January 5, 2017
In 1993, Rudy Giuliani was elected Mayor of New York City. On of his main concerns was improving his citizens’ quality of life, and reducing crime.
Giuliani didn’t start off by focusing on high-end criminals. He started at the bottom of the scale, and with William J. Bratton as his police commissioner, they tackled low-level crime first. Faster arrests and speedy background checks were implemented. Public drinking, subway fare evasion and graffiti were also targeted. Crime went down. Despite New York being labelled ‘too big, too diverse, too unruly and too broke to manage’, Giuliani and Bratton’s plan worked.
Initially, the people were sceptical of their approach. Why were the police targeting petty crimes when more dangerous criminals were out there? The answer is that small crimes can often lead to larger ones. If petty criminals are overlooked and given tacit permission to do what they want, their level of criminality might escalate to more serious offences. Smaller things were taken care of so the bigger issues couldn’t grow.
This level of micro-caretaking can be applied to your own life - but given a hugely positive, beneficial twist. The people of New York were shown the power of making small changes to see a big difference, and you will, too.
Improving your money situation can seem like a big ask. It might feel like the equivalent of policing New York; sprawling, massive and impossible to control. If you think like Giuliani and Bratton, and start with the small stuff, you’ll be able to harness the big things (better finances), as you’ll have a solid foundation to work from. And it all starts with you - not your money.
In order to be the best you can be, you have to feel confident within yourself, and within your environment. You’ve got to feel calm, in control, and happy with your surroundings - aware that you’re doing your best and working towards your goals. You just need to know that you’re doing enough, and you’ve made the best of your situation - no matter where you live, what you do, or how much you have in your bank account.
The equation is: small, positive acts + repeated every day = incremental happiness and satisfaction. And the best part? They don’t cost a thing. It all depends on what works for you and what would make you go ‘This is so much better.’
You could start by making your bed every day, or finally clearing the clothes off your desk chair, then washing them. You could finally defrost that lasagne you made a few weeks ago, shun the pub, and head home at 5.30 for a quiet night in with a hot meal and a DVD. You could finally get around to ironing that massive pile of washing then sorting out your clothes. Maybe even bagging some up to take to the charity shop.
Got a gym membership that you never use, and the cost is stressing you out? Get up an hour earlier and get your workout out of the way - job done. You’ll feel better, and look better. Or just cancel it, and find a cheaper way to exercise. Not getting enough sleep? Get off your phone and head to bed an hour earlier; Westworld can wait.
Doing small things that declutter and improve your environment and your headspace will help you feel more in control of your life. They’re easy, free, and will help you function so much better. It’s not hard to see why sleeping well, eating properly, cutting down on the booze and having a tidy house will calm anxiety, reduce stress, and show you how easy it is to get a hold on things.
Simple acts of self-care aren’t expensive. You can give yourself a facial or pedicure at home, if you need some me-time. You don’t need to see a therapist to figure out the basics of meditation - you just need to set aside 20 minutes of your day. A trusted friend will be a far better confidante than a counsellor.
The beauty of these ‘little wins’ - small, helpful habits which are hugely beneficial - is that you’ll want to build on your successes when you see results. A made bed suddenly means you have a tider room, a cleaner house. You’re finally able to wear those suits to work you’ve needed to clean for ages. You’re eating better, and sleeping better. You’re working out again. One little win will lead to another. They’re marvellously addictive.
The only thing you have to do is work out where to get started; the rest will follow.