Change doesn’t come unless you challenge yourself. Those challenges don’t have to be a thousand miles wide, though. In fact, it’s small, everyday challenges that can make the biggest difference over time. If you’re not sure where to start, try one (or all) of these.
1. Do something mundane.
I know it can be hard to downshift when you’re psyched about an opportunity or have a lot on your plate. But do the dishes like Bill Gates. Fold laundry. Wrap yarn into a ball. The idea is that you give the decision and critical thinking parts of your brain some time to downshift. This lets your thoughts wander, letting the areas associated with creativity be more active.
2. Check your progress.
It’s easy to let goals slide if you don’t give yourself some accountability for them. Assess what you did for the day toward what you’re aiming for. If you weren’t able to work on those goals, determine exactly what interfered and how you can that from happening again tomorrow. Recommit! Checking progress also can include acknowledging how you’ve grown, healed or changed for the better. A big area that’s great to track? Your personal budget.
3. Do something small that scares you.
Even if it’s just braving the cobwebs in your basement or finally saying hello to someone on the subway, this classic recommendation from Eleanor Roosevelt will teach you to move forward, even when the situation isn’t entirely comfortable for you. Eventually, you’ll learn that the little stuff isn’t such a big deal and improve your overall confidence.
4. Keep screens off when you don’t need them.
You don’t have to swear off tech, but the idea is that you control the devices, rather than having them control you. If you are really working toward something important, turn off your phone and other devices until you actually can respond in bulk to any notifications you might get. This way you won’t get distracted and can focus on the job ahead, rather than on yet another ping. Don’t give in to the temptation to turn them on if you have the opportunity to have a conversation in real life instead.
5. Get rid of something.
You don’t have to go all Marie Kondo on your stuff, but aim to toss, recycle or donate what doesn’t have purpose. Start with lightening your purse, deleting some files, tossing unneeded receipts or letting go of that T-shirt you never wear. The less clutter you have, the more space you have to be who you are, and the less you have to worry about and maintain.
6. Perform a good deed.
Acts of kindness don’t just help others. They remind you that you have a very real influence for good in the world, which is essential for your sense of purpose and self-esteem.
7. Contact or connect with someone.
Maybe this means calling your mom or an old friend. Or maybe it means finally sending that email or tweet to an entrepreneur you admire. Talking to someone new as you wait in line counts, too. Interaction can improve mental and physical health, provides opportunities and ensures that you don’t lose yourself too deeply in work.
8. Skip the lies.
Even if the truth is hard to swallow, it doesn’t stop having value. It is what helps people trust you, so just tell it like it is as kindly as you can. Don’t be surprised if this challenge is harder than you expect, because maintaining truth requires you to face just about every insecurity and fear you’ve got.
The more you know, the more you can apply, and the more you understand the world enough to change it. Listen to an educational podcast, watch a fun instructional Youtube video, ask your smart speaker for some cool facts or take an afternoon to head to a museum. Doing some work by hand rather than taking a shortcut is perfect, too.
9. Rephrase something to be positive.
Consciously halt your knee-jerk tendency to complain and instead find the good in something in front of you. For example, instead of saying, “I couldn’t get in touch with Joe today,” you can say, “I was able to leave Joe a clear message so we can continue tomorrow.” The more you actively look for the positive, the easier it is for your brain to find it.
10. Say “I am” or “I have” rather than “I will”.
You admittedly can’t always get to a job immediately, and there’s definite value in having a clear vision and focus for your future. But with this subtle language shift, you force yourself to try to take some immediate action and not procrastinate. It also helps you look at what you’ve already accomplished toward your goals and can feel good about. For example, say “I am calling her to find a time to meet” or “I have put her on my calendar”, rather than “I will meet her tomorrow.”
11. Do something physical.
Whether it’s just taking the stairs or doing some seriously intense kickboxing, any kind of exercise keeps you agile and fit enough to do everything else you love. It also can help relieve stress, improve energy and boost your mood.