Good habits

One Small Change Can Make a Big Difference

If you’re trying to make repairs to your relationship, or just trying to change bad habits or create better ones, one small change can make a big difference.

At this point, you may be waiting to read what the one thing is.  Don’t be disappointed but there isn’t one thing that works for all situations.  You have to find it yourself.  However, what you’re looking for is one small change you can make at the start of your day that sets the tone for the rest of the day.  The trick is the one small thing has to be easy to do, and it has to be associated with the change you want to make.

So for example, if you want to be more organized at home, the one small change might be that right after you push start on the coffee machine in the morning, you wipe down the counters for 30 seconds before you walk out of the kitchen.  It’s short, simple, and easy, just 30 seconds of cleaning.  But this starts to create a habit in your brain.  If you do this small thing enough, you may find yourself cleaning more during the 6 minutes it takes for the coffee to brew.  It feels pretty good to sit down with that first cup of coffee thinking you’ve already got something accomplished.  This can lead to a craving to feel this again. So, you might find yourself, straightening up the shoes by the front door as you leave for work.  

What if you’re trying to improve your relationship with your spouse?  Again, one small change can lead to a big difference.  Let’s say your spouse is the first one up in the morning so you decide to walk into the living room or kitchen and purposefully greet them with a cheerful “Goodmorning Beautiful/Handsome!”  Suppose this brightens their mood just enough that they are more pleasant to be around.  Or, maybe they decide to return the favor by doing something nice for you?  This one small change could make a big difference.  

Suppose you want to start getting in shape?  What if you do a couple of stretches in the morning while you’re waiting for the shower to warm up?  It can take 15 seconds and can start events in motion where you start to add a few more stretches and may you decide to park your car a little further from the door at work so you get some extra steps in.  Maybe you decide to take the stairs instead of the elevator.

The key is to think of one small easy to do change that you do earlier in the day.  Pick one that can set the tone for the day and try it out.  If it doesn’t change much, you haven’t lost much have you. 

Here are a few things my clients have come up with to set the tone for the day.

  1. Take 5 cleansing breathes before I get out of bed
  2. Do a few stretches in morning
  3. Put on my running/exercise shoes first thing
  4. Kiss my husband goodbye before I leave in morning, even if he’s still asleep
  5. Look and myself in mirror and smile
  6. Say to myself, “I’m going to make this a great day”
  7. Set out a cup and spoon for my spouse so they knew I was thinking about them when they go to get coffee in morning.
  8. Make a point to put my phone away across the room when my husband comes into the room so he knows he has my full attention
  9. Smile at my wife when I first see her
  10. Write a few sentences in my journal in the morning
  11. Write a short To Do list for my day
  12. Dress for morning online meetings

Gary Watson is a Solution Focused Therapist in Grand Rapids Michigan.  He provides counseling for couples, teenagers, and adults.  He can help with anxiety, depression, stress, college and work stress, relationship problems, and more.  For more information, please visit the website at