In last week’s Ask Robyn session, which I conduct monthly for members of my EmpowerEd program, several members’ questions related to the nutritional benefits of specific foods such as particular herbs and spices, and which type of microalgae supplement – spirulina or chlorella – was better.
While being perfectly valid questions that I enjoyed researching in order to be able to accurately answer, they reminded me of an issue that frequently surfaces when I’m working with clients who have major lifestyle changes to make – Majoring in Minor Things. I first heard this phrase uttered by Jim Rohn, a motivational speaker beloved of one of my early mentors.
Simply put, majoring in minors means putting undue attention on small things that don’t make a real difference, while neglecting to pay attention to the larger actions that make a huge difference.
For example, if you’ve been sedentary for a long time and you want to get fit, learning everything there is to know about the relative benefits of tabata-style high intensity interval training versus steady-state cardiovascular endurance training won’t shift the needle for you. You simply need to get off the couch and MOVE. The major thing to focus on at the outset is to change your sedentary habits; which method you select to do this is the minor consideration at this point in time.
Likewise, if you’re currently eating the Standard Australian Diet (SAD), researching the relative antioxidant capacity of mint vs basil is a big fat waste of your time and effort. The major thing for you to focus on – the action that will make the most profound positive difference to your state of health – is to get more whole or minimally-processed plant foods on your plate. And by that I mean, whatever whole or minimally-processed plant foods you care to eat.
“Shouldn’t I eat sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes?” Eat whichever grabs your fancy on the day, because either is streets ahead of a Big Mac.
“Are blueberries more nutrient-dense than apples?” I’d rather see you eating either of those than a doughnut.
“I can’t stand kale but I hear it’s better than spinach.” If it’s green, it’s good – eat it!!!!!! (Except if it’s a green slurpee. Don’t eat that.)
Sure, once you’ve made the major changes in your way of living that will deliver the lion’s share of the outcomes you’re after – losing weight, reversing chronic illness, tapering off prescription medications – you can turn your attention to fine-tuning the minor points to address any issues that remain unresolved – dropping the last 5 kilograms, maximising your athletic performance, getting off the last dose of the last drug.
But majoring in minors – obsessing about small details that lack the power to generate significant changes – leaves people overwhelmed and paralysed. All too frequently it diverts their precious time and energy into endless hours of Internet research into which superfoods they should buy to put in their smoothie, after which they collapse on the couch with a dial-a-pizza because they’re too tired and brain-fagged to cook the broccoli they already had in the fridge.
Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, put it this way:
“Anything less than a conscious commitment to the important is an unconscious commitment to the unimportant.”
So what major things do you need to do, in order to generate the most significant positive shifts in your health and happiness? Start by choosing just one, and make a conscious commitment to implementing this one thing consistently in your life for 3 weeks.
Whether it’s eating a raw vegetable salad every day, or walking for 30 minutes every day, or meditating each morning, make sure you schedule this activity on your calendar, tell others that you’re doing it (for both support and accountability), and don’t let anything get in the way unless it’s life-threatening!
This simple but profound exercise will demonstrate to you the power of majoring in the majors. It will also help bust you out of the false belief that anything less than perfection is failure. Taking imperfect action is always better than staying stuck in perfect inaction.
Oh, in case you still want to know whether spirulina is better than chlorella or vice versa – and how to stop your hair and nails from breaking; how to prevent memory loss as you get older; what to do about elevated thyroid antibodies; whether we should be eating fat to lose body fat; and a bunch of other fascinating questions; the video and audio recordings of the April 11 Ask Robyn session, along with links to the studies I used to answer all the questions, are available to watch in the EmpowerEd members’ area, along with all previous Ask Robyn sessions and Deep Dive webinars. Your first month of EmpowerEd membership is 100% free.