10 Small Changes That Will Significantly Improve Your Life

The principle of compounding interest isn’t only effective in finance, but in all areas of life.  Big achievements are often the result of small changes.  Here are 10 small changes to incorporate into your life. 

1.  “Don’t Enter the Debate Too Early.” 

The wise words of Nelson Mandela.  Listening first and speaking last lets you see different perspectives on an issue and give a better response.  It also let’s other people feel that their input matters.  A sense of contribution leads people to be more invested in accomplishing team goals. 

2.  Immediate and Unambiguous Feedback

Everyone encounters obstacles in trying to reach a goal.  Rather than being thrown off course, you need to adjust and roll with the punches.  And the best way to adjust is getting immediate and direct feedback, either from self-evaluation or others.  

Learn from your mistakes while the experience is still fresh.  Take notes, determine how you could have performed better and apply the lessons to your next task. 

3.  Evaluating Your Standards

As the proverbial boiling frog goes, we fall victim to comfort zones faster than we realize.  Take some time to evaluate the standards you have for different areas of life: friends, family, dating, finances, health, work.  In other words, what are you letting yourself or others get away with?

Frustrations are a helpful sign pointing you to where you need to raise your standards.  That means doing things differently.  Higher standards equal better results. 

4.  Your Threshold Illusion

When your mind is telling you that you’re done, you’re only really 40 percent done.  This is one Navy SEAL’s mental hack for achieving extraordinary physical feats, including running 101 miles in just over 19 hours (in his first ever marathon).  Our immediate response to any physical or mental strain is to tap-out and quit, but telling yourself that you’re only 40 percent done is a simple tool to help you ride out the short-term pain.  Then you’ll experience the “second-wind” that takes you much further than you thought you could go.  

5. Learn the Rules to Break the Rules

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist” – Picasso.  

Trying to find new hacks and better strategies is great, but don’t skim over the learning phase before breaking rules.  While innovation is diverging from the status quo, you need to first know how things have always been done.  Knowing the rules of your industry inside-out gives insight into which rules are unnecessary or can be taken advantage of.  You can fully calculate risks and know which broken rules will incur minimal or no negative effects.

6. Cut Your Filler Words and Vocalized Pauses

Clear communication requires cutting filler words and vocalized pauses such as “umm,” “ahh,” “like.”  Speaking clearly will improve your self-confidence, convey competence, and people will listen more to what you are trying to explain.  

Try pausing next time you are about to use a filler word or vocalized pause.  The silence may be awkward to begin with, but you’ll find them getting shorter until you completely eliminate them. 

Our attention spans are pulled in all directions, sharpening your speaking skills allows you to cut through the noise. 

7. Ask Better Questions

“Judge a person by her questions, not her answers,” to paraphrase Voltaire.  Asking better questions will give you better answers.  Instead of a basic “why” question, try posing a hypothetical scenario, or play devil’s advocate and consider opposing viewpoints.  You’ll be forced to think deeper about the issue, which allows for a better understanding and learning experience.  Asking better questions also engages your curiosity and creative thinking. 

8. The Extra Mile

Work ethic always trumps talent.  It might be trite, but it’s true.  And going that extra mile in any area of life can make all the difference.  Teammates of Kobe Bryant would come to training and find Bryant covered in sweat—he’d already been training for hours.  Turning up hours earlier and putting in the extra work was a habit Bryant practiced since high school. 

Whether you’re preparing for a lesson plan, presentation, or job interview, spend a few extra minutes to edit, re-phrase, or research. 

9. Listening Well

There’s a huge difference between hearing and listening; you can hear your boss or colleague speaking, but that doesn’t mean you were listening.  Listening well isn’t easy; it is the active pursuit of understanding.  The longer you can stay focused means the more information you are able to retain.   

Two helpful tips from Simon Sinek to become a better listener: engage with specific questions; restate what you’ve been told in order to clarify.  

10. Write it Down

You are 42% more likely to achieve your goals just by writing them down.  Writing down your goals  will give you clarity and direction.  A clearly defined vision, broken down into action steps and deadlines gives you an effective game-plan, which is especially helpful for when you lose momentum or get distracted.