The 4-Step Tiny Little Actions Method
Now – before I reveal all, one more home truth:
There’s only one K.I.S.A. (knight in shining armour) you can rely on for saving you from a life you’re not fully engaged with. One Dame actually, and yes – that Dame IS YOU.
Which is kinda’ nice to know, don’t you think – it puts the full deck of cards in your hands. And yes – with control comes responsibility and work, but at least you know all the players.
But seriously: internalising that YOU alone hold the magic potion to feeling fulfilled in your life – whatever that means for you in each moment of your journey – that’s actually the first powerful step to living the TLA way.
You’re the C.E.O. of the business of YOU.
You’re your own best proponent, butt saver or ass-kicker…
No one else is coming to save you.
Let’s talk actions – here’s a familiar masterpiece :o)
In short: the TLA Method is a simple, quick and effective way to upgrade or update your behavior/s or mind-state/s.
It’s easy to grasp once, and then apply it as many times as you want to. It works even on a busy schedule. AND it can be fun if you choose to add the sparkle of a Totem.
Using a Totem is optional, but a powerful and unique to TLA way, to remind you of the change you decide to focus on. In a Wonder-Woman style transformation, it adds an element of fun, sparkle and beauty. You’ll be using your jewellery to inspire the behavior and mind-state you desire ;o)
But even if it sounds like magic, and sparkles like it, it’s not really magic.
It still relies on your active engagement, being clear on your intent, and
living from the integral fuel of your core values.
The Tiny Little Actions Method I’ll describe in full (and for free) below here, gives you a solid and fun way of showing up for yourself consistently. A way to take control & keep your promises to yourself. Others won’t have a clue. They’ll just marvel at your Super-Powers – your ability to keep your attention on the “prize”.
Here are the exact steps of the method.
- STEP 1: Choose & clarify your intent.
- STEP 2: Schedule your intent.
- STEP 3: Pick your Totem to help you focus on your intent.
- STEP 4: Do or DO NOT. There is no TRY.
STEP 1: Choose & clarify your intent.
This is your starting point (of course). If you already know what you want to change – great! – move on to Step 2.
If on the other hand you’re not quite clear at this moment, but you know something has to evolve, you have 3 easy options:
Option 1: An excellent place to start is by discovering your core values, and resolving to make them front and center to how you live each day.
Your core values are your lenses on your world. Knowing them and living solidly by them, will create a stronger sense of integrity and then wellbeing and enjoyment of life.
Here’s a quick quiz to help you find yours. When you’re done – come back here to continue with the method.
Option 2: Or you could pick a Tiny Little Action from our ready to do Tiny Inspirations.
Option 3: And finally, you could think of a mind-state you want to embody in specific contexts daily or occasionally. This option is particularly fun with the addition of our step 2 “secret component“.
Now you need to make sure you intent is clearly defined. Because being clear about what you want, gives you the map of where you’re going. Sounds obvious, but most of us don’t know how clear is clear enough.
Most people fail not because of lack of motivation, but because of lack of clarity and preparation.
Being clear about what you want to achieve at the end of your efforts means your intent fits these 4 criteria:
Now let’s go through each to make sure you have the best map for success :o)
A: Your goal has to be TINY: so small you can’t NOT show up to do it.
This one’s easy to understand. Don’t set a goal to run a marathon, if the only running you’ve done to date, is the bath water you prepped for yourself last night. Choose a daily 5-min run goal, and then see if marathoning is even a thing for you still :o)
Yes I can see your cogs ticking. And no – you won’t be a stagnant failure because you didn’t shoot for the moon. Don’t be afraid to break a bigger goal into chunks that can fit in a less than 2-min slot. If you do – you’re more likely to show up consistently enough to make it your new norm.
Often us Type-A personalities pick a goal the size of our original enthusiasm for the change we want to make. But science and experience has shown repeatedly, that our enthusiasm at the start of a new habit/behavior, grossly overshoots the amount of motivation we’ll have further on (after the honeymoon is over).
So the smart move is to pick a smaller goal right out the gate. I can promise you you will still get big gains, even if picking a measly 5min workout a day seems like a “losers” ambition.
You’ve heard of the concept of Kaizen in business – right? It’s the same principle here. Small and consistent incremental changes amass to big gains at the finish line. Oh – and I’m sure you’re familiar with the parable of the hare and the tortoise…
Pick your target destination, then break it down to a 2-3min chunk, and stick with that. If you find it so easy to show up for this commitment, then you’ll have no one stopping you from adding a little more to satisfy your ambition later.
