Build Momentum With Small Wins

Momentum. When one action propels you onto the next. It can work with or against you – like when you’re trying to chase a ball that’s rolling down a hill, or trying to kick it back up. In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg says that momentum is the difference between somebody who successfully makes a lifestyle change, and another person who doesn’t. He says that it’s all about the small wins.

When you wake up with the sun, get up and make your bed, have your breakfast, clean your teeth, and get to work on time – each part of this sequence is helped along by the small win that preceded it. Compare it to waking up with an alarm and hitting snooze until the last minute, leaving your bed unmade and feeling guilty about it, getting to work late and in a rush, and missing out on breakfast. One of these things sets you up to keep succeeding throughout the day and making good choices, and the other doesn’t.

It seems so simple when you think about it. I’m not a morning person, and I’ve long considered the inventor of the snooze button to be one of history’s greatest villains. I could do with the momentum of some small wins in the morning, especially when it’s meant to keep building all day.

So where can we build small wins into our routines?
Some ideas include:
Waking up with the sun, and getting up to use that extra time
Not checking your phone straight away, so you can experience your morning on your own terms
Preparing or planning your breakfast the night before, so it’s easy to have something healthy and yum even when you’re not a morning person
Building a meditation or visualisation exercise into your morning routine, to help you keep on track throughout the day
Laying out or planning your outfit the night before, so you can look your best

These small wins might sound pedestrian, but consider their compounded impact. A whole week of nutritious breakfast would have a real impact on how you physically feel. An entire week of polished or refined outfits could help contribute to a shift in how people see you at work.

Because they’re such small wins, it often feels like it won’t matter if we don’t do them. We think, “It won’t matter just this once. I’ll just hit the snooze button one more time.” Charles Duhigg writes that our brains can’t distinguish between a good habit and a bad habit, and when around 40% of our behaviour is habit, turning some of these small wins into good habits will help stack the balance in our favour.

A small win for me would be leaving my phone across the room when I sleep so it’s not the first thing I turn to when I wake up. Another one would be having a clock in my line of vision so I’m not compelled to check the time on my phone or my computer. These would probably give me the momentum to make my bed, which might help me to practise meditation, to eat a mindful breakfast, and to be early to work. If I could achieve all these things before 9am I’d probably feel pretty good about myself. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Check out the Charles Duhigg book here:

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