We all want to get better, reach our goals, live better lives.
But getting there is so freaking hard.
When we think about growing a business, getting healthy, getting a promotion, saving for retirement, etc. it can feel daunting, overwhelming. And no matter how much we don’t want to, we can end up quitting.
But we can change that by doing this.
Focus on today.
When I lost fifty pounds and got fitter than I’ve ever been in my life, it wasn’t because I focused on losing fifty pounds. Instead, I concentrated on eating smaller meals, one day at a time. And by smaller I mean half. Sandwiches were cut into two halves, and I only ate one of them. The four tacos I usually devoured shrank to two. You get it. And doing that took everything I had; I didn’t have the energy even to consider how I would handle the next day. All my attention had to go to the present day, that moment, that meal, those two tiny but delicious tacos. And I would savor each juicy, savory, slightly sweet, and spicy bite like I hadn’t eaten in days because that’s how I felt. And when I wasn’t eating, I harnessed every ounce of self-control I had on not thinking about how hungry I was and ignoring the mighty roar of my stomach.
The result was incredible.
After ninety days, I lost thirty pounds, accomplished by taking it one day at a time.
Trust me. I hated each day. But only focusing on each day made all of the difference. If I had thought about ninety days of shrinking my stomach after years of gorging myself until I was too full from eating and drinking whatever I wanted, I would have fainted from the fear. Do yourself a favor. Don’t scare the crap out of yourself by focusing on the end game.
Starting is the hardest. So it is critical to start small–think tiny.
A few years ago I was in the habit of not reading. What I did do a lot of was watch TV. Then I got the notion that I should exercise my mind again, like I did when I was younger. So I started to read. It was difficult. I could barely read a page before my mind would start to wander. By the time a few pages were flipped, my head would hurt a little, and I would have to put the book down. That went on for days, weeks, months. Then a few pages became ten and that became twenty and that became more and more. Now I can read without feeling any mental fatigue. In fact, it refreshes me.
Your daily goals can change over time. Before I started to lose weight, I made my goal to get fit. And the daily goal was to practice the diet I described above. And later I added light core exercises, like five pushups and crunches a day. Then, I added walking, which morphed into short runs and more core exercises. And my diet had to change since I was exercising more. So I upped my calories. Then I added intermittent fasting and extended fasting. All that played out over a few years. And by reaching my daily goals, my body transformed.
Practicing your small daily goals over an extended period is surprisingly powerful. If you had told me that thirty pounds would have melted off of me after ninety days or that I would be reading like fiend as I do now or write over a thousand words a day, I wouldn’t have believed you. And you, too, can accomplish far more than you could imagine just by doing something small day after day after day.
After some time of doing a daily practice, it will become a habit. I’ve read that it takes thirty to sixty days to form a new one. That seems to fit what I experienced. And when that happens, sing hallelujah because it just makes things so much easier. That means the task you’ve been doing that really sucks has become almost automatic. It may not be easy or something that you love doing, but it will be something that you just do.
I remember writing my first blog post. It was agonizing. Getting a first draft down took days to finish. Then the editing went on and on. I must have rewritten the piece a dozen times and read it over and over dozens more. Fast forward to today, I can finish a first draft in an hour and finish a piece after a day. My mind learned how to generate new ideas for an extended period of time. And now it’s easy. That took me writing every day until it became second nature. It’s now a habit.
This mindset and practice can also help you professionally as I wrote in my last post about changing your career, or family, parenting, learning, love relationships, and all areas of life.
No one is ever stuck. You are not stuck. You can change. As long as you are breathing, you can do it today.
Being stuck is a story we tell ourselves. If we believe it, we need to talk to other people who think we can change, do something different, something better. If you are introverted or shy, read books about those who achieved great things despite difficult challenges. Pick up a biography about any of the great titans of industry like Carnegie, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt. They all rose from poverty to become as rich as first world countries. Make them inspirations for your daily practice. Use their stories to change yours.
Life is a gift. And every day is an opportunity for you to change, get better, progress.
What will you do today?