I often write and speak about the great (and proven) benefits of noticing and appreciating the good things in our lives, but today I’d like to come at things a little differently. Today let’s pay some attention to what we’re not so happy about.

Think of something you’re dissatisfied with in your life. 

Are you too busy to spend enough time with family and friends? Are you unhappy about your weight or your financial situation? Is getting the kids up and off to school on time a big headache every day? Is your job bringing you down?  It doesn’t matter if it’s big or small, just think of something that stands in between you and greater happiness.

If you’ve just come up with a whole long list of them in no time flat, choose one for now. You can come back to as many as you want to later.

Okay, you can do this in your head, but it works a lot better if you grab a pen and a piece of paper. I promise you can get it done in five minutes on the back of a grocery receipt if that’s what you can put your hands on.

Quickly write down five ways to complete this sentence. Don’t spend any time thinking of the “best” answers or evaluating what you’ve come up with. You’re not going to try to put them all into practice. Just get creative and jot down whatever short answers comes to mind.

To make this thing I’m unhappy about 2% better, I could . . .


Done? Great. Now write down five more. Focus on small changes that will have just a 2% impact, not great big changes to fix everything. 

To make this thing I’m unhappy about 2% better, I could . . .


So what did you come up with? Getting the kids to bed ten minutes earlier? Calling for take-out once a week instead of twice? Taking a half hour walk on Saturday mornings with your or at lunch time with a colleague?

Okay, so maybe none of those things will transform your life on their own. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth doing. Here’s why:

    • Small changes can be easier to make and a whole lot easier to sustain than big ones.
    • If we aren’t willing to make any changes until we come up with the one big miracle that will fix it all, we’ll spend a lot of time waiting – and miss out on a lot of little things that together can make life wonderful.
    • When we get in the habit of making small changes for a happier life, the cumulative effect of those changes can in fact be transformative over time.

So choose one of your ideas and commit to putting it into action right away – one thing that will have just a 2% impact on one problem. And complete one more sentence:

To make my life 2% better, I commit to doing this one thing this week: _____________________________.

Then do it.

And when you’re ready, do one more, and perhaps one more after that.

If you feel like there’s still more benefit to gain, think of some more 2% fixes for the same problem and make more small changes. Before you know it, those small changes will combine to make a big impact and you’ll be ready to address another area of your life that could use some attention.

Developing the habit of noticing what is making you unhappy, thinking through what you can do about it, and taking a series of manageable steps to address it can truly help you to transform how you experience your life.

After all, happiness isn’t a test that we pass by getting a few big things right or fail by getting a few big things wrong. It’s the sum of everything that we think, do, and experience. And the more we choose to appreciate what’s working well in our lives and address what isn’t, the happier we’ll be — even (or especially) if we do it a little bit at a time.



Wallace-259 5x7Lynda Wallace is a highly sought-after career, life, and executive coach who meets with local clients in her sunny office in Montclair, NJ, and with clients from around the world by phone and video. She wrote the best-selling book A Short Course in Happiness, and teaches her evidence-based coaching methods to hundreds of coaches every year. Lynda spent twenty years as a senior executive at Johnson & Johnson, holds an MBA from the Wharton School, and is a Certified Positive Psychology Coach.

If you’d like to learn more, Lynda invites you to explore the site, scroll down to sign up for her free newsletter, and get in touch to set up a complimentary consultation.





How to Raise Your Self-Esteem: The Proven, Action-Oriented Approach to Greater Self-Respect and Self-Confidence, by Nathaniel Branden, Ph.D., Bantam, 1988

Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment, by Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D., McGraw Hill, 2007