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20 Tiny Changes That Can Completely Overhaul Your Life

“It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward.” ~Proverb

Ever felt down in the dumps, absolutely sure that you wanted to transform your life but no idea where to start?

About three years back I stood at that intersection.

I’d spent years earning one advanced degree after another, until I landed myself a job that paid well but the stress level was so high that I had little room for anything else.

I’d married a wonderful guy whom I’d fallen crazily in love with, but our relationship had slowly, almost without our knowledge, spiraled downward until it seemed like all we felt toward each other was anger and disdain.

After years of trying, we had a beautiful little girl, but she has such a strong-willed, determined personality that we clashed on a daily, sometimes hourly basis, and I was ready to pull my hair out.

Every moment at home, someone was yelling, sulking, or seething.

Something had to change. I wanted to make things better. More peaceful. More “normal.”

Except, I had no clue where to start. Or what to do. Or how to make the transformation that I so wanted.

I started trying anything and everything. A few things stuck. Many didn’t.

Slowly, a pattern started to emerge: Big, massive, overzealous changes almost always backfired and led to disillusionment and disappointment. Small, tiny shifts in attitude, on the other hand, had a huge cumulative impact.

I still remember one period where I’d decided to not yell at my daughter, no matter what. I’d decided to become a positive parent and as such, be supportive all the time.

If you’re a parent, you know how this is going to end.

I managed to hold it in for all of three days or so. And then, suddenly, on some minor provocation, I let loose. All the dammed up irritation and frustration just came flooding out, while my daughter stared at me in utter shock and fear.

This wasn’t how it was supposed to go! I actually felt worse now than earlier!

I didn’t want to give up. So I kept trying.

As one attempt after other failed, I got more and more disheartened.

Finally, almost in desperation, I decided to focus on something else entirely—since I seemed incapable of not yelling, maybe, I thought, I can figure out why my daughter behaves a certain way and then try to prevent that situation altogether.

Suddenly, something magical happened.

The more I stepped into her shoes, the more I understood why she acted like she did. And the more I understood her reasons, the less I felt the need to yell.

For instance, she wasn’t just defying me when she refused to wear a jacket—her toddler brain just couldn’t grasp that it was cold outside.

So instead of asking her to wear the jacket while we were still at home, where it was warm and cozy, I’d wait until we got out and the cold draft hit her before asking her to wear the jacket. And most of the time, it worked!

It was as if I had deciphered a secret code.

Now, instead of trying to stop yelling, I started to make a conscious attempt to understand her a little more, and with each little effort, I was automatically yelling a little less.

And you know the best part?

Quite without our knowledge, the relationship between my husband and me started to change, as well. I was suddenly snapping and yelling at him a whole lot less, too. And in turn, he started being kinder, gentler, and more the person I had fallen in love with.

Even in the dog-eat-dog culture that was rampant at my then workplace, people responded with reciprocal kindness and goodwill. And I, in turn, found it a whole lot easier to be a better co-worker.

It was a beautiful, virtuous circle.

It’s been three years now. I’ve been focusing on making more and more of these small, tiny changes and they have been paying off big time. Our home is a whole lot more peaceful. We enjoy each other’s company a lot. My relationship with friends is richer. Life is good.

I still have ways to go, but the change, the transformation that I was seeking, is happening.

Toward the end of last year, in a moment of quiet reflection, I listed some of the small shifts in attitude that have helped me so, and others that I seek to practice in the New Year.

I’m sharing them with you here in the hopes that they may help you make the transformation you might be seeking.

1. Less Anger, More Understanding

When we can understand why the other person acts the way they do—whether they are three years old or thirty—the need to yell automatically starts to diminish.

2. Less Complaining, More Gratitude

When we look at all the wonderful things in life, the things that don’t go well start to seem trivial.

3. Less Blame, More Guidance

When we get hurt, it is instinctive to want to make the other person “pay,” but if we can guide the person to fix the situation, things are more likely to get better sooner.

4. Less Judgment, More Wonder

We are all unique, different, and a wee bit crazy in our own way. The best way to counter the urge to be judgmental is to cultivate a sense of wonder at each person’s uniqueness.

5. Less Resistance, More Acceptance

The more we resist something, the more it persists. The more we accept it, the less it bothers us.

6. Less Shame, More Vulnerability

Shame is a deep-seated fear that we are not enough. Yet, it’s a fact that none of us is perfect. When we accept the imperfection and embrace it, the tight grip of shame starts to loosen up.

7. Less Fear, More Action

We cannot reason with fear, especially the irrational one that stays in the head. The best way to make change happen is to take action and keep moving forward.

8. Less Comparison, More Contentment

Our life seems like a drag when we compare our “behind-the-scenes” with the highlight reel of someone else’s life. Focusing on contentment kills the need to try to keep up with the Joneses.

9. Less Will Power, More Habits

It’s scientifically proven that we have a limited supply of will power, and the more we exert it, the less we have for future use. So whenever possible, turn things into habit, limiting the need to use will power.

10. Less Guilt, More Communication

We all make mistakes. Communicating how badly we feel and figuring out how to fix things will keep guilt from gnawing away at our happiness.

11. Less Obsessing, More Balance

Embrace all shades between black or white, and the need to obsess on the extremes starts to shrink. Particularly helpful for recovering perfectionists like me!

