Personal Development

Choose Small Habits Over Big Dreams

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Big, life-changing dreams die in the battlefield of inaction.

Annual resolutions fall apart before January’s over.

Life goals disappear quicker than it took to write them down.

Anything you do annually will never work out.

Dreams, for example, are all the rage this time of year. Everyone speaks about dreams and demands that you follow yours. Yet, as soon as you’ve turned off the TV or stopped reading the book, your dreams disappear into thin air.

It’s good to have big dreams in life but dreams unrealized are simply figments of your imagination.

Dreams you don’t take action on are fictional accounts of real stories you tell yourself.

Dreams you don’t take action on today are the regrets that you will have tomorrow.

For many years, I had a dream of becoming a writer. I did everything for this dream, including imagining it, thinking about how good it would be, visualizing it, reading about it, watching movies about writers and reading about how to become one.

The only thing I didn’t do was write !?!

Then I had this simple insight. What if I started writing? And wrote every single day? What if I kept a word count target like 500 words? Even if I couldn’t write 500 words, I would sit and write as much as I could to keep the momentum going.

All it took was something to minor to move my writing dream forward. If I had five minutes, I would do my writing for the day. If I was on my phone and waiting for an appointment, I would write on my phone. If I had a piece of scratch paper and time, I’d get to writing.

The momentum became a daily writing habit which helped me move closer to my dream. What started off as simple daily actions tsunami’d into a daily writing habit. I’ve now written more than half a million words and created 10 self-published books on Amazon. I continue to write daily blog posts, guest posts and written posts for my social media accounts.

My dream of becoming a full-time writer is becoming closer every day. All that awaits is better writing and more popular books. Oh, and commercial success and a Pulitzer, of course.

None of this would have happened if I hadn’t started this tiny daily habit of hitting a word count every day. Here’s what I’ve learned about dreams and habits.

Dreams are wonderful and happy destinations that make you feel good before you fall asleep every night.

Habits, on the other hand, are the vehicle you drive to arrive at your dreams.

Create effective habits

To create effective habits:

1) Work backwards from your dreams to the smallest step you can possibly take every day.

2) The smallest step is the step you can take without much thinking, planning or doing. It must be easy, not take much effort or not have many barriers to completion.

3) Remove as many barriers as possible to getting started. Keep your running shoes right by the door. Have your writing program open on your computer. Set your meditation cushion out in a place you can see it. Have your gym bag already in your car.

4) Do something every day to further that habit. It can’t be big or require much effort. It must be something very small and do-able.

5) Forget about quantity and excellence. Simply do this one action every day, if even for only 1 minute. Focus on consistency over quality.

6) Use a calendar or another checklist as a visual success board – something you can check off to show you’ve completed the habit. Put this up in a place you can visually see every day and ideally, throughout the day.

7) If you miss a day, pick it up the very next day.

8) If you miss two days, get right back at it. Don’t berate yourself for not completing your habit. Just continue like you had been for the past few weeks or months.

9) As you build up consistency, build up the time during which you work on that habit. Start at a 1 minute, then move to five, or ten.

10) Pick only one habit to start. As you get more consistent with it, add other small habits into your life. I

11) Remove distractions and obstacles that prevent you from starting or completing these habits every day.

12) If you are scared of consistency or commitment to this daily action, don’t refer to it as a habit. Simply refer to it as your daily action or another friendly word you can digest.

Big dreams start with small habits.

The path to achieving everything your heart desires is by small, consistent action you can take every single day.

Start small, keep going and before you know it, you will have mastered your habits and progressed towards the life of your dreams.

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About the author


Vishnu Subramaniam is the writer behind the popular self-help blog where he writes about starting over in life. For Vishnu's latest book, Does True Love Exist: 15 Simple Ideas for Finding Your Life Partner, click here.