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Small lifestyle changes can have dramatic impacts on our lives, even if we don’t notice at first. The effects usually last too. You may have heard many of these before, but they’re a lot more powerful and important than we think. They are backed by a growing body of research.
Here are 15 small ways to make dramatic changes in your life to drastically improve your life and live a happier, richer, and more fulfilling life. These 15 small lifestyle changes will dramatically improve your life.
1. Start taking care of your health
When I was younger, I used to laugh when my grandmother would tell me I should exercise. “I don’t need to!” I would say. My grandmother is in her 70s and jogs every morning. She’s extremely healthy and fit especially at her age because she took care of her health early on and continues to do so. She’s never had any health issues that I know of and has never been hospitalized. Sadly, my grandfather (her late husband) is not able to accompany her now because he smoked heavily and regularly. He didn’t take care of his health like my grandma did and passed away over a decade ago. In the United States, the leading causes of early death are linked to poor lifestyle.
The consequences of not taking care of our health show up more often in the long-term rather than in the short-term. That’s why these things are difficult to do in the short-term. No one intends to die early, yet so many people aren’t willing to live a healthy lifestyle.
We often neglect the needs of our future selves because we see our future selves as complete strangers. This is a cognitive bias called present bias. Because of this, we prioritize the short-term over the long-term. We won’t work on something unless and until it becomes a problem. This is why the phrase, “If ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” is useless and even problematic advice. Many of us only start worrying about our health when we have health problems. Preventing is a lot easier than recovering and curing which may sometimes not even be possible.
Start focusing on living a healthy lifestyle before it’s too late.
2. Focus on your relationships
Focusing on your relationships is a surefire way to be less likely to have regrets on your deathbed. It should also be a way you measure your life with—the quality of your relationships. But we choose to focus on the things that provide achievement gratification sooner. The TED Talk How Will You Measure Your Life delivered by Harvard Professor Clay Christensen demonstrates this point perfectly. At one part he says this:
“I graduated from the MBA program at Harvard in 1979. We have a reunion every five years. When we came back for our 5th reunion, man, everybody was happy! Most of our classmates had married people who were much better looking than my classmates. They were doing well in their career. But as we hit the 10th, and 15th, and 20th and then the 25th anniversaries, oh my gosh, my friends were coming back not happy with their lives. And very many of them had gotten divorced. And their spouses had remarried, and they were raising my classmates’ children on the other side of the country, alienated from them.
“And, I guarantee, that none of my classmates ever planned when they graduated from the business school to go out and get divorced, and have children who hate their guts and are being raised by other [people]. And yet a very large proportion of my classmates actually implemented a strategy that they never planned to do.
“And it turns out that the reason why they do that is the very same mechanism. And that is the pursuit of achievement. So we all—everybody here is driven to achieve. And when you have an extra ounce of energy or an extra 30 minutes of time, instinctively and unconsciously you’ll allocate it to whatever activities in your life give you the most immediate evidence of achievement. And our careers provide that most immediate evidence of achievement. We close a sale. We ship a product. We finish a presentation. We close a deal. We get promoted. We get paid. And our careers provide the most very tangible, immediate achievement.
“In contrast, investments in our families don’t pay off for a very long time. In fact, on a day-to-day basis, our children misbehave over and over again. And, it really isn’t until 20 years down the road that you can look at your children and be able to put your hands on your hips and say, “We raised great children!” But on a day-to-day basis, achievement isn’t at hand when we invest in relationships with our families, with our children, and our spouses. And, as a consequence, people like you and I, who plan to have a happy life, because our families truly are the deepest source of happiness in our lives, find that though although that’s what we want, the way we invest our time, our energy, and talents causes us to implement a strategy we wouldn’t at all plan to pursue.”
“The reason why successful companies fail is that they invest in things that provide the most immediate and tangible evidence of achievement. And the reason why they have such a short time horizon is that they are run by people like you and I [people focused on achievement].”
