We all have goals that we want to accomplish in life. Whether it’s climbing the career ladder, losing weight, or being a better spouse/friend/person, we all have these aspirations. Having a clear vision of where you are going in life is absolutely essential to your overall success. I recently covered a series of topics in a three-part mini series that I feel to be very important. Creating and practicing healthy habits on a daily basis will help keep you on track. Having a set of core values you live by is crucial to staying grounded and living a life of which you can be proud. A healthy dose of a positive attitude will be the driving force behind your journey to reach your ultimate goals. Having all three of these characteristics work in harmony will be the life-blood of your ultimate success.
Some of the goals we have can seem daunting. Let’s say you have been sedentary for the past few years. You have been wrapped up in your work, your family, and everything else except your health. You have really let yourself slide and the negative habits of poor eating, too much stress, and not enough sleep have really taken their toll. As with most things, something has happened in your life and you have decided to make a change. You’re going to get your life back in order and lose 40 pounds. You go out and get a fancy new gym membership, some sweet training shoes, and some fresh new gym wear. You’re ready to rock and roll. But wait, it’s Thursday. You can’t start anything on a Thursday, might as well wait until Monday and start fresh.
Monday rolls around and you come out of the gates on fire. You’re eating nothing but salad for three meals a day, hitting the gym, and getting to bed on time. You’re going balls-to-the-wall, 100% intensity and having fun with it. The novelty of this journey is still strong and nothing can stop you now.
Next Monday rolls around and…s#@t. “I’m tired, sore, and all of these salads kinda suck“. Before you know it, week two was not as productive as week one and you’re right back into a rut. You’re thinking, “Where did I go wrong? I have everything I need, I picked up all these awesome workout ideas from the Biggest Loser, I was so motivated, and now this. WTF?!?”
It is estimated that about 80-90% of New Years’ resolutions fail to produce lasting results.
Why is this?
I don’t claim to know all of the reasons (psychology is not my forte) why most attempted lifestyle changes are abandoned after a short amount of time but I have a few ideas.
More often than not, when most people start a new habit they pick something so big they are destined to fail, just like in our example above. Not only do people tend to think way too big when it comes to changing their lives, they also come at it with too much intensity. The intention is there but they focus all of their energy on this one topic and attack it with relentless enthusiasm. The initial week or two are a breeze due to the novelty of the venture. There is a bit of excitement from being a new person. However, the thrill of adventure inevitably wears off as you realize the unforeseen complexities that undoubtedly come with creating a new habit. You burn out and quit before you have a chance to start noticing any tangible results. The cycle of grandiose plans to change your life followed by the eventual failure to see it through perpetuates itself until you’re truly at your whit’s end with nowhere to turn.
So, how do we break the pattern and finally start changing our lives for the better? It starts with a new way of thinking.
Rather than looking at your life and thinking you need to make massive, large scale changes, I want you to think of it a little differently. Instead of taking one aspect of your life and attacking it with 100% effort, I want you to take inventory of everything you do and improve on these by just 1%. Put another way for all of you math whiz’s:
Instead of improving on 1 thing by 100%, improve on 100 things by just 1%.
When you break things down into much smaller, easier to accomplish tasks you’re setting yourself up for success. Just setting a goal of losing 40 pounds is almost a guaranteed way to fail. Rather than setting the damn-near unattainable goal, simply think about sleeping a little better, eating one more vegetable a day, being just a little more active today than you were yesterday, and drinking one more glass of water. When you’re dialed into what you’re doing today and doing each of those things just 1% better, your long-term success is almost a guarantee. You’ll accomplish your big-rock goals in less time and with less effort than you would have otherwise. Shifting your focus from your major ambitions to your daily tasks will leave you feeling less stressed and more accomplished at the end of the day. Rather than having the weight (literally) of a 40 pound weight loss hanging over your head every night, you’ll have the enjoyment of knowing you took a step in the right direction.
You may be thinking there is no way making a 1% change in anything will lead to any tangible results. However, life is full of examples where 1% makes all the difference. The difference between placing in an Olympic event and going home empty-handed is typically in the tenths of seconds (or the equivalent for longer events), a 1% difference in interest rates on a student loan can be in the thousands of dollars, and the difference between being human and a chimpanzee is about a 1% genetic difference. When you add up all of the improvements you make by doing 100 things just 1% better you will see the results. Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday nailed it. If you haven’t seen the movie or didn’t watch the clip, the brief summary is opportunities for small improvements are all around us at all times. The difference between someone who is successful and someone who is not is the willingness to take advantage of these small opportunities and work at them every day. Don’t focus on breaking a 50 yard touchdown run. Focus on fighting for the inch in front of you and the rest will take care of itself.
I was recently reading an article and I can’t remember where it was so I apologize for not being able to give credit to the author but he wrote something that has had a profound change on the way I now approach things. He was talking about habit change and why most people fail and his point is this:
Intensity is for Amateurs, Consistency is for Pros.
I absolutely love that statement. I am in the process of making some lifestyle changes and every time I want to get ahead of myself or I get down about a recent failure, I remind myself of those words. It has really helps me keep everything in context and it is a great reminder that anything worth doing will take time, effort, and consistency.