Professional life coaches Marc and Angel Chernoff are accomplishing big goals. And they are doing it by focusing on small, daily rituals.
The Florida couple, both in their mid-30s, overcame a series of obstacles in their own lives that led them to launch their popular self-help blog (recently named “one of the most popular personal development blogs" by Forbes). While struggling to find employment during the recession in the late 2000s, the husband-and-wife team started documenting their journey on their blog. What began as a small, daily habit turned into a successful website that attracts thousands of readers a month, and is now a full-time business, according to the duo. The couple even wrote a book: “1,000+ Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.” And they did it all by focusing on the small steps that were necessary to get there.
“We have to have goals. We have to have some milestones that we’re shooting for, something that’s out there, that’s like, ‘OK, this is what I want to create in my life,’” Marc tells NBC News Better. But the couple warns that focusing too much on the big goal can become overwhelming and lead to failure.
You can’t lift 1,000 pounds all at once, but you can lift one pound 1,000 times.
“Just focusing on the goal doesn’t produce actions, [it] doesn’t produce results,” explains Angel. “It’s the small steps that you’re doing every day that are getting you towards that goal.”
For example, if you want to get in shape, setting a goal of running 30 minutes a day is a big leap. Instead, try jogging five minutes a day. As jogging starts to feel normal, turn 5 minutes into 10 minutes. Over time, 10 minutes will become 20 minutes, 20 minutes will become 30 minutes, and so on.
If you’re not willing to take small steps to achieve your goal, it can be a sign you don’t want it as bad as you think, explains Angel.
“You like the idea of this goal, but you’re not willing to take the actionable steps you have to take to get there,” she says.
You have to accept a certain level of discomfort
The biggest challenge you’ll face in creating a new ritual is accepting the discomfort that comes with it, according to the coaches. It can take up to 60 days to turn a ritual into a well-formed habit, Marc says, but it’s worth it.
“It’s not comfortable to face the demons we are struggling with, not comfortable to overcome adversity of any kind, so that is something we ultimately want and have to do to grow and get beyond whatever it is that’s in our way.”
Good news: small rituals are easy to start and maintain
Starting small is key to overcoming the discomfort of something new, explains the couple.
“There’s no one who’s going to say ‘I can’t squeeze in five minutes here to get this done,’” says Angel.
To ease into a new ritual, the couple recommends setting a ‘trigger’ for the ritual. For example, if your goal is to write a book, coincide it with an already-established routine in your day. That could mean dedicating 10 minutes to writing after you’re finished eating dinner, or brushing your teeth.
“When you feel as though you have to squeeze in an hour and a half, it’s overwhelming … but if you say ‘OK, for five minutes I’m going to do this one task, it makes it more manageable, and it makes it so easy and so simple that it would be foolish not to do it,” Angel says.
Daily rituals will expand your idea of ‘normal’
After 60 days of working on a small ritual for 5 or 10 minutes a day, whether it’s working out, writing a book or building your own business, you’re going to see major progress, says Marc.
“[You] begin to identify as somebody who does this thing, and identity is a huge part of this — it’s changing your normal — it becomes normal for you to do this thing,” he explains. “You identify as being the person who’s getting to the gym, or taking that walk for 5 minutes a day.”
Rituals will renew your trust in yourself
When we fail at what we’re trying to achieve, it’s easy to lose faith in ourselves. Creating rituals can help us regain that trust, says Marc.
When we fail at what we’re trying to achieve, it’s easy to lose faith in ourselves. Creating rituals can help us regain that trust.
“If we can do something daily and we can look at our calendar and say, ‘Look at that I’ve checked off … a week’s worth of doing this thing that I wanted to do myself, to achieve something that’s meaningful to me,’ that feels incredible, and it helps you continue to take steps forward,” he says.
“Doing that, again, you slowly gain more confidence in yourself.”
Small, incremental changes can add up to huge changes quickly
“Whenever we’re trying to lift something large in life — we’re trying to bring something new and heavy — it goes back to goals sitting heavy on our shoulders,” Marc says.
If it seems impossible, he recommends switching your mindset: You can’t lift 1,000 pounds all at once, but you can lift one pound 1,000 times.
“You’re going to renew that confidence in yourself that gives you the ability to do whatever it is next that you want to achieve, and that goes back to the identity — changing the new normal. Now you know yourself to be someone who can do these things, and that makes a world of difference.”
How creating daily rituals can work for you
- In creating rituals, you are going to have to accept a certain level of discomfort. The biggest challenge you’ll face in creating a new ritual is accepting the discomfort that comes with it, but it’s worth it.
- The good news is, small rituals are easy to start and maintain. Starting small is key to overcoming the discomfort of something new. To ease your way into a new ritual, coincide it with an already existing one. For example, if you want to write a book, dedicate 10 minutes to writing after you eat dinner.
- Daily rituals will expand your idea of ‘normal.’ After two months of doing a ritual every day, it will begin to feel normal to you, and you will begin to identify as someone who does that ritual.
- Rituals will renew your trust in yourself. When we fail at what we’re trying to achieve, it’s easy to lose faith in ourselves, but creating rituals can help us regain that confidence.
- Small, incremental changes can add up to huge changes quickly. You can’t lift 1,000 pounds at once, but you can lift one pound 1,000 times. As your daily progress begins to add up, you’ll accomplish your goal and begin to identify as someone who gets things done.