In a fascinating and insightful study, the Grant Study conducted at Harvard, one of the most comprehensive longitudinal studies of all time, 268 Harvard undergraduates were followed for 75 years. Among other interesting findings, the ultimate conclusion of the study was that love was the determining factor for long-term happiness and life satisfaction. Happiness is love. One participant in the study began the study with the lowest rating for future stability and had previously attempted suicide. Surprisingly, at the end of his life, he ended up one of the happiest for one reason. He spent his entire life searching for love.
Love is the secret to a happy and fulfilling life. Relationships is ultimately the only thing that matters in life. Someone could have amazing achievements, a successful career, a lot of money, and great physical health, but without loving relationships, they’re not happy.
Tremendous amounts of research have also linked social connections and relationships with living a longer life, lower stress levels, and improved overall well-being.
Even in terms of career satisfaction, the feeling of being connected to one’s work was a lot more important than how much money was being made or achievement success.
3. Avoid temptations and distractions
Nobody is going to regret not having spent more time on Facebook or not posting a photo on Instagram. The only time I regretted not having posted a photo on Instagram was when it related to my relationships. Even when it comes to relationships, it’s the weakest form of communication. No longer do we need to be face to face to interact with each other. No longer do we need to speak to interact. No longer do we even need to type or write to interact. It can happen at the touch of a button with just a thumb—a thoughtless and empty heart or like or emoji reaction. It’s evident when that guy we have a crush on likes our Instagram pictures yet can’t seem to text us back. 🤔 This does not provide meaningful and deep connections and interactions with people.
A lot of social media is a recycling of the people you follow, A lot of social media is usually from the same old sources from people we follow, friend, and like. This includes other forms of media consumption as well such as watching tv. These things are essentially meaningless and add very little real value to your life. You’re continuously filling your mind with the same old stuff. If not, then it’s shiny object syndrome with the next best picture. Very rarely do we gain any new insight, idea, thought, knowledge, information. Very rarely does it challenge, educate, or grow us.
Not to mention, new studies are revealing the detrimental effects of social media. Researchers have been and are still studying the effects of social media since it has grown in popularity especially among younger generations. Younger minds are very malleable and responsive. The effects may be a lot worse than what we already know.
Spend less time on social media. Unless it’s for business, mindlessly scrolling through is really just a meaningless way to kill time.
4. Be more organized
Your work and living space can have a tremendous effect on your mood and productivity. Disorganization causes avoidable stress and frustration. It’s also very distracting. Being organized allows you to have more time and money. We lose money when we have to replace items that we’ve lost, and we lose time when we have to spend time looking for things in clutter. Also, letting clutter build up and then cleaning it is a lot more time consuming than keeping up with an organized lifestyle. This also saves energy both physically and mentally since we’re not feeling rushed all the time and we have a habit of being organized. Once it’s an ingrained habit, it’s automatic. We don’t have to put much thought into it. We don’t have to use as much self-control and discipline as well as decision making which has been proven to be an exhaustible resource.
Clutter can also weaken our confidence. We may tie it to our identity. “I’m a messy and disorganized person.” whenever we walk into our house or that one room. Being organized helps you feel great about yourself especially when you connect it to your identity because you become an organized, clean, and efficient person. I talk about this as a method to help make change easier in this article: 35 Proven Ways to Make Change Easier. Feeling like we have yet another task on our to-do list (cleaning up) while we see the clutter and even go to bed and wake up with it around us can also make us feel unproductive and unsuccessful.
Disorganization can even be isolating if you find it embarrassing enough to not invite friends and family over. Living an organized lifestyle makes you live a better social life by feeling free and guiltless to invite and welcome others into your home.
Living an organized also makes you less likely to lose things because you know where everything is or everything is easier to find. Those times when you’re trying to find something can be incredibly stressful especially when it’s important, or there’s a time constraint.
5. Inspire yourself more
Inspiration can often be overlooked. People will place far more importance on action and ability and tend to disregard it. However, inspiration has tremendous power and great benefits. Inspiration has the ability to lift our spirits when there was no hope before. It can be transformative. It’s a small but first step in the right direction. It brings us clarity and awareness to new possibilities. Inspiration is not necessarily something obscure that just happens or comes to you.
