to – new habits? For example, on paper (excuse the pun) it doesn’t sound difficult to read ten pages or a chapter of a book every day, does it? I’m not talking about a fictional ‘let’s escape from reality’ book here, I’m talking about a book that might encourage you to make the changes that could potentially transform your life. Surely that isn’t a tough challenge? But the likelihood is that you’re probably not doing it. If you’re not, don’t feel bad. You’re in the majority.
Now let’s consider a few of the other incidental things we could be doing to make our lives better, things that most of us would like to accomplish but never seem to get around to doing.
• Do you put a small amount of money away every day, every week, or even just once every month? If you do – well done! If you don’t, you’re in the majority.
• Do you have a meal planner that is a) filled with lots of healthy options, and b) that you can stick to for more than a month? If you have and you can – fantastic! If you don’t, you’re in the majority.
• How often do you compliment your friends, family or employees/colleagues each day? If you say something positive to at least two of them every day, that’s brilliant. If you don’t, you’re in the majority.
I could carry on asking these questions. However, I suspect you’re answering ‘Yes’ to very few of them if any at all. But that’s okay, because that means you’re in the majority.
The bad news is, the majority’s stuck in a rut. The good news is, you don’t have to be in the majority any longer. If any of those questions seemed like a good idea to you then there is room in your life to make some incredible changes to your business, your happiness, your finances, your career and your health. All you have to do is…
Think carefully about your choices
• You could read ten pages of a book that will enrich your life or you could let an hour slip by staring at an episode of your favourite TV show. Now there’s nothing wrong with relaxing in front of the box after a hard day but taking some time out to read that book will be a lot more beneficial.
• You could dust off that health food book and make yourself a tasty nourishing meal or you could order a takeaway and add to your waistline while instantly reducing your bank balance.
• You could hop in the car and arrive at the local shop inside a couple of minutes, or you could spend ten minutes walking to the shop and feel a lot better after giving your body some exercise (plus you’ll be working off that sneaky mid-afternoon snack.)
• You could jump out of bed when the alarm goes off – even though that feels horrible – or you could hit the snooze button three times in a row and feel even more horrible when you eventually find the gumption to crawl out of bed. And chances are you’ll also be playing catch-up for the rest of the day.
Stop taking the easy option
Three months ago, thanks to my friend and mentor Neil Foley, I started fighting the urge to take the easy option. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be and the benefits I’ve gained have been immense. For example:
• Three months ago, I hadn’t read a book for years. Now I’ve read three and listened to two more on Audible. What I’ve learned from reading and listening to those books has completely refreshed my outlook on life.
• Three months ago, general admin tasks seemed like an insurmountable pile of misery and the spectre of not doing them would haunt me throughout the day. Now they just take 20-30 minutes of my morning and after they’re completed I don’t have to think about them again until tomorrow.
• Three months ago, I didn’t make a concerted effort to say something positive to someone on a daily basis. Now it’s one of my favourite habits and not only does it (hopefully) make the person I’m praising feel better about their day, it also gives a boost to my day too.
Even better, the list of my daily habits is growing while my feelings of happiness and satisfaction are growing alongside them. Which brings me to another important point:
Start making better lists
Most of us make ‘things to do today’ lists and then feel bad when we reach the end of the day and only a couple of the tasks have been scratched off. Instead, start making lists and notes about the things you HAVE accomplished during the day. You’ll probably be surprised by how much you’ve managed to do, and it’s a much more positive reinforcement than looking at a half-finished ‘to do’ list and thinking you should have done better.
I know – it all sounds too good to be true, right?
If you’re reading this and thinking it sounds like a lot of new-age claptrap, I don’t blame you. In fact, that’s exactly what I would have thought a few years ago. However, I also know that some of you reading this will wish you could be doing it too.
The good news is, you can. There’s absolutely nothing stopping you from making these changes to your life right now, but in my experience, it’s much harder to do on your own. For me, Neil Foley and the tools that make his Business Growth Club so invaluable were key. Similarly, many of my clients use me as the gyroscope that keeps them on track. It isn’t impossible to make these changes alone but, with a mentor or accountability buddy, you’ll find the journey much easier.
I don’t claim to have perfected these daily disciplines yet, but I have experienced their almost immediate benefits. That’s why I’m desperately keen to help other people improve their lives because after spending a long time concentrating heavily on my own personal development I want to share that knowledge with others, especially with those who are running their own businesses.
In future articles, I’ll be sharing more views on the strategies that friends, clients and people of influence have deployed to gain greater success and happiness. I hope you’ll find them useful. In the meantime, if you’d like to know more about making small changes to transform your life and business, or how to solve problems in the workplace, please don’t hesitate to get in touch on 01603 567794 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.