Two weeks ago I was out to dinner in Kansas City with a couple of co-workers. We were indulging in some classic barbecue at Jackstack while taking some time to really get to know each other better. We were talking about things that we were looking forward to, and things that frightened us. Then we started talking about aspects of ourselves we’d like to improve.
One of them asked me if I was always so positive and upbeat. I quickly said no, and they both looked surprised.
I went on to tell them about the specific moment that caused me to change.
It was 2008. I was married, working a job that I wasn’t passionate about, unsure of my direction, and clueless as to my purpose. My then husband was cooking in the kitchen and I was standing near the island talking about some random thing that I don’t even remember. Suddenly he slammed his hand down on the counter, turned to look at me, and said ‘You are so f*****g negative!’ The exasperated look on his face showed me he was serious.
I stopped dead in my tracks and instead of getting defensive, I really stood with that statement. Negative? Am I really? Hmm. Maybe he has a point there.
After telling my two co-workers that story their jaws were literally on the ground.
In the 8 years since that impactful moment, my entire demeanor (and life) has changed. They asked me how I did it. And my answer was simple.
Intentional millimeter shifts.
I started to listen to the words that came out of my mouth on a regular basis, and really examined them. I decided to start by challenging myself to not complain. For one month no matter what the weather, traffic, or work task, I wouldn’t complain.
I wasn’t 100% successful at my challenge that month, but I become much more aware of my words, my stresses, and the verbal impact I had.
From there I set an intention to read a book on being a happier person (Dan Millman’s Way of the Peaceful Warrior). Then it was an intention to send one card a week for four weeks to different people to hopefully brighten their day.
It was just one small focus each month. After 8 years of being intentional with growth, I’ve constructed a life that is rich in good habits. And it all started with deciding to do just one small thing differently.
I have often told my employees about a story that Jack Canfield references in his work. I point at a tree across the street at Garner Park. I tell them that if I had an ax and I walked over there and took one chop at it every day, it would at first seem insignificant. But eventually, that tree will fall down. Just as things start with these intentional habits, it seems small and ineffective at first. Eventually your tree will fall – your habits will be replaced with more successful ones. You will be on the path to creating a life that you chose, not one that happened to you.
I then turned the conversation back towards my co-workers and asked them what millimeter shift they could make now, that in the long term could really impact their lives.
It is almost the start of a new year, and a really powerful time to pick a millimeter shift for yourself.
My millimeter shift for this month is to not check emails or any media accounts until I get to work in the morning. Today I enjoyed waking up slowly, and doing 40 minutes of power flow yoga before heading into the office. My had is clear, I feel intentional about my day, and I feel focused. Great way to start the day, all from a millimeter shift.
Now is always the perfect time to take the first chop to the tree.