Researchers have recently found that it can actually be achieved and emulated. Studies conducted on inspiration have found that inspired people are more open to new experiences and are more immersed in their tasks. It was also found that inspired people have a stronger drive to master their work and are intrinsically motivated less extrinsically motivated which strongly impact work performance.
Traits of inspired people also included higher levels of belief in their own abilities, self-esteem, optimism, creativity, purpose in life, and gratitude.
People who are more inspired make more progress on their goals and are more likely to reach them than those who aren’t inspired. Goal progress furthermore increased inspiration. Inspiration has also been found to be long-lasting. Studies show that inspiration is more strongly related to future than present life satisfaction.
We can be more inspired with:
- openness to experience
- having an open mind
- having an approach-orientated attitude rather than an avoidance orientation
- inspirational books
- inspirational blogs 😉
- podcasts during commute
- inspirational videos
- inspirational audiobooks (Get 2 free audiobooks with my link!)
- exposure to inspiring role models, managers, and heroes
True inspiration involves being inspired and acting on that inspiration.
6. Start spending more time learning
Nowadays it’s all about the grind or the hustle. People are so focused on work, work, work. Working for the future. Working for money. But what if there’s a better way to secure your future? You can work all you want but once you’re laid off then what? Or your job is no longer going to exist in the future – it’s going to be replaced by machines and robots. Now what?
Many people stop consciously learning after they leave high school or college. Even people who claim they value learning won’t actually spend any time learning or picking up a nonfiction book. And even if they do, it’s very little time at best.
The most successful people in the world aren’t successful just because they worked really hard or because they have superpower intelligence. Intelligence is subjective. Some people may think that intelligence is something that you either have or you don’t. The fact is intelligence has very little do with how successful someone is. It’s about what they know.
Think about this. If you had all the knowledge and skills of the top 10 most successful people in the world, would you be able to replicate their success, even remotely? But you had nothing else; you didn’t have their “brain power” or their resources, the money, or the connections and people they have. Just everything you have now… You would most likely have the ability to become very successful. The great thing about knowledge is that nobody can take it away from you.
I’ve always been a big believer and advocate for learning, but once I started learning about the habits of successful people, I learned just how powerful education is. Many highly successful people attribute their success to learning. And many continually spend a huge chunk of their time learning.
Learning gives you the ability to adapt to change easier and quicker. Learning helps you make better decisions and avoid mistakes by learning from others. Studies show that we learn better from others mistakes than from our own. When we learn, we become more efficient, and that helps us become more productive.
People who are constant learners see the world more accurately because they are not subject to biases and assumptions. They have more breakthrough ideas. They’re also able to build deeper connections with people, even those different, because of their ability to understand multiple perspectives.
One crazy fact is that knowledge has a half-life. It expires. The book The Half-Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date states that if a doctor graduated more than 45 years ago, half of that doctor’s information is wrong. Constant learning allows you to be up to date with relevant facts and knowledge. Knowledge is not just required to get ahead; it’s required to stay relevant.
Learning is a habit, a skill, and lifestyle. Consistent learning is the way to unlock incredible growth in your career, business, and life. It’s the ultimate and best investment in yourself you can make. Spend more time learning to succeed and live a richer and more fulfilling, life.
Skillshare is a great learning resource for those who prefer video format for learning and are visual learners. (Get your first 2 months free with my link!) This book list of the top book recommendations by successful CEOs is worth checking out: The Top 25 Most Recommended Books by Successful People
7. Practice kindness
Few people ever consciously think about practicing kindness in their day to day lives. It’s usually affected by mood, convenience or as a reaction. It’s “when I feel like it.” Even though we don’t notice it. We don’t go out practicing random kindness.
Not only do acts of kindness to others have been scientifically proven to make us happier, but we’re also likely to be rewarded back for it. Kindness is contagious. In social psychology, the law of reciprocity is a social norm which states that when someone acts kindly toward us, we feel an urge to respond with reciprocation by rewarding that person back with an act of kindness.
