The Small Habits That Make You Grow

I have a confession to make. I have been an addict for years. On daily basis I could drink half a liter. Sometimes already at breakfast.

Until January 1st 2020.

I said to myself.

Ula. This is harming you. It’s super unhealthy. No more. It has to end now.

And since that day I did not take a sip of Coca Cola ever again. As a matter of fact, I did not hold any fizzy drink in my hand since then. Only sparkling water.

We all have daily habits that shape us and impact us in smaller and bigger way. What is your morning routine? What is the first thing you reach for when you wake up?

A glass of water? A hand of the person you love? Or your cell phone?

Very often we start a new year with big commitments. Eating more healthy, finding more time for ourselves, exercising more regularly. As a result, gyms fill up for the first two weeks and then… more of the same.

The thing is, life is not a row of big decisions, those happen just few times, if at all, during the year. In reality, it consists of small, every-day choices we do. I am a big fan of starting small and dosing amibitions.

When I decided to improve my flexibility and went first time to the class, I felt so old and stiff I thought I am going to cry. Coach told me to come at least three times a week to see the results. Sweating and red from the effort, I looked around at all those girls 15-20 years younger than me, rubbed my exhausted joints, collected my self-pride from the floor together with the gym matt… and told her no. I will come once a week. She shrugged her shoulders. But going to the studio once a week was not a big life change, this is as much time as I could find at that point and it was as much of quite a heavy effort that my body could take. At least I stayed committed, I thought. However, she was right. I did not see much improvement and kept myself at the back of the class. The thing was, I was not doing it to ceate some zero-to-hero-Instagram story, I was doing it for myself, so it did not matter to me what others thought. It was my hour every Saturday – just for me. Two months later I found another time slot during the week when I could come to the class. After couple more months, I found the third.

Now if I do not find time to go to the class, both my body and soul are screaming for it. It is coded within me. So, I go to satisfy this need that was created through time and regularity. It is not cautious anymore.

The same was with writing.

It was my 2021 New Year’s resolution. Find one hour a week to write. I agreed with my husband, it will be my one hour a week on Friday morning (it was still weekend here in Dubai back then). It was not always easy, sometimes life stood in the way but at the end of the year I proudly looked at over 40 articles I wrote and thought, if I set up a goal of writing those many pages, I would never be able to stay committed. It would seem overwhelming and simply too much. But that one hour a week was not scary. Therefore, I managed to keep it up. Not only that, this small habit created a need in me, that only grew. In order to make space for more writing, I had to give up other stuff.

And, step by step, I did. So please do not ask me if I have watched this or the other new series… I have not. I also struggle to find time to socialize and see people – I have line up of friends I would love to meet more often. But one thing with any habit I realized: nothing comes for free.

I had to say goodbye satisfying sugar rush and bubbly taste in my mouth to welcome less acid in my stomach (among other things).

Had to swallow not being able to contribute to discussions around some exciting content friends and family have seen recently and apparently, I also ‘absolutely’ ought to see. But I welcomed my first book.

That is the trade-off we all need to make with any habit we want to change.

My recipe.

Start small.

Identify the trade-off. It’s the price you have to pay. The reward that is waiting.

Do a mental check: are you ready for this price?

Focus and keep your eye just on this one, small thing you decided for.

Good luck.

PS. This blog post took me exactly 45 mins to write 7am on Monday morning before going to work. Yes, I had to get up 5:30am to manage everything but I went to bed my mum’s style – at 9:30pm 🙂

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  1. Rodrigo E. Rebagliati January 2, 2023 at 5:15 pm

    I loved your article, Ula! And identifying the trade-off has been one of the most difficult parts of some things I’ve done. Sometimes were tempted to want things that cannot happen simultaneously. Like when trying to close a suitcase that’s already full. If we want to something else in, we need to take something out. And, eventually, if we’re lucky, it may fit in the carry-on.
    Another thing I related this to are the small things we practice everyday to build a good habit, so when we cannot think straight (e.g., emergencies, reflexes, etc) that’s we we do. Repeated good behaviors lead to good habits, and good habits are always positive for us.

    1. Ula Gudel January 6, 2023 at 4:06 am

      thank you for sharing your perspective, Rodrigo 🙂 You are absolutely right, that life consists of that small daily decisions that, over time, shape us for who we are.

  2. Shah January 3, 2023 at 11:36 am

    Good luck, Ula.. Always a pleasure reading what you write.. And great job on kicking away the soft drink habit and focusing on your well being! Wishing you all the health and wealth in the world…

    Looking forward to this journey of yours!

    1. Ula Gudel January 6, 2023 at 4:05 am

      Thank you so much Shah for your constant cheering 🙂 Right back at you!