By Chantell Mills

Thirty minutes saved my marriage. Actually, thirty minutes a day over time scooted my marriage from the brink of divorce to a place of restoration. It was 3:30 a.m. on Christmas morning of 2003. My life did not feel merry and bright. The previous two years delivered intense change in various ways: a major career shift, moving ten hours away from family, and our youngest daughter began having seizures. Little did we know those seizures were the tip of the iceberg of medical issues yet to come. When she was two years old, doctors told us she would only live to be three years old. Her liver was failing as was our marriage. I knew divorce was inevitable if we stayed on this path.

We agreed to give our marriage one last chance, but I was not confident our plan of action would work. I wanted to see a big change. I was worn out and overwhelmed. We decided to take on the greatest area of conflict in our marriage: our mornings. Getting everyone out the door on time often led to fights and disconnection. It was a horrible way to start our day, but the idea of waking up thirty minutes earlier seemed too small of an adjustment to produce the drastic makeover our marriage needed.

We had developed a bad habit of sleeping too late. There were good reasons. Our daughter needed constant care which robbed us of a good night’s sleep. Despite having valid reasons, we could not justify maintaining the same routine. Scooting back the time in order to get up thirty minutes earlier changed our marriage over time. According to James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, “Success is the product of daily habits, not once-in-a-lifetime transformations.” This small change made a significant impact on our family.

Often we think that a big adjustment will have the biggest result. This is simply not true. “Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity. This is one reason why meaningful change does not require radical change. Small habits can make a meaningful difference by providing evidence of a new identity. And if a change is meaningful, it is actually big. That’s the paradox of making small improvements,” says Clear.

The habit of getting up earlier led to a better bedtime routine so we could make the most of those thirty minutes in the morning. Better use of the time in the morning led to an opportunity for deeper family connection. We scooted our way to healthier habits which led to a healthier marriage.

What is one small habit you could revamp to scoot your way to success?
Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones by James Clear.