Even when we witness an act of kindness that’s not directed at us, it also inspires us to be kinder. Moral Elevation is the emotion we feel when we see or hear about a virtuous act of moral goodness through unexpected compassion, forgiveness, understanding, altruism, and charity. We feel warmth and awe. Think about when you see a video about people helping the homeless or rescuing dogs. It makes you feel good and want to do good also. Moral elevation has even been proven to have benefits to our mental health as well. It also improves our outlook on others and the rest of the world, increasing faith in humanity as well as increased meaning in our lives.
So start consciously practicing kindness not only for your own benefit but for the benefit of others and society as a whole. Make kindness is a habit.
8. Read more
The one main thing that I memorably regret from my childhood is not reading as many books as I could have.
As stated in the previous point, many of the most successful people spend a huge chunk of their time continually learning. But they don’t just learn from people and their own experiences. They actually read… Books. Warren Buffett spends about 80% of his entire day reading. Mark Zuckerberg tries to read a new book every other week. Bill Gates reads about 50 books every year. Check out this list of the most recommended books by the most successful CEOs including the ones mentioned.
This point to read, however, is not just about learning (although that is an important benefit reading). It applies to both nonfiction and fiction reading including literature and poetry, but this it’s more so directed toward deep reading rather than surface reading which is a more passive form of reading like we normally do on the web—skimming. Research has shown that deep reading is a rich, distinctive experience and is more engaging and satisfying than surface reading. It’s vigorous exercise for the brain. Deep reading does not necessarily require a book though.
Reading actually makes us better people. Numerous studies that have found that reading surprisingly increases our capacity for empathy. People who read are far better able to understand other people and view the world from their perspective.
So try to incorporate picking up a book more often and regular reading into your lifestyle. Reading makes us nicer and smarter.
9. Write more
Journaling has numerous tremendous benefits. It’s scientifically proven to be therapeutic and improve mental health. Studies show because we experience healing and emotional release during journaling, we experience lower level of anxiety and stress and better sleep. Journaling increases emotional intelligence which is the ability to perceive and manage our emotions and others. Journaling leads to higher empathy and self-awareness.
Writing also has positive effects on memory recall. You’re more likely to remember something by writing it down than by just reading or hearing it. Journaling is also a great way to practice mindfulness by being in the present moment of our thoughts and emotions and accepting them as they come and go. There is also a strong link between mindfulness and happiness.
Journaling and writing can also make you a better writer and communicator. The more you write, the more you learn and practice, the better you become. When we write, we’re more likely to expand our vocabulary by using new words. A big factor in intelligence is vocabulary, so it actually makes us smarter. Also, even though we’re just writing, we become better speakers as well because of the improvement in communication skills. Writing is strongly connected to speaking.
It’s also effective to reaching your goals. Even just the simple act of writing down your goals makes you more likely to achieve them. One study conducted by Dr. Gail Matthews found that when writing down your goals on a regular basis, you become 42% more likely to achieve them.
Implement writing and journaling into your lifestyle for greater mental health, happiness, intelligence, and success.
10. Practice gratitude
Researchers say that gratitude is a key to happiness and practicing gratitude will make you happier over time. Countless studies have demonstrated multiple positive effects of practicing gratitude.
Practicing gratitude has been shown to reduce depression as well as multiple toxic emotions such as envy, resentment, frustration, and regret to name a few. Studies suggest that gratitude even aids in overcoming trauma. One study published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that war veterans that had higher levels of gratitude were less likely to develop PTSD. Another study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude helped people foster resilience after the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Gratitude also increases self-esteem. Grateful people are also less likely to compare themselves to others and instead appreciate other people’s accomplishments. Research shows that gratitude also reduces stress.
Interestingly, studies show that gratitude not only improves mental health but also improve physical health. A study published in Personality and Individual Differences found that grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and feel healthier than other people. Grateful people are also more likely to care of their health by exercising more often. Another study found that people who practice gratitude are more likely to experience better sleep.
