We are creatures of habit, for better or worse.
Habits are hard to change. Not an easy truth to digest if we don’t like what it is that we’re doing over and over again and can’t see a way to break our behavior. But there’s an upside. If we want to persevere at something, all it takes is building a new, positive habit—one small step at a time.
Let’s face it . . . we all want to succeed, but without excessive effort. Setting only grand goals for yourself might make you break a sweat just thinking about them. Without pinpointing manageable steps to take you there, you’re setting yourself up for failure. The way to succeed, then, is simple: start small and get specific. Whether your ultimate target is to get in your best shape ever, learn a new skill, or start a business, the fundamentals for reaching it are the same:
Start small. Divide your big goal (getting in my best shape ever) into one small goal that you can achieve today (do morning push-ups), followed by another (walk instead of ride the elevator), and then another.
Take specific, measurable baby steps. Identify in detail manageable goals that you can measure (do ten push-ups before brushing my teeth in the morning and at bedtime), so you can easily track your progress.
Celebrate your daily success. Each time we achieve a small win, we more deeply trust our ability to reach our bigger goal. Focus on progress, not perfection. Be gentle with yourself and remind yourself that making mistakes is human.
Establish an end date. Experts say that it takes ninety days of repeated behavior to build a habit. Decide when you’ll get started, and then mark your end goal on your calendar three months out. This doesn’t mean you’ll stop the new habit, just that you’re putting definable boundaries around a goal.
Just the way frequent, consistent exercise has a cumulative effect on us over time, so does celebrating our small successes on a regular basis. Progress drives motivation, which in turn drives greater progress.
Before you know it, you won’t be giving a second thought to those twenty push-ups a day, or daily treks up and down ten flights of stairs to your office. Your desire to “exercise more” won’t require self-pep talks or encouragement from friends, or be thwarted by overactive internal debate. You just do it. Your actions have become a thinking-less part of your life. They’ve become constructive habits.
Consider this: Take those big, far-reaching goals you’ve set for yourself for 2016 and reframe them as mini objectives. Focus on taking the baby steps needed to achieve daily wins.