If you’re stuck in life, it’s probably because you’re waiting for the big bang. The breakthrough moment in which all your fears dissolve and you’re overcome with clarity. The work that needs to happen happens effortlessly. Your personal transformation rips you from complacency, and you wake up to an entirely new existence.
That moment will never come.
Breakthroughs do not happen spontaneously. They are tipping points.
Revelations occur when ideas that were sitting in the margins of your mind finally get enough attention to dominate your thoughts. These are the “clicking” moments, the moments when you finally understand advice you’ve heard your entire life. The moments when you’ve habituated yourself to a pattern of behavior for long enough that it becomes instinctive.
A mind-blowing, singular breakthrough is not what changes your life. A microshift is.
Breakthroughs are what happen after hours and days and years of the same mundane, monotonous work.
But a mind-blowing, singular breakthrough is not what changes your life. A microshift is.
As writer and media strategist Ryan Holiday has noted, epiphanies are not life-altering. It’s not radical moments of action that give us long-lasting, permeating change — it’s the restructuring of our habits. The idea is what science philosopher Thomas Kuhn dubbed a “paradigm shift.” Kuhn suggested we don’t change our lives in flashes of brilliance, but through a slow process in which assumptions unravel and require new explanations. It’s in these periods of flux that microshifts happen and breakthrough-level change begins to take shape.
Think of microshifts as tiny increments of change in your day-to-day life. A microshift is changing what you eat for one part of one meal just one time. Then it’s doing that a second time. And a third. Before you even realize what’s happening, you’ve adopted a pattern of behavior.
What you do every single day accounts for the quality of your life and the degree of your success. It’s not whether you “feel” like putting in the work, but whether or not you do it regardless.
This is because the outcomes of life are not governed by passion, they are governed by principle.
You may not think what you did this morning was important, but it was. You may not think that the little things add up, but they do. Consider the age-old brainteaser: would you rather have $1 million in hand today or a penny that doubles in value every day for the next month? The $1 million right now sounds great, but after a 31-day month, that one penny would be worth over $10 million.
Making big, sweeping changes is not difficult because we are flawed, incompetent beings. It’s difficult because we are not meant to live outside of our comfort zones.
If you want to change your life, you need to make tiny, nearly undetectable decisions every hour of every day until those choices are habituated. Then, you’ll just continue to do them.
If you want to spend less time on your phone, deny yourself the chance to check it one time today. If you want to eat healthier, drink half a cup of water today. If you want to sleep more, go to bed 10 minutes earlier tonight than you did last.
If you want to exercise more, do it now for just 10 minutes. If you want to read, read one page. If you want to meditate, do so for 30 seconds.
Then, keep doing those things. Do them every single day. You’ll get used to not checking your phone. You’ll want more water, and you’ll drink more water. You’ll run for 10 minutes, and you won’t feel like you have to stop, so you won’t. You’ll read one page, grow interested, and read another.
Making big, sweeping changes is not difficult because we’re flawed, incompetent beings. It’s difficult because we’re not meant to live outside our comfort zones. At our most instinctive, physiological level, “change” translates to something dangerous and potentially life-threatening. No wonder why we build our own cages and stay in them though there’s no lock on the door.
Trying to shock yourself into a new life isn’t going to work, and that’s why it hasn’t yet.
You don’t need to wait until you feel like changing to start changing. All you need is to make one microshift at a time, and then let the energy and momentum build.