Practicing gratitude also has the ability to improve relationships. When you’re grateful, you’re happier, more optimistic, and have a positive attitude. People are more likely to want to be around you because of this. You’re also more likely to be likable and win friends. A study published in Emotion found that thanking an acquaintance makes an ongoing relationship more likely to form. Expressing gratitude is a major component in gratitude.
Studies suggest that practicing gratitude even causes you to become more grateful over time and to be more sensitive to gratitude. Gratitude also increases empathy and reduces aggression. One study conducted by the University of Kentucky found that grateful people were less likely to retaliate against others, even when given negative feedback. They were less likely to want to seek revenge and had experienced more empathy.
Instead of indulging in self-pity which will only make things worse, choose to practice gratitude for increased happiness, improved mental health, and better relationships. Keeping a gratitude journal is a great way to practice gratitude. I like to write down at ten things I’m grateful for in first thing in the morning and then ten things I’m grateful for in the evening before bed.
11. Try new things
Be more open to life experiences. Trying new things has endless benefits. When you put yourself out there in the world, you expose yourself to different people, cultures, places, and experiences. When trying something new, there is always some level of fear because of the uncertainty about it. Trying something new requires courage. Trying new things helps to overcome fear and allows you to be more equipped in dealing with more of life’s experiences. It forces you to grow because you are taking unfamiliar action out of joy. It challenges you.
When you try new things, you not only meet more people, but you make yourself more relatable and interesting. You’re more likely to have more in common with people. It also makes you interesting person because of the experiences you’ve had and the skills and knowledge you’ve learned along the way. This is also extremely valuable with work and business connections. You’re more likely to meet qualifications for careers. Trying new things presents new opportunities for you.
Trying new things helps in not only learning about many things, it helps you learn about yourself. You get to know yourself better. You discover what you like and don’t like. This is one of the reasons why scientists say that “follow your passion” is bad advice which I discuss in Bad Advice You Should Stop Following (And Better Advice Instead) along with other popular bad advice. Trying new things also awakens your senses and increases self-awareness.
As pointed out in the inspiration point, inspired people are more likely to be open to new experiences. But it actually goes both ways. It was found that people who already had openness to experiences were more likely to be inspired more often.
Trying new things opens up your mind and body to new experiences to lead a richer and more lived life.
12. Have purpose in everything you do
Purpose drives meaning to what you do. Everything you do has a deep “why.” It motivates you to make things happen. When you live with purpose, you’re more passionate about everything what you do. You’re more likely to reach your goals.
When you do reach your goals, you’re also able to experience fulfillment and happiness, unlike other people who are still not happy with their achievements and feel like nothing is ever enough. This is because you’re connected on a deeper level with what you do and achieve.
When you achieve things out of fear, obligation, or superficial reasons, you’re less likely to happy with your achievements, and you’re less likely to achieve those goals. Purpose and happiness have a strong correlation. Many chronic negative emotions are associated with a lack of purpose or direction in life. Living with purpose also helps to build resilience and guide you through dark and difficult times in life. Research has shown that people who have a strong sense of purpose are better capable at handling pain from heat and cold.
You’re more likely to contribute to the world when you live with purpose. You’re connected to the world. Having purpose with your goals and life makes you more likely to tie your goals to deeper whys like relationships. This leads to happier, and more fulfilling and connected relationships.
Having purpose also makes you healthier and live. One study found that people who had lower levels of purpose in life had a higher risk of death than those who had greater life purpose, regardless of age. Purpose also makes you value your life more and therefore have a healthier diet and regular exercise regimen, a study found. Another study found that purposeful people spent less time in the hospital yet were more likely to make better use of preventative healthcare. One study found that people who have a lower sense of purpose are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease later on in life than people who have a greater sense of purpose.
Having purpose gives you a powerful drive like no other. It betters your health, relationships, makes you happier, and you’re more likely to reach your goals.
13. Be more curious
Ask more questions. Research shows that curious people are happier, have lower levels of anxiety, higher life satisfaction, and psychological well-being.
