My coaching centers around unconditional well-being — these are the aspects of our quality of life that are not dependent on our circumstances. These are dependent on what we practice regardless of our situation.
How healthy, happy, and fulfilled we are has a lot to do with the hundreds of small choices that we make everyday. We tend to put an emphasis on big commitments or resolutions — we draft beautiful personal mission statements, we create vision boards, and we design ambitious workouts and diets. But really, it is the many tiny choices we make throughout the day that ultimately shape our lives.
After thirty years of studying this stuff and coaching people of all ages and professions, here are my top small daily choices for a good life. Some may seem more abstract than others, but each one of them can become very concrete and powerful practices in your life.
Sit silently: Take just a few minutes everyday to be aware. Bring your attention to what is happening internally and externally with as much acceptance as you can muster. Awareness and acceptance are two of the most powerful skills we can build in life
Breathe and smile: Your breath is portable and powerful. Breathing into a relaxed belly and smiling can change the activity in your nervous system quite quickly. The more you practice this through out the day, the more you will return to it when life gets tricky.
Open your body: We tend to close and contract under the daily demands of life. The more we stand or sit upright — allowing our chest to open and our shoulders to roll back — the safer and more confident we will feel (and you can throw in a gentle smile for good measure.)
Be kind to everyone: Smile at strangers, hold the door, listen to others, offer help — grow your capacity for unconditional love in tiny ways as many times a day as you can. Kindness is good for the giver, the receiver, and any observers.
Identify what really matters: It is very easy to get carried away by the urgent, shiny, or petty things that pop up in life. Taking moments throughout the day to anchor yourself in the goals, commitments and relationships you value most — this is how we develop balance.
Move your body: Go for a walk, use the stairs, jog, bike — your heart, your brain, and your relationships will all benefit from having activity in your life. You do not have to commit to hours of gym time — your small choices to move, rather than sit, add up to big results over time.
Get sleep: One less episode of that Netflix series could mean better mood, better health, and better relationships. Sleep is the foundation for emotional stability, learning, body repair, stress management, and immune system function. A few more minutes of sleep each night can make a big difference.
Eat vegetables: There are a variety of nutrients that we can only get from fresh, colorful veggies. In the vast body of nutritional research, the only consistent truth is that a diet heavy in vegetables has the greatest health benefits.
Be kind to you: Obviously this falls under “Be kind to everyone,” but self-compassion is often overlooked. There is no good reason not to be as kind to yourself as you would be to anyone else. The benefits of self-compassion include greater resilience, happiness, empathy, and willingness to take healthy risks.
Be grateful: Starting and ending your day by feeling gratitude can make a big difference. Stopping several times a day to say thank you for friends, family, health, shoes, air to breathe, sunshine… The key is to feel gratitude in your body rather than just think about it.
Be in awe: Life is an inexplicable miracle — even when it is not the way we want it to be. It is an incredibly powerful practice to stop for a moment or two in the midst of a busy day and really let the wonder of the most ordinary life sink in.
Use reminders: Old habits hang on. Even if you commit to any of these, you are likely to forget or find a good reason not to make these choices. Sticky notes, alarms, reminder apps, desktop notes, to-do lists — these can all help nudge you toward the small choices that work.
Begin again: When you forget, get busy, or move back to old behaviors — no big deal — simply start where you are. This is the key to establishing a new practice. Start, fail, begin again. That’s all.