B: Be VERY specific about your goal.
Define it so clearly that your 3 year old self would have no way to misinterpret what you mean.
This is for 2 main reasons: Firstly – by being specific you are also proving that you’re being very clear. And remember – clarity predicts success.
If you think you’ll “figure it out on the go” – you’re very likely to fail, because our lives are already quite intensely on the go, and everything that’s already established into your day as behavior, will ALWAYS take precedence to anything new you’re aiming to squeeze in! Guaranteed! Your brain is a very efficient machine – its major purpose is to make things easier to do, understand, plan, predict etc.
The second reason you’d want to be very specific – is because that tests your true understanding.
The lovely and smart Mr Feynman had a very smart learning tactic: he believed that if you can’t explain a concept simply enough so that a 3-year-old would understand you, you didn’t understand the concept well enough yourself.
A little bonus here: it’s worth stating your goal as if it’s already a reality: every day after brushing my teeth, I fill up my 2ltr bottle of water and drink it throughout the day to keep myself hydrated and healthy.
C: Is this goal something you URGENTLY want or need in your life?
This is a point very few behaviour and habit formation experts emphasise, and it’s a major point of failure for many aspiring life designers like you and I.
It harks back to our brains being efficiency monsters. We can only focus on so many things at a time. And naturally the “things” perceived as most urgent by us take the top slots.
The rest is left in the “if-I’ve-got-time” basket (and we all know when those items get looked at…).
So to save yourself the effort, and self disappointment, please be compassionate enough with yourself, evaluate your chosen goal’s true urgency for you right now, and only proceed with it if it’s something that’s a 8+ out of 10 on the urgency scale.
6 or below – leave it for later when it feels more precious.
Which leads us to the final criterion for a goal well set:
D: Is your intent emotional ENOUGH to stay the course?
This point goes hand in hand with point C. It just explores the field of WHY do you want to create this change in behavior or mind-state?
Is your deep Powerhouse WHY strong enough emotionally, to keep carrying you through to success?
Here is a quick and deep method to explore if you have a good enough reason to make a change permanently – use the 5X method to get deeper.
Your actions for step 1:
1. You should have an idea of what you want to change.
2. You should run that idea through the 4 criteria above to make sure it’s ready to plug into your TLA method.
3. Write your final idea in 2 sentences, and move on to step 2.
back up to the start of TLA Method
STEP 2: Schedule your intent.
Now it’s time to decide when is the best time to do your intended action. As we say in business – if it’s not in your Calendar – it doesn’t exist. Of course we can take a very philosophical view of this statement, but in the name of keeping things tiny and simple, making sure a new behavior fits into your given 24hrs is a solid way to make sure you’re at least reminded to do it. And it creates the space to at least consider doing what you committed to do.
This is a very logical step – nothing fancy here. You consider the change you want to make.
A: If you’re starting a new behavior.
If your intention is a behavior change or creation, then it’s easier to pin it to a specific time in your day, or an existing habit you already do.
Say you want to drink more water each day. You figure a good starting point is 2ltrs a day. You get yourself a nice BPA free bottle of 2 litres. You also think that if you can remember to fill your 2ltr bottle at the start of the day, then it’s easier to carry with you and make sure you finish it over the course of that day.
Now you look at what existing habits you have that happen on automation at the start of your day, and resolve to pin your new water drinking intention to the existing habit.
An easy pick here is your toothbrushing ritual. Most of us already have that slotted into our daily routine. So now you can say – each morning after I rinse my toothbrush, I’ll fill my 2ltr water bottle with drinking water for the day, and take it with me.
See how this step allows you to not only use an existing habit as a reminder, but it makes it easy to do.
The only other bits to consider here are to remember to leave your empty bottle near your toothbrush each time you finish drinking it for the day.
When you ‘re selecting your triggering behavior, you should ideally pick something you already do at the right time, place, and frequency of the new habit you want to create.
And the last little bonus I suggest here (just extra insurance against busyness induced forgetfulness) is to also add a calendar reminder for filling up your bottle. If you typically brush your teeth at 9am most mornings, it would be helpful to set the alarm to fill your water bottle up for that time.
