How to change your life in 10 minutes a day

smiley face on pavement and white sneakersIs there anything you would change about your life? Even if things are going pretty well, most of us have things we’d like to do, or change, or improve. Sometimes I look at all the ways I want to change my own life and I’m like where would I even begin?

Ok, that’s a bit dramatic. But honestly, it’s kinda overwhelming to try to figure out where to start with the very broad topic of ‘how to change your life’.

But let’s say you knew where to start to change your life, what would you do? Would you add things to your life, or subtract them? Would you be healthier? Have more fun? What relationships would you want to improve?

I bet my list looks something like yours—I want to be a better person, spouse, and parent. I want more fun and joy in my life. To read more. To promote social justice. And to know how to dress better (you know–casual but chic). I want to be stronger and healthier. I want to be more knowledgeable about things in the world. I want to be a good example to my daughters about all of the above.

So.many.things.

You get the drift. Humaning is hard.

I know I’m not the only person who wants to do better and have a better life.

There are just so many areas to work on at any given time. And about a million different resources available that promise to help. If you’ve ever read a personal development book or Googled any self-help topics, you know what I’m talking about.

Some stuff is really helpful. But sometimes the resources meant to help only add to my sense of overwhelm because the steps involved are really in-depth or the system is kinda complicated.

Is it really that hard to do just a little bit better? I’m not talking about major life shifts by Thursday. I’m talking about little baby steps of action that are sustainable and get me headed in the right direction.

Know what I mean?

One day, when I was chock full of despair and misery, I had brunch with a very bold friend. She is the kind of friend who speaks her mind and damn the consequences. This is not the friend to whine to unless you want your butt kicked.

This is how our brunch conversation went:

Her: How are you?
Me: Whine, whine, unhappy, unhappy, whine, whine.
Her (without even looking up from her salad): You know, you can change things in your life if you’re not happy.
Me (startled at this realization): O_O

Wait, what?

Look, I know this isn’t a new idea, but it hit me like a lightening bolt. Maybe because at first, I couldn’t see what I had control over in my life. So, I didn’t know I could change it.

I felt like I was going to have to be miserable and that was just my life. At least for now.

The conversation went on:

Her: What are you unhappy with?

In which I started a list: not being able to work because of family obligations, feeling a bit hopeless about my future and skills, I was grumpy and disconnected from my newly adult kid, cranky with my hair, my clothes, the level of fun in my life.

Her (as she calmly munched): Well, then change it.

And she said it as if changing those things in my life were just so…possible.

At the time, we had recently moved back to Los Angeles from an international move and I was a bit adrift. It took me some thinking and time to get at the heart of why I was so unhappy.

Ultimately, I had to look at what I had control over in my life. And I had to be truthful about what was mine to change and not what I wanted other people to do.

Honestly, this has been most of my growing up the past few years…controlling ME, not spending time and worry and anxiety concerned about all the choices and actions other people were making that I didn’t like or agree with.

Meaning, I could not change the choices my adult daughter was making about her life. Or if my husband exercised. And I couldn’t change things that had already happened (like my previous career choice or what I shoulda/woulda/coulda done differently).

So, I thought about what I *could* control. For reals.

It was pretty amazing to know that I did, indeed, have some control over my life. This was a big realization, in some ways, because I had spent a lot of time feeling like I was at the mercy of other people in my life. When I realized there were things I had the power to change, I was pretty pumped.

It turns out, I could change how I spent some of my time each day, what I knew or could learn (like how to dress better), and how I reacted to things. That helped. But also, once I stopped concentrating on things I had no control over, I could see more clearly what I was doing (or not doing) in my own life.

And it was hard to see how much of the life I wanted was actually under my control. Because I knew I could do something. Which seems great!

neon sign change

But where to begin?

As I sat kinda paralyzed with the realization that I really *could* do something to improve my own life, I got an email.

I wanted to have time to write, but my life looked so full and my thoughts were so disorganized that I didn’t know where to start. In the middle of all of this, I got a newsletter email from author and business leader, Jeff Goins. He was starting a writing challenge to write 10 minutes a day for 21 days.

Just 10 minutes.

I figured I could find 10 minutes a day to do something I kept saying I wanted to do. So, I started.

And that is exactly how I began to change my life.

Now, you’d think that 10 minutes would a) be easy, and b) not amount to much, but you’d be wrong on both counts.

Honestly, it was harder than I thought. Because shifting to something new in our lives means we have to change our daily momentum a little bit. In fact, this is the single most common reason people don’t change anything in their lives. Some days, carving out the 10 minutes was really difficult. There were a number of times I thumbed my writing into my phone late at night for 10 minutes, so weary I only had one eye open. I had committed to writing 10 minutes a day and I was going to get it done, by golly! I wasn’t gonna quit and have to tell people I couldn’t figure out how to work 10 minutes into my day. That excuse seemed excessively lame.

