Recently, I was traveling for a seminar and struck up conversation with a cool dude on the plane. While we were sharing our goals and aspirations, he generously gave me the book he was reading, The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy.
The book was all about the principle that small daily choices have an accumulative and profound effect over time. The idea was that this concept can be applied to every aspect of your life.
This book resonated deeply with me since I realized I have been living my life in this way from an early age. Every morning when I wake up, I think to myself, “What do I need to achieve today?” and every evening at bed time, I ask myself, “What did I achieve today?”
But my focus for some time now has been on my career, and this book made me consider the application of this idea to all aspects of my life. I began to focus on smaller, but equally important goals such as spending quality time with friends or time outside connecting with nature. These smaller, everyday goals are necessary to create a fulfilling and balanced life. Once I began a daily practice of remembering these habits, I found over time that all aspects of my life were moving forward in a positive way.
To have the life we all envision, all aspects of our lives — health, career, relationships, and state of mind — need to be brought to light and consciously acted upon in a positive way. So how do we do this without feeling like we have an overwhelming list of things to do each day?
Be Proactive With Your Time
Time goes on. This is inevitable, but what you do with your time is what makes the difference between reaching your goals or not, whether your goal is losing ten pounds or saving for a house. Whatever your goals may be, it is the small actions repeated daily that will make the difference in your success – and in your experience of life on your way to that goal.
All the small decisions you made in the past are how you got to where you are in life now. Or perhaps all the small decisions you could have made but didn’t are how you got to where you are in life now. For example:
- If your goal is to lose twenty pounds, would you be more likely to reach your goal if you diligently chose to eat fish and salad for dinner every night or if you just ate whatever was available? Making the choice each night to prepare a healthy dinner accumulates so by the end of the week you are more likely to have lost two or three pounds, which then brings you incrementally closer to your bigger goal of losing twenty pounds.
- Or let’s say your goal is to save up for a down payment on a house. Making the conscious choice to put away $100 every week into a savings account accumulates so that over the space of one year you would have $5200 toward the house. Conversely, that money could just as easily be spent on a couple of dinners out a week or those extra pair of shoes you didn’t actually need.
Also be mindful that going through the motions is not enough to bring you toward your goals. Just because you are going to the gym will not automatically give you the body you always dreamed of. You actually have to work hard and push yourself, build a sweat, and do the movements until you are fatigued. Each treadmill run and each set of squats should be a challenge.
Take a moment to look at where you are in life. Are you where you want to be or moving toward it? Or are you far from where you want to be? Do the myriad daily choices you make take you closer toward your goals or further from them?
Are They “Lucky” or Did They Work Hard?
We look at people who have “made it” – the people who are millionaires or multiple-time world champions or totally at peace or have the perfect body or are in the perfect relationship or whatever it may be – and it is easy to think this happened overnight or that they are genetic freaks or they just “got lucky.”
But more than likely, these people spent years working hard to achieve these levels of awesomeness. Each day these hard-working, driven people get up an hour earlier to go to the gym, or allocate quality time with their children or spouse, or make the time for some mindful meditation. That is why they have succeeded. For example, most people probably don’t know that Arianna Huffington, the founder of the hugely successful Huffington Post was rejected 36 times by various publishing companies before her book was published. She had a vision and pursued it with unwavering faith.
Step-by-Step Strategies to Create Positive Daily Choices
A lot of us start each new year with goals in mind, and we diligently work toward them – for the first week or so, until life gets in the way. Here are some strategies that can help keep you focused:
- Work backward and lay out your long-term goals. Where do you want to be in five years? Where do you want to be in one year?
- Break down your one-year goal plan into months. By breaking down your goals, it becomes easier to see the smaller actions that need to be taken to achieve the bigger goals. This makes things not so overwhelming and therefore more achievable.
- Break down your goals week by week. For example, if your goal is to lose twenty pounds, then your week by week strategy may be to lose one or two pounds a week.
- Break down your goals to day-by-day. This is actually where it all happens and where this concept comes into play through you actively making choices and decisions on a daily basis. If your goal is to lose twenty pounds, then are you going to opt for mac and cheese for dinner or fish and salad? If you choose the fish and salad every day, then you most likely will achieve your weekly goal of losing one or pounds, right?
- Grab a diary or journal. Write everything down so you have something you can refer back to and information to track.
- Put reminder and motivational notes around your house or workplace where you can see them all the time.
One of my students has a note on her computer to remind her to stick to her clean eating.
Let’s use weight loss as our example for this strategy:
- Your goal for the next four months is to lose twenty pounds and to feel great.
- Breaking your goal down into months means you aim to lose five pounds every month.
- Breaking your goal down into weeks means you aim to lose approximately one pound every week. You also aim to visit the gym three times per week, meditate once a week, have a massage once a week, walk with friends once a week, and limit yourself to only one dinner out a week.
- Breaking your goals down day by day means each day you make the decision to go to the gym, to go for a walk, or to skip the ice cream and opt for frozen banana slices instead.
- Writing these activities and actions down in your diary first and then checking them off at the end of the day is a great way of keeping you focused.
I personally have a vision board and my five-year goal written out. I have also my one-year goals broken down month by month on my bathroom door and I have motivational reminders everywhere. I do this for my goals in my sport, career, relationships with my partner and children, and my state of mind – being peaceful, joyous, and happy.
Small Daily Choices Can Build Your Biggest Dreams
The idea that your small, daily choices matter – and can add up to so much – is so simple, yet such an amazing formula to attain the life you want. If it’s all about making small choices, then every one of us has the power to enact profound change and accomplish incredible things.
I believe all your dreams can come true if you actively make it happen through conscious choices that bring you closer to your goal at every moment. I made the choice every day to prepare to compete in the No Gi World Championships when one of my babies was two years old and the other was just ten months and still breastfeeding. Most people told me I was crazy because my work and motherhood obligations were so huge, and I did not have any family to help me.
Me, on the left, achieving my dream through daily choices.
But I believed it was achievable by prioritizing, being focused, and being organized. I arranged babysitters to mind my children for the two hours I set aside every day for training. No matter how tired I was, those two hours on the mat were dedicated to getting fitter, sharper, stronger, and more technical. Every day I monitored my diet to make sure I would reach my goal weight for my fight category. After six months of focused training, I was back into competition shape and participating in the championships among the best in the world.