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Boost Self-Improvement Results with 20 Minutes a Day Exercises

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”  – Aristotle

Ever since I was old enough to understand a few things about the world, the rule of cause-effect and reward- punishment, I already knew how to get better.

If I did not get a “very good” grade on my test paper, I already thought I needed to improve to get better output.

If I wanted to get a toy, I had to do well in convincing my parents why I deserved it. This was the rule of thumb until I grew up as an adult.

You get something only if you tried, and only if you improved.  This is true for many of us no matter what age or status we are at this present moment.

This is not to say that the world has brainwashed us with a carrot and stick system.Rather, it is also a reality we must accept that even for ourselves, we will never change our bad habits if we do not make the effort.

In a world where we are bombarded with techniques for self-improvement, we become overwhelmed and even wonder if we would have time for them.

However, there are three basic exercises that we can implement and they don’t even take an hour of your day.

I hope these simple exercises can give you a jump start of changing for the better in 2013.

Relaxation (10 Minutes a Day)

An article from the University of Maryland Medical Center mentioned how relaxation techniques can help cope with stress and promote long term health by slowing down the body and quieting the mind.

These exercises help refocus the mind and allow body awareness thereby connecting the body and mind together. This leads to a better disposition for self-improvement.

One such technique is breathing. Anyone can do this anywhere. As a daily ritual, the preferred environment is quiet and private to avoid distractions.

“Place one hand on chest and the other on your belly.  Take a slow, deep breath, sucking in as much air as you can. As you’re doing this, you’re doing this, your belly should push against your hand. Hold your breath and then slowly exhale”  –  Relaxation Techniques, University of Maryland Medical Center.

I learned this technique, of all places, while attending a church sermon.  The priest used the method before preaching to his congregation.

What I learned in this experience is to allow my mind to float away and remove all worries. I still do this when I feel stressed or when I simply can’t sleep.

Reflection (10 Minutes a Day)

Reflection or meditation has started becoming a popular form of achieving life balance.  Though it has long been associated with religious practices, it has also been recognized to have psychological benefits.

Alcoholics Anonymous and other support groups follow the practice of personal moral inventory of their resentments and character defects to achieve personal change.

Allen McConell, professor at Miami University wrote in Psychology Today that to increase our chances of reaching our goals, we must obtain self-awareness to be able to see where we are between our current behavior and our ideal.

Interestingly, one of my life gurus, Stephen Covey, also recommended a kind of reflection as an effective way to get the best results from his books. He would advocate as he did in the 8th Habit, to read his books as ‘a yearlong personal growth and development program’.

Usually, reflection can start by using a book, your personal notes or your dream board/long-term goals.  Looking at these, take a moment of silence and ask yourself:

  • When reading a book (daily): reflect on specific areas you have read and see what strikes to you as relevant.  See how this connects to your goals.
  • When reviewing personal notes (daily on its own or along with a book): reflect on what you have done so far (for the day or for the week) and how it connects to achieving your goals. Be more specific on what you can do for the day to help you achieve this and connect this with your weekly goals or to-do list.
  • When looking at your dream board or your long-term goals (weekly): reflect and identify which specific area you want to work on for the week and what specific actions you have done so far and what else can be done to achieve this. Create a to-do list for the week.

Re-Telling (20 Minutes, Once a Week)

This one is preferably done once a week, and it can replace the reflection exercise.

In the Manifesto of Confident People, I wrote about the reason why one needs to express and share his self-improvement journey with a trusted relative or friend:

  • Encouragement: this allows you to get an affirmation of what you are doing and ensure that you are on the right track.
  • Accountability: this hooks you to be responsible for your goals and therefore get a push of what you need to do and avoid getting lost in laziness or procrastination.

You need to get a good support system if you really want to take your self-improvement seriously.

There is no way anyone can go a step further than organizing this for himself. There are 3 things you need to consider when searching for a good support partner:

  • Trustworthiness: someone with whom you have emotional confidence and you believe wants to sincerely help you.
  • Empathy: someone who has a level of experience in the same issue in order to relate to you or at least have worked in a similar self-improvement project.
  • Method of meeting: you need to determine the mode of meet-up (online or face-to-face).  This does not have to be a formal set-up.  It can be done over a cup of coffee, a chat at the park or a call over Skype.

The Plan

Do at least one exercise daily as appropriate.  Typically, in a week you would do 6 days of reflection and relaxation and 1 day of re-telling.

It does not take a huge amount of time to do this but it will give you a huge lot of personal change.  Of course these exercises only serve as the first part of the plan.  You need to execute your resolutions and to-do’s, to make them work.

These exercises serve as a booster to your self-improvement plan because it predisposes you to perform better and stick to your goals.

Are you ready to plunge in for a real change? Which exercises are you doing already? Which ones do you find to be a challenge?

Written on 1/11/2013 by Rob Leonardo. Rob is launching the Manifesto of Confident People Series for his blog as a guiding principle for everyone who wants to improve and keep their self-confidence alive. The series culminates with a challenge to readers –  to launch their own personal projects of change through FREE online mastermind sessions. Photo Credit:
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