Graduation is always a time of transition, with newly minted graduates optimistically but anxiously heading out into an uncertain world to make their futures. But there’s never been a year like this one. The challenges facing new graduates this year are, to invoke the overused-but-accurate word that describes our collective pandemic experience, unprecedented. The world the class of 2021 is inheriting will be defined by the same kind of constant change and disruption that reshaped their last year of school. That’s our new normal. And it’s why Thrive Global’s new book, Your Time to Thrive: End Burnout, Increase Well-being, and Unlock Your Full Potential with the New Science of Microsteps, is the perfect gift for the new grad in your life — or anybody who’s at a turning point in their lives, or who simply wants to improve their well-being.
Graduation, like any big life transition, can be overwhelming. The decisions all feel so momentous that it’s hard to know where to start. Your Time to Thrive is made for this moment. It’s a whole-human life plan and behavior change system that will enhance every aspect of your physical and mental well-being, performance, resilience and relationships. Yes, that’s a big, ambitious destination, but the way to get there is all about small steps. We’ve broken everything in the book down into the smallest unit of action possible: Microsteps. These are small, science-backed steps we can start taking immediately to build habits that improve our lives.
Of course, new grads want to take over the world — and I hope they do, it could use some work. But the only way to do that is by taking it one day — and one Microstep — at a time. I often get asked what advice I’d give my younger self. And in addition to passing along the fact that certain hairstyles might one day come to seem hopelessly dated, I’d tell my younger self that starting small is the key to realizing all the big goals and ambitions I had. I really do believe I would have accomplished just as much — with far less stress and burnout — if I had taken time along the way to recharge, check in with myself and connect with others using the Microsteps we’ve compiled in these pages. As Marina Khidekel, Thrive’s head of content development, writes in the introduction, “There’s a reason we say they’re ‘too small to fail’: the science shows that it’s precisely these tiny steps that help us build habits, which over time lead to big, meaningful improvements in our lives.
We are, as the saying goes, creatures of habit. According to a study from Duke University, around 45% of our everyday actions are made up of habits. So our lifestyle, and whether or not it’s serving us, is really a reflection of our habits. When we change our habits, we can change our lives. But as anyone who’s ever made ambitious New Year’s resolutions knows, creating new habits isn’t so easy.
What the science shows, though, is that it is possible — if we start small. Even the smallest interventions can have a big impact. For example, neuroscience shows that we can course-correct from stress in just 60 to 90 seconds. It’s why one of my favorite Microsteps is to take just a minute and focus on the rising and falling of our breath. This activates our parasympathetic nervous system, which lowers our levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Your Time to Thrive has hundreds of Microsteps you can take to create a system that works for you, but it’s also filled with stories of people from all walks of life who swear by the power of Microsteps in their own lives. There’s Tom Brady (turn off all your electronic devices a half hour before you go to sleep) and Hoda Kotb (before bed, read a few pages from an inspiring book). There’s Marina’s favorite (“Not checking my phone for at least one minute after waking. Instead I take a few deep breaths and set my intentions for the day”).
My favorite sleep Microstep is to pick a time at night when you turn off your devices — and gently escort them out of your bedroom. Our phones are repositories of everything we need to put away to allow us to sleep — our to-do lists, our inboxes, the never-ending demands of the day. So something as simple as charging our phones outside our bedrooms can make a big difference — by allowing us to sleep better, we’ll make better decisions and be more productive.
The past year has been challenging for everybody. Many of us are simply trying to stay physically and mentally healthy, and be the best partners, parents, friends or students we can be in a historically difficult time. The idea of making enormous life changes seems hopelessly unrealistic. But taking a step that’s too small to fail is definitely doable. Over time, they’ll add up and lead to meaningful improvements in our overall well-being. And as we begin to emerge from the pandemic — rekindling in-person relationships, returning to workplaces, traveling, etc. — Microsteps will continue to be the unit of change we need.
Graduation season is one of my favorite times of the year — and that’s because I love commencement speeches. I love reading them, attending them and giving them. It’s a time when we collectively consider big questions about how we define success, how to meet our goals and how to live a life of purpose and meaning. We impart wisdom to the next generation. But wisdom is really just knowledge in action. And as valuable as commencement speeches are — and I’ll watch many of them this year, even the virtual ones — there’s no one speech that’s going to prepare the class of 2021 for the world that awaits them. Your Time to Thrive is, in a way, a commencement speech they can take with them — an inspiring, action-oriented blueprint for living and working at a time when it’s needed most. Finally, it’s a book that meets the moment with no judgments and a sense of celebration — for every Microstep that moves us forward. As Marina writes, “The practice of Microsteps isn’t meant to be a sink-or-swim proposition. It’s a journey, and one that you really can’t get wrong.”
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