This way you have double insurance: the triggering existing habit AND the alarm at the right time. If you still managed to ignore the prompts – you can no longer blame that on not having the time or forgetting ;o)
B: If you’re changing an existing behavior, or you want to create a mind-state.
Understand that these types of life upgrades are very context-specific. So they’re not easy to pin-down to a chronological slot in your calendar. It becomes difficult to have a sure way of remembering to do the new thing.
If you’re changing a behavior – instead of scheduling the change, you’d need to consider when that behavior typically happens or gets triggered. And then be alert enough to intervene with your intended change.
For example, if you typically say yes to any sweet treats the appear infront of you by well-meaning colleagues, but you want to start saying NO instead. Then write down all the instances this could happen, and how you would deal with the situation to end up saying NO instead.
And if you want to feel more of a certain mind-state, then consider when – in what contexts this needs to or is likely to happen, and how you would feel when that trigger occurs.
Here an example could be that you want to feel more confident to speak up in a meeting at work, or in general discussions, when you have an idea or an opinion. Write down the typical scenarios in which you want to feel more confident, and try to embody how you would feel instead.
In both these instances, because you don’t have a consistent time or trigger as a reminder, this is where step 3 becomes the power ingredient that no other habit creation method talks about actively.
Now let’s explore this ingredient, and then we’ll be ready to form our intention statement.
Your actions for step 2:
A: If you’re creating a new behavior, schedule it into your life as often as it needs to occur, anchoring it to an existing habit you already do in a similar time, location & frequency to your new habit.
Consider adding a reminder for this in an appropriate for your life way – your phone alarm, email, an alarm on your watch, a note on your wall, whatever you know you would not ignore most of the time :o)
B: If you’ll be changing an existing habit – write down the instances you’d need to intervene in, and how you will change.
C: If you want to trigger a new mind-state – write down what specifically you want to feel more of and why. How will you embody this new state in those instances?
back up to the start of TLA Method
STEP 3: Pick your Totem to help you focus on your intent.
Firstly this step is optional. BUT consider it seriously because it’s potently powerful.
It gives you a way to have a bit of fun with this process. And just like with Wonder-Woman’s shield – it gives you a way to focus and remember what your “mission” is at the moment.
I’ve no doubt you’ve already experienced this Totem effect with some of your jewellery items in your collection. If you’re partnered romantically, you may have exchanged rings that anchor and trigger the emotional value of the commitment they signify.
Or you may have a piece of jewellery you bought for yourself as a symbol of a milestone, or other significant event in your life that you don’t want to forget or take for granted.
And some of us may have a set of earrings that we associate with a very significant mind-state change. In fact like the special gear of a Super-Hero – the moment we don the earrings – we just change: to a party mode, or another sophistication level, or to a different IQ bracket – you know what I’m talking about right!
So in the context of our intent setting – one of the main reasons we fail to sustain an action we really really want to implement, is because our busy lives tend to take over. We’re thrust into doing mode and all new stuff falls by the side!
Having a Totem that’s been assigned to a specific intent, can be your only trigger to remind you to show up consistently enough to make sh1t happen. It could be a solid anchor to focus you on your commitment to make that change.
You look at the Totem – you feel the feeling you wanted to feel more of.
You look at the Totem – you remember to be more like THAT or THIS… non-negotiably…
The Totem you pick can be something you already own, or you can get a special new one that you connect with for this specific intent.
Choose ANYTHING that resonates and reminds you of your intent. That’s the only thing that matters: that when you look at the Totem you’ve chosen for the task at hand – you FEEL the tug of its look to the meaning you will assign to it. That’s as simple as it gets.
Your actions for step 3:
1. If you choose to use a Totem for your Tiny Little Actions method, then pick the Totem you will use.
2. Then decide how this Totem will trigger and remind you to do what you committed to do, or to show up the way you said you would.
In the last step we’ll put all of the things we’ve discovered so far, in a neat cohesive statement that will guide you through the change journey ahead :o)
back up to the start of TLA Method
STEP 4: Do or DO NOT. There is no TRY.
… said Yoda to Luke Skywalker :o) – sweetly appropriate for our last step in the TLA process.
Here’s a fun experiment (indulge me for a minute longer please):
Put a pen on the desk in front of you. Now TRY to pick it up… NO don’t pick it up – TRY to!
I know – it’s obvious that you can’t pick up anything by just trying. Those Jedi mind tricks don’t work with us mere mortals, right.
