8 Tiny Ways to Improve Your Life – A lesson from Alastair Humphreys

Estimated Reading Time: 10 minutes

Many of the regular readers know of Alastair Humphreys. Motivational speaker and the man who cycled around the world for four years, he has also written some great articles. One of which I will like to share with you today, as I thought it was fantastic. In it he talks about the idea of small steps giving you big changes in your life and your outlook of it. In the same way that you can get the same out of a microadventure as you can a full on around the world expedition.

In that same vein, interior designers always say start with your bedroom in redecorating, as it is the first thing you see and the last thing at night and because of this can have a huge effect on how you feel as you go to bed and wake up.

Here is an extract from Alastair’s post “8 tiny ways in which I’m improving my life” (original here). Additional bolding of words added:

First the list, then the explanations:

Time
TV
Shower
Photo
Run
Read
Press ups
Pause

1. Time. If you get up a mere 10 minutes earlier each day, and go to bed 10 minutes later you will have created for yourself 5 extra days per year. That’s almost one extra year, gratis, in a lifetime. How much would you give for 5 extra days each year? You don’t need to pay: this is time for free. Time to be used. Free time!

2. Turn off your TV. Give this a try: do not turn on your TV for a day. Come home from work and use those evening hours to do something different, something creative. Once you’ve mastered a day without TV, try a week…

3. Have a shower. Sound advice indeed! But take a cold shower every day. It will save the planet, save you cash, and it feels great too! It sounds unpleasant, and the first step is pretty daunting. But once you’re in you realise it’s not so bad. And you feel so good once you have finished. Apart from being a great metaphor for much of what I try to do in life, a cold shower also sets you up well for the day. If you can endure something bad just moments after leaving your warm, cozy bed then the rest of the day will be a breeze in comparison! I’ve been doing this for a month or two now and reckon I have mastered it. I’ve now moved to showering outside under the hosepipe as my way of ramping up the challenge a bit, but I can appreciate that that may make me sound like a bit of a weirdo! Whether that will last into the winter remains to be seen…

4. Take a Photograph Everyday for a Year. I began doing this as my New Year’s Resolution for 2009. I started it to improve my photography skills. But I have come to value the challenge for the daily dollop of self-discipline it requires and because it forces me, however dull my day, to look around for something positive or interesting or beautiful. There is always something.

5. Run. Go for a run before breakfast. If you hate running go for a walk, or a bike ride. I find this a bit like the cold shower: when I wake up I don’t want to get out of my nice bed and go running. But I never ever regret it once I’ve done it. It doesn’t need to be long, just long enough to stir the blood, blow away the cobwebs, freshen you up, and remind you that you are alive and need to get on with life! If you don’t have time then just get off the Tube or bus one stop earlier and walk the rest of the way to work.

6. Read. Use the time you’ve saved by getting up 10 minutes earlier and by turning off your TV to read more. Most of us want to read more books. But by setting myself a quantifiable target (to read one book of fiction and one book of non-fiction every month) I have become more focused about getting stuck into all those books I want to read. Need some ideas of books to read? Try the 100 Greatest Adventure Books of all time for starters. Or one of my books!

7. Press ups. Another metaphor for my lessons from the road (think big, start small): if you do two press ups today, then three tomorrow (and so on), then eventually you’ll be able to do 100 consecutive press-ups… Sound interesting?

8. Pause. When I boil the kettle I used to do what most normal people do: see how many press ups I could do before the kettle clicked. (Waiting for toast to pop I would do sit ups, and I can do ten chin ups on my kitchen bar in the time the espresso machine takes to make a cup of coffee.)
But now I have a different tactic. Now when I am waiting for the kettle I take a seat, close my eyes, sit very still and just pause. I spend so much of my time rushing around that, to my surprise, I have come to really value these brief pinpricks of calm in my day. I try to empty my mind, but of course it continues racing on. Yet in the couple of minutes of quiet I feel my mind really starting to settle and to sift through the maelstrom for the good ideas, the important thoughts for the day.

If you like to read more from Alastair Humphreys, check out these other posts and his blog.

Alastair Humphreys – Do Lecture – 4 Years Around the World on a Bike

Alastair Humphreys – The Why of Adventure

Books by Alastair on Amazon:

2 thoughts on “8 Tiny Ways to Improve Your Life – A lesson from Alastair Humphreys

  1. Peter Jordan

    Stopped watching TV but now addicted to the internet, about 6 hours a day. Can’t cold shower but have cut down to save the planet, girlfriend now sleeps in spare room. I take pictures for a living so can’t find the enthusiasm to do it for fun. Can’t get up early or go for a run because mostly hungover, although do take the bike out on the odd evening and although it’s difficult getting out the door, it’s great when i do. I buy books but they remain mostly unread because of addiction to internet, took me six weeks to read AH’s “Ten Lessons From The Road ” and it only took 20 mins to read it. Never tried the press ups, but it’s now on my mind.
    Just reached the 6th hour so off to bed.
    Peter.

    Reply

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