12. Less Competition, More Cooperation

Come at things from a place of abundance and seek intentionally to cooperate, and the fear of competition starts to melt right away.

13. Less Stress, More Fun

If there is one thing we can learn from kids, it is to have fun. Ever notice how few kids are actually stressed?

14. Less Greed, More Generosity

Finding joy in giving is the perfect antidote for a case of the gimmes.

15. Less Distraction, More Rest

Seriously, make getting a fixed number of hours of sleep each night a priority, and distractions like social media and television will automatically stop killing productivity.

16. Less Bitterness, More Forgiveness

Bitterness only hurts the person carrying it. Forgive those who hurt us and move on.

17. Less Control, More Flow

Some things are simply out of our control. Learning to go with the flow helps tone down the urge to control.

18. Less Stubbornness, More Openness

What if we are wrong some times? Being open to accepting failure and constantly learning makes life so much simpler and beautiful.

19. Less Expectation, More Patience

Start small by delaying gratification with little things. As we learn to be more patient, our expectations of how/when things should turn out start to relax as well.

20. Less Ego, More Humility

Easier said than done, but the more easily we can say “sorry” and “thank you” (and really mean it), the less hold ego has on our life.

What has your experience been? Have you also experienced that small, tiny shifts in attitude can result in huge transformations? What are some of the small changes you’ve made that have resulted in a life overhaul?

About Sumitha Bhandarkar

Sumitha is the blogger behind afineparent.com and invites you to come take a look at the unique parent-child journal she has designed which could be the most meaningful gift you could give any child! Connected Hearts Journal is a keepsake memory book parents put together with their kids and in the process have conversations, teach life lessons, build up self-esteem, instill an attitude of gratitude and so much more! Click here to find out more.

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  • Poonam

    Lovely Post Sumitha. Thank you so much.

  • Glad you liked it, Poonam 🙂

  • Gary Gruber

    Instead of 20, how about your top five or even three? If it’s about significant change that will make a big difference, that can’t be done wholesale or even on a large scale but usually and most effectively, one step at a time.

  • Isabel

    Excellent post. I truly enjoyed it. Great advice!

  • These are all the things that I’ve been trying at some level for a while now, Gary. That said, the top 5 from last year were –

    1. Less Anger, More Understanding
    2. Less Complaining, More Gratitude
    3. Less Blame, More Guidance
    4. Less Ego, More Humility
    5. Less Competition, More Cooperation

    and they’ve made a HUGE impact!

    One that I wasn’t very successful last year and want to be more intentional this year is “Less Fear, More Action”.

    How about you?

  • Thanks for your kind words, Isabel. Glad you liked it!

  • Tryingformetta

    I’m printing this out! Really appreciate you sharing this with the world.

  • check out nutrition as sometimes omega 3 sunflower and starflower oils is useful to underpin changes in behaviour!

  • Glad you liked it – thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Sunil Thakur

    Beautiful List!…:) & Thanks for the post…:)
    love peace.

  • Great post Sumitha,
    I really like the idea of less and more rather than dealing with absolutes. It’s the direction we’re going in that matters.
    I’m working on less stuff more experiences.

  • HI Sumitha,

    I love this post! What struck me was how these 20 things can apply to being a parent, but to most of our daily relationships. Being a parent, it can be easy to forget that our little ones are beings too, and they want to be treated like everyone else…..

    Thank you.

  • sara ellis

    I used to get furious at my roommate for being a slob and leaving things lying all over the place, and rarely following through when he says he’ll do something. But then I read up on some of the medications he takes for anxiety, and found they can affect memory. So I decided to cut him some slack, try not to get angry and just leave gentle reminders. I realized I can’t change him, so as long as we’re housemates I have to just accept him as-is.

  • Great post Sumitha. I read your post and part of it was such a reflection of myself. You are a few years ahead of me but I have decided to make the necessary changes in my life to become a better more focused individual. One who can truly enjoy life. Thanks for the encouragement because if you can do it so can I.

  • Wonderful list of attitude adjustments! Even better that you list the antonyms of each behavior.

  • Great post Sumitha! Love the style/structure. Easy to remember in the moment less x, more y. Whatever the issue 🙂

  • Harmony

    Sumitha: Loved your post! It’s so easy to fall into the trap of wanting big change to happen overnight. As you have pointed out, it doesn’t work that way–change comes in small shifts. I like that you listed 20 less/more ideas….another aspect of change is that once you alter one attitude, belief or behaviour, you will notice shifts in other areas, too. That being said, it probably is a good idea to pick out two or three that you want to start with and you will soon notice the domino effect that transformation has. Thanks!!

  • Mary

    “Tiny”??? These are not tiny things…. these are challenging and some of them take A LOT of courage. Great, great article but the title should be changed as it was false advertisement.

  • ZJ

    beautiful!

  • Nidhiiii

    “Slowly, a pattern started to emerge: Big, massive, overzealous changes almost always backfired and led to disillusionment and disappointment. Small, tiny shifts in attitude, on the other hand, had a huge cumulative impact.” Thanks a million for this Mam 🙂 Yes I’ve been trying to have some big ,massive over ambitious changes in my life in vain. Now I realise that only small shifts in attitude and also small adjustments here and there will go a long way in sorting things out. This has been a huge revelation to me right now. I seriously intend to follow your words and see how things improve in my life. Thanks again 🙂