So, I made it happen. Not because I had extra time or was in any way a particularly great person. But because I was too proud to lose this one.

Maybe not the most noble motivation. But it kept me going.

Every day.
For 10 minutes.
Only 10 minutes, but 10 minutes.

And at the end of that 21-day challenge, those 10 minutes amounted to PAGES of writing. I mean, they weren’t all GOOD pages, mind you. But none of those pages would have existed if I hadn’t written for just 10 minutes.

I proved to myself that I could keep this commitment. That I was capable of change. I baby-stepped my way in 10 minute increments to prove to myself that I.could.change.

This was the most important thing I learned–that I could change my life (at least a part of my life) and move towards more happiness in 10 tiny minutes a day.

Guys—this changes everything. For all of us. Because if I can do it, so can you.

I’m not especially motivated (I mean, clearly) or talented or somehow less busy than you. I finally just decided to do it. And kept going so I wouldn’t be embarrassed if I quit.

And there are things in your life that you really do want bad enough to see how to carve out 10 minutes to get them done.

10 minutes a day is how you can change nearly any part of your life. I say this because it happens all the time for people. With just a little hope and the chance to overcome the barrier that keeps us from even trying, we can change things. From that tiny win and shift in my life, I started working on the next area of my life I was unhappy in, because I knew I could do a thing for 10 minutes.

Would this work on something else in my life?

I hate to exercise, but I have made various attempts over the years to try to stay healthy. (Healthy meaning getting to eat cookies and still being fairly trim—look, it’s a low bar, I get it.)

I noticed that I was starting to lose strength and endurance and I knew I was sliding towards chubby. I’m short, so a few pounds make a big difference in how I feel and how I look. (<-not to be small-minded, but my health was most evidenced by how frustrated I was with how I looked and how I had to dress around my post-partum tummy from three kids. Never mind that my youngest is 14.)

So, I decided to try 10 minutes a day with exercise. Sure, it’s not marathon training, but I just needed a way to figure out how to shift my relationship with exercise. I hated it, in part, because of how much time it took up. And the time it took to get ready. And thinking through what to do. Blah blah blah. But if I could simplify the whole process and just do it for 10 minutes, I figured that was a start.

And I was right.

I searched for (and found) various 10 minute workouts. And most I could do by just changing into my sneakers—no workout clothes needed. I wrote it on my daily planner and just did it.

For 10 minutes a day. Every day.

orange butterfly on white sneaker

And I showed myself that I could AND would keep my word to do it. I knew I wasn’t going to blow it off (because saying I’m not going to exercise for 10 minutes sounded super lame to myself), and I found that I trusted myself more for other things.

I was now a person who was DOING something to change her life, and it leaked over to other areas. When I would be like, “Oh, I wanna read that book.“ And as I reached for it on the library shelf, my dumb brain would whisper, “You won’t actually read it.” I would say, “Suck it, brain. I can read it for 10 minutes.”

And I would.

You can change your life in 10 minutes a day of consistent effort. You really can. Once you have overcome the hurdle of just STARTING, you’ll see how possible it is.

Listen, the hardest part of ANY change is starting the shift. That first 10 minutes a day commitment to writing helped me see that I *could* change my life, in tiny, intentional baby steps. As this quote states:

Stop focusing on the goal, focus on the habit. — Jeff Goins

It takes a shift, a little push to bump us out of our daily rut. Activation energy to start doing something new. Getting out of bed takes more activation energy than a 10 minute commitment to change something in your life. This is clearly (and funnily) put by Mel Robbins in a Ted Talk.

So, if you could pick one place to start to change your life, where would it be? Want to eat healthier? Take 10 minutes to find some recipes to try and make a grocery list. Or, look at your pantry and toss 10 items you know aren’t something you really want to eat.

Want to save more money? Spend 10 minutes a day for the next few days putting together a budget so you know what you spend. Or download a savings app. Or cancel a subscription you don’t use and put that $ into paying off debt. No, it won’t seem like it matters at first. You won’t see how committing 10 minutes a day to it will make any difference.

But it will.

Just.start.

You will be 10 minutes closer to changes in your life that will make you happier. Tomorrow, you’ll be 20 minutes closer. By the end of the week, you’ll have spent over an hour on something important to you.

Look at you go!

When you know you *can* change things in your life, it actually gets kinda fun. Like, you can actually DO things you want to do. You can make progress in your own life, crafting it to be more like a life you love.

So, start. What would you want to change first? Think through what is bugging you the most in your daily life. Then set a timer and get to work.

Every day.
For 10 minutes.
Only 10 minutes, but 10 minutes.

You can do it. You really can.

 

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