Everyone wants to improve their life. But the farther behind we get, and the more obvious it becomes that we really have to start making stuff happen (like five years ago), we adopt the mindset that only crazy-hardcore commitments can make a difference for us. Which paradoxically keeps us from making any change at all.

Because when we drink the hardcore Kool-Aid, this coming from a recovering hardcore Kool-Aid-aholic, we always let ourselves down. Then we trash-talk ourselves for not being perfect, — and we impose scarier and scarier promises on ourselves until we mentally collapse under the pressure and/or look for a comfortable hole to crawl in and die.

There’s a good chance you’re familiar with this process….especially if you’re the New Year’s resolution type.

But really, massive change doesn’t have to be so hard. Or complicated.

We just have to shift our focus away from the glamorous resolutions that never end up happeningmeditate for an hour a day! do yoga 7 days a week! never eat carbs again!—and commit to the plain, unsexy things that make life better in every moment.

Here are three such unsexy habits that have resulted in my *hottest* streak of personal growth yet:

*Sorry, I couldn’t not try to make personal improvement sound a little sexy.


If I keep a list of people to pray for, and start my mornings out with 5-10 minutes of connecting to a higher power, I act more selflessly, feel more connected to my purpose and the people I love, and generally act like the best version of myself. Prayer is easily the best investment of time I’ve ever made.

Still, I’m human; and I fell out of this habit towards the end of last year. Luckily I had good a friend point me back in the right direction before things got too messy. (It did get messy, lest you doubt.)

My girl Rashida shared a pro-found spiritual experience that inspired her to pray every morning. – Then when she told me about all the amazing changes that happened through regular prayer, and I was all, ‘Shoot, I really need to get back on it gurrl…’ – Rashida told me to get back on it, ‘boii‘.  So I did.

That was at the end of November. And as of writing this, – continuing my morning prayer routine, of course, – the first month of 2019 has been the most inspired and connected month of my life. And I always trace my good decisions back to the simple habit of morning prayer. 

(Even if you don’t believe in a higher power, prayer automatically makes you a more mindful person, which helps you make better decisions!)

2-Constantly asking myself, ‘what’s the right decision?’

Good things happen when we make good decisions. (Oy Vey! – the basic stuff we forget!) But even though most of us want to make better decisions daily, we often lose sight of our responsibility to make the best decisions we can in the present moment. – which is the only moment we can control. Unless you’re Hermione Granger.

That’s why I’ve gotten in the habit of asking myself, “What’s the right decision?” –And I do it as often as possible.

It’s pretty easy to do; one could call it ‘unsexy’. (I think it’s hot.) But still, I can link this question to countless good decisions that have led to me being more creative and more productive, more connected, and more of the person I want to be.

I was taking a walk last week, for instance, when I came up to a street where some elderly friends live. These are dear people I like to visit every once in a while, to give them laughter and company. (Sometimes I’m the only one who laughs at my jokes…) But that day I was rushing; and I definitely didn’t have time for them.

Approaching the street, I told myself that a visit was out of the question. But when I got to the street corner, I asked myself, “What’s the right thing to do?”- and I took a hard right without even blinking. Because connecting with them was unquestionably the right thing to do.

And even though it was just a 15 minute visit, it was such a pleasure to see them, and we shared so much laughter and fellowship that I could just tell I made a huge impact on their day. Easily one of the best decisions of all time.

When I resumed my walk, I reflected back on my decision and thought, “That’s exactly the kind of man I want to be.” And even though it was a small action, it quintupled my self esteem; which resulted in a chain reaction of better and better choices that continue to this day.

All you have to do is start asking your self the little, unsexy question:

‘What’s the right decision?’

And ask often!!!


Nothing is quite as small and unsexy as listening.

I mean, you’re one gene away from doing nothing when you listen. But it’s really not nothing; – because when you put your monkey brain to rest, and devote your full attention to what the other person is saying, you give them the gift of being understood: which is the gift of connection.

Feeling more connected with the people you love will automatically make this the best year ever. But it gets better.

Because by actively listening, which means consciously pushing aside the desire to say something really interesting, – we know, it’s really interesting and important, – you’ll begin to hear subtle-yet-inspiring things which resonate with you in a way that JUST DOESN’T HAPPEN when you’re chomping at the bit and waiting for a chance to spew the super interesting sh*t you already know.

Listening is crazy underrated.

And when you act on the bits of wisdom that you hear, because you actually listened, and didn’t just wait to talk, you will finally experience the drastic change you’ve been craving*. It just takes time. But the time feels like nothing when you’re enjoying the fruits of rich and deep connection with amaze-balls people.

So use them ears, y’all!

*I’ve experienced so much of this personal-growth-via-listening over the past few months that I’ve actually considered trading my tongue for an extra ear. And my relationships/overall feeling of connection to others has improved so much since I’ve become an earnest listener that I’d consider parting with the tongue for free—if I knew it was going to a good home, of course. Message me if you’re interested.


  • Daniel Dowling

    Performance Coach, Writer for Greatist, Fitbit.com, Mindbodygreen, and FastCompany.

    Dan Dowling, here. I was the poster child for lost millennials - couldn’t keep a job…addicted to relationships…constantly checking social media and email. But when I got hungry enough for success as a writer, I gave up my distracted lifestyle and adopted one daily goal that changed my life forever: Do. Your. Best. Today, five years later, I’m a productivity coach who’s published on the world’s biggest sites (including Entrepreneur, Fast Company and Mindbodygreen), and I’m transforming lives through the best-effort, zero-distraction lifestyle that worked so well for me. Come and and learn how to always give your best at Millennial Success!