That’s why this final 4th step is about DOING. Because we can all research, plan and prepare for trying to make something new happen in our life. And the buzz can be awesome. AND we could make a lifetime out of looping inside that buzz state.
But it’s the taking the doing step – that’s what makes the difference. That’s when we have the chance to test our resolve. To fail a little. To learn from those misses. And to truly grow in a way that fortifies us, and builds a life that makes us eager to dive in and do again :o)
This step is not simply the hardest – it’s the scariest.
It’s about moving into discomfort and staying into that current until you get what you ventured out of the norm for.
But it’s also the step that makes you feel most alive. It’s the step that elevates you.
First thing here is to make a commitment. TO DECIDE: is to cut yourself off from any other possibilities. And you do that through clarity. So let’s get you clear!
You have an intent from step 1. You’ve decided when this new action will happen, and how it will feel (step 2). You chose a Totem that resonates emotionally every time you pick it up or put it on (from step 3).
Now take a blank sheet of paper and write down your specific intent in max 2 sentences, stating it clearly, and as if it’s already happening – it’s a reality.
Every day when I feel a tight anxious feeling in my chest, I’ll look at my JOY ring and without self-negotiation, I’ll look at how the instance I’m anxious about can give me joy, or a reason to be joyous through gratitude. Also – every time I look at my JOY ring, I’ll stop for a moment and think of something that makes me feel joy/gratitude – and really FEEL that in my body :o)
Your actions for step 4:
I took the liberty to create a simple Intention Statement Certificate you can use not to make things official with yourself.
1. You can choose to print it out, fill it in by hand, and stick it somewhere where you’d see it often.
2. Or you can fill the digital version here, and set it as a desktop screen, or your phone’s background, or on your watch face screen?
Figure out what would suit you best – the point is to make the deal official with your self, and to have that visible daily to keep you on intent.
back up to the start of TLA Method
A word about failure… and your options.
Of course, you don’t need me to tell you that you’ll fail the first randomly elected couple of times or more… that’s ok. It’s a symbol of being brave enough to even try. A healthy perspective is to embrace the possibility of failing as a signal that you’re getting closer to succeeding. And more importantly – get excited about the opportunities to learn and get more resilient.
You’re taking very tiny actions here, so the failures will kick you in the gut, but it won’t kill you you know.
So celebrate and enjoy your stumbles. Congratulate yourself for doing and taking another step. If instead of fearing failure you embrace it as part of the feedback loop on your way to success (and actually neurologically speaking that’s exactly how you learn), then you have so many opportunities to get excited in life.
Which leads me to your options now that you’re fully armed with the Tiny Little Actions Method. That’s of course up to you. In my experience of 15 odd years of doing this, I know most people go no further than this page… I don’t mean this particular one, but what it represents.
Especially when the info that’s excited you comes for free. It’s highly unlikely you’ll take action right now, or maybe a little later. I’ve tried to make the method as simple, and quick to grasp and implement as possible. But we’ll still find a reason not to take action right now.
It’s not you and it’s not me. It’s just a sign of being human. So before we “break up”, here’s a deal I’d hope you take me up on…
A deal so good, you can’t ignore it :o)
If the TLA Method fires you up in your belly, then you’d want to find a way to transform this excitement into real life results.
You’ll either be the go-it-alone type, to take this page and make shit happen on your own, gust dipping in and out of a resource for ideas and the occasional specific guidance, as you learn and gain your own experience with the TLA method.
Or, you’ll be the go-it-with-a-buddy type. Where anything is greater with good, appropriate or competent company.
Arguably there’s also a hybrid version, depending on your circumstances.
Either way – if you optin to my free newsletter, you’ll have the best of all the versions. I realise this is a bit ‘o a big promise, and no, I’m not offering to be your everything. But by optin to stay in touch, you’ll get:
- a buffet-style choice of just-in-time type of material.
- I’ll be sending a good mix of mindset focused articles.
- Or a succinct Tiny Inspiration post – which is a single TLA, explained briefly, and then mapped out as an actionable process in a Pocket Buddy.
- Or you can come ask me specific questions.
- Or you could ask me to do a bespoke tailored workshop for you or your team on a specifically relevant topic.
Just giving you options, that way you can take the info that you feel is best as you need it, and an easy way to stay in touch.
Now over to you to decide :o)
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P.S. Never lose your colour & shine…