When you’re curious, you learn faster and easier. Curiosity makes learning more fun too. This leads to higher academic and career achievement and performance. You’re also more likely to develop skills and gain knowledge that most others don’t have.
You learn information that others don’t have access to. When you ask questions, you learn from sources that aren’t readily available to anyone, and you learn information that’s not written online or in books. You’re more likely to gain more deep insights that other people don’t have from learning from different perspectives. This can also help us build empathy since we become better at understanding people with different lives, experiences, and views different from our own.
Curiosity makes you less likely to have limiting beliefs and poor values. When you’re curious, you’re more likely to have an open mind. You’re willing to listen to different perspectives. You can adjust your mindset and behaviors if you notice that certain beliefs and values are not serving you. Doing this can have profound transformations on your life.
Curiosity makes people perceive you as an interesting person. When you ask people questions, you also become more likable. You learn more which as shown above is extremely important. Contrary to what people may believe that asking questions makes you appear dumb, asking questions actually makes you appear smarter to other people, especially in the workplace.
People will also naturally want to help you. When you ask questions and show curiosity, people will instinctively want to show and share their knowledge and skills. They may even be willing to demonstrate and teach you.
14. Balance living in the now and preparing for the future
It’s important in life. We often only hear one or the other.
“Live in the moment.”
“Have goals for your future self.”
“You only live once.”
“Make sacrifices for the long-term.”
It’s important to value both living in the now and preparing for the future to have them balance each other out. Having respect for both the future and present without disregarding either leads to living a more balanced and fulfilling lifestyle.
Oftentimes we think we’re preparing for the future and making sacrifices by working more and not spending as much time with family and loved ones, but as illustrated in the 2nd point, our relationships suffer in the long-run because of it.
So while it may seem like we’re living in the now by enjoying and spending time with those we care about and taking time for play and renewal, we’re actually preparing for a longer and happier life. Be careful to not confuse instant gratification with living in the now. Instant gratification and focusing too much on the short-term is a terrible way to live in the moment.
15. Have fun!
Schedule play and free time. One of the main benefits of playtime is that well, it’s fun. And what’s wrong with that? Also, having fun is self-care. Who says playing is just for kids? I attended my youngest sister’s 15th birthday party a couple of months ago. It was at a trampoline park. I had so. much. fun. I was even able to overcome my fear and do a backflip! There’s a kid in all of us. Embrace it. Be silly.
Have fun in what you do. Try to have fun even when it’s difficult. It’s easy to mope and complain when things don’t go our way, but trying to have fun can lead to well, having fun, new opportunities, and embracing spontaneity. When you have fun, you distract yourself from the difficulties and pressures of life. They’re no longer there during those moments.
Well-known blogger, Pat Flynn of SmartPassiveIncome got stuck in Philly overnight with his son after their flight was canceled due to bad weather. Instead of complaining, they decided to make the most of it and had fun by visiting (and then dancing at) different spots in Philly which they captured on video. They not only had fun, but also inspired others to do the same. Their video got enough attention to make it to news and media outlets.
Having fun is also good for you. It has health benefits. Having fun helps you avoid burnout. It’s easier to cope with life’s daily stresses. It makes you happier and gives you a more optimistic worldview. Having fun gives you energy, unlike stress and pain which are both mentally and physically draining. It helps you relax and sleep better too.
Having fun also helps you connect with others better. Having fun often means enjoying activities and conversations with friends, family, coworkers, and whoever may be around us. This gives us a powerful sense of connection, usefulness, and meaning. People are more likely to like us and enjoy being around us when they have fun with us since they consider us being fun to be around and equate having fun to being around us.
Taking time to have fun is a great way to avoid living a life of chronic stress. It may seem like a waste of time to some, but it is so essential to living a happier and more fulfilling life.
You may have noticed that most of these all work together. Working on just one of these can have domino effects on the rest on this life and other areas of your life. All of these also showed to have a pattern of benefits – health, relationships, happiness, quality of life, achievement, and “intelligence.” Try gradually implementing these changes into your life. As long as there is effort, there will be growth.