Who wants to succeed? Does anyone start a journey or project with the intention to fail? Not likely, yet many such journeys or projects will fall by the wayside. Why is that? Why is it so common?
It is a cliche to approach a new year with a resolution or two. Or maybe the cliche is the associated breaking of a new year resolution? In any case, we can all likely think back to a few failed attempts to make a change in our own life. So what happened? I think for starters we tend to make too grand a change from current behavior. “I am never eating desserts again!” “I will work out every single day!” “I will lose 100lbs so I can fit into my grade 8 jeans again!” “I will write 5 pages in my journal every single day!” I know that people like to say to dream big so you can have an exciting goal to rev up the enthusiasm, but how does that enthusiasm feel 5 days in? When you get right down to it, making a life change is work. Hard work! And if you consider that the undesired habit might be bolstered by years of reinforcement, well, it may be very, very difficult to actually follow through on the resolution. So one reason might be that the goal isn’t reasonably attainable.
Now some people do accomplish very big goals. How does this happen? It most certainly isn’t by accident. They will have worked very hard, yes, but they will also have looked at the big goal as a series of smaller steps or actions. You can have a big strategic goal, but you also have to consider tactical steps to achieve that strategic goal. There is a purpose behind saying one never wants to eat desserts again. Yet desserts are very appealing and will be tempting at all times. Is the goal to never enjoy a dessert, or is it really to be able to enjoy desserts with a sense of moderation and restraint so that we aren’t regretting the eating of it? So what would be a step toward this? How about setting a goal to limit dessert to once or twice per week for starters? Or always limiting the amount eaten, to always leave a little bit on the plate. Over time, as that step becomes more manageable, try to increase the difficulty. But ask yourself first, Is this something I feel confident that I can follow through on? If your confidence doesn’t rate a 9 or 10 out of 10, consider a slightly easier step that will bring your confidence up to that 9 or 10 out of 10.
How about working out every single day? First of all, is it really necessary to work out every single day to accomplish what you want? What qualifies as a workout? Perhaps the starting point is to get some activity in every day and sometimes that activity will involve a more elaborate training session. Again, ask yourself if you are confident that you can follow through on a 9 or 10 out of 10 scale. What steps are needed to help you with this physical task? Is it setting out your training clothes the evening before so they are ready to go? Or maybe writing out the date of your next session or what you plan to do for your next session at the end of your current workout so that it is already in your calendar. Have the big goal but make sure to decide on a few smaller action steps to get you moving in the right direction first.
So here is the big take-away in succeeding. When it comes to making change the biggest factor, by far, is to be consistent. You can have the best program, the best diet, the best opportunity, but if you are not consistent then it won’t matter. Consistency builds momentum and that momentum reinforces the action. Reinforced action becomes a habit. Your habits are already getting you what you currently have. Reflect on this and you will recognize the truth in this. Nobody gained 50lbs from a single meal (even if it had a dessert!) and nobody lost 50lbs from a single workout! Those changes built up over a period of time and to move in a different direction will also take some time, step by step. Why did I suggest making the big goal into smaller steps? So that you could succeed at accomplishing those steps regularly. Consistently. And then bump up the challenge, just a little bit. Work at accomplishing that next small step consistently. As you continue to rack up little steps and little successes you will build up momentum which will reinforce what you are doing. And that reinforced action is the habit muscle getting it’s own workout so that it gets stronger!
Look at what you can do to improve consistently and focus on that and the day will come when you can look back and see how far you have come and people around you will likely comment on how easy it was for you to make the change. But you will know better.
And then you can share your wisdom. 😉
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.”