Most people think that self-development is difficult. They wait until the new year to create massive changes in their lives, and then become frustrated when these significant changes slowly regress to old patterns and behaviors.

The truth is that small changes compound over time. You can build an incredibly successful and happy life for yourself by doing the small things correctly. It's the foundational practices, the simple routines that create sustainable positive results.

Here are the ten essential practices you need to build the life of your dreams in 2017:

1. Increase the consistency of your sleep schedule.

Nothing replaces deep sleep. I know that you want to pretend that with unlimited caffeine your body doesn't need to rest--but sleeping and waking at the same time each night will improve all aspects of your life.

You will have more energy throughout the day and more emotional energy when you need it most. Start from the ground up and prioritize sleep.

2. Drink more water throughout the day.

Believe it or not, but despite the abundance of fancy water bottles in this country, many of us are dehydrated. To compensate with our feelings of exhaustion, we drink extra caffeine.

To overcome our thirst, frequently interpreted as hunger, we eat too many carbs. Simply drinking more water each day will help you feel more energized, improve your concentration, and decrease the amount of unhealthy food you put in your body.

3. Focus more on eating healthier, fresh foods and a well-balanced diet.

Yes, your diet does need to change this year. Eating healthier foods will, in addition to helping you lose unwanted weight, improve your mood and your emotional and energetic stability.

Start by committing to cooking more of your meals--that alone will be helpful. Then focus on staying around the perimeter of your grocery store--near the healthy and fresh foods--rather than the lab-produced carbohydrates in the center.

4. Exercise on a regular basis rather than waiting for inspiration.

Don't wait for motivation to exercise! Even going through the motions and hating every second of it is better than continuing your life of stagnation. Sometimes it's the movement that creates the spark.

5. Implement mindfulness meditation breaks throughout the day.

Prioritize taking time out of your day to be alone with yourself. You need to take mindful breaks to get centered and stay grounded throughout the chaos of each day.

6. Schedule an appointment with a therapist.

If you're serious about self-development this year, then cut to the chase. Stop playing around with self-help books and start doing something that will create lasting, meaningful change.

7. Explore artistic and musical events to get in touch with your creativity.

One thing many people don't spend enough time doing as adults is engaging with their creativity. With so many forms of entertainment that allow us to dissociate and stare at a screen, it's important to get back into other parts of your brain.

Whether its writing, playing an instrument, seeing a play, painting, or engaging in crafts, take time to prioritize creative play. It will help you feel younger, more alive, and bring out layers of happiness you forgot existed.

8. Spend more time reading and less time staring at screens.

It's easy to default to staring at screens when we have such an amazing range of entertainment--from social media to Netflix--on our phones, tablets, and televisions. However, reading can not only be enjoyable, it also improves your intelligence.

Investing in yourself by reading will improve your intelligence, expand your vocabulary, and provide a nice relief from the overstimulation present in modern society. Escape into a book.

9. Reach out to friends and family on a more regular basis.

Social support is an important component of change. We are social animals that need to engage with others to feel happy and understood.

Try to reach out to friends and family on a more regular basis this year. Not all relationships are equal, and certain topics may feel uncomfortable, but it's important to spend time harnessing what relationships you have while you have them.

10. Strive to achieve the balance between structure and flexibility.

Overall, the key to integrating success with happiness is continuously striving for a balance between structure and flexibility. When you have the foundation of success--as outlined in the previous nine points--the next thing you need is a little spontaneity.

The foundation alone will improve your life, but flexibility is a necessary tool to have in life, which is unpredictable, inconsistent, and full of surprises.

Stop taking the short cuts and get back to the basics in 2017. Your success, happiness, and sense of fulfillment will grow.

Published on: Jan 3, 2017