Small activities that provided great benefits
It’s hard to say which of my self-improvement habits has had the biggest impact on my life. I have too many of them and introduced them into my life in a very rapid fashion. So, it is really hard to measure and recognize which habits have been the most impactful.
Maybe gratitude journaling?
Quite possible this habit won this small contest.
For years, I hadn’t even considered it very impactful. But in hindsight, it was powerful. And when I described this discovery in my Quora answer, it became my most popular answer ever (over 400k views and 3.5 upvotes):
Or maybe it was journaling?
Six days a week, I journal for 10–20 minutes. I’ve been doing it for eight years.
You see, when you write things down, you need to process them through the prefrontal cortex — the part of your brain responsible for the higher thinking functions (like abstract thinking, language, logical thinking, and the like). In effect, you process a bigger portion of your life through logic and a smaller portion through emotions.
Nine years ago, I was a total mess. Nobody ever taught me how to process my own emotions. Well, not purposefully. Like most of us, I learned how to deal with my emotions by observing and mimicking people around me. However, most of them were as clueless about emotion management, as was I in the first place.
Years of writing about my plans, dreams, aspirations, obstacles, hardships, heartaches, failures, relationships, faith, and everything else that makes a full life, allowed me to get SO much better. at emotion management.
I also get some “me time” every day, introduce silence into my life, have space to actually plan long term, analyze myself, and reflect on the big picture.
This is invaluable.
I’ve been exercising every day since 2006. I missed maybe 50 days in 15 years, mainly when I was bedridden with a fever.
Thanks to this discipline, I internalized the value of persistence. When I read The Slight Edge in August 2012, its message clicked in. I had relevant points of reference already instilled in my life. I was able to embrace the Slight Edge philosophy because of my own experience. And when I embraced it, my whole life, hmm, not just “changed” — it exploded.
However, physical exercises are hardly a self-improvement technique. In fact, it’s a universal human activity. Surely, I consider exercises as such. Everybody should move their body on regular basis.
The last candidate: smiling.
I had been extremely shy toward strangers at the age of 33.
As a part of my self-improvement quest, I tried to develop a habit of talking to strangers. I flatly fell on my face. I just couldn’t do it. It was beyond me. Cold sweat on my forehead, butterflies in my stomach, collywobbles, a lump in my throat. I could not open my mouth and utter a word.
So, I retreated and regrouped. What I could do? I could smile at people.
And I did.
I built up my self-confidence, and soon I was talking with strangers on an everyday basis.