“Magic is made in the discipline and consistency of the mundane” – Anonymous
Well hello there, and happy new year to you! It’s 2020, a new year, decade? Whatever it is, it’s a fresh season and a great time to take stock, set new goals and resolutions towards being better versions of ourselves.
You know what? I love new seasons. I love the spirit of self-improvement. Of being deliberate about setting goals and periodically taking stock. Be it every month, year, decade? It doesn’t really matter; I appreciate the spirit of it.
If we achieve these set goals every year is another matter altogether. Yes, we know that most set ambitious goals that taper off long before the year comes to an end. Not too long after we set the goals, and our vision boards, and are super pumped, the dreary routines of life catch up with us, the euphoria of new beginning wanes and we realize that achieving goals is much harder than setting them.
This has happened to the best of us, and building discipline is the one word we hear over and over again as the root of it all. Well, I want to share with you a few thoughts that might make you think of discipline and consistency differently, and hopefully with this different mindset, it has a new meaning to you.
First, know this:
We have been scammed: Think of any before and after story. Let’s take weight loss for example, imagine the setting: image split in two, on the left is a slouchy person with a protruding gut, and on the right is a slender, arched back picturesque fitness enthusiast with a grin on her face and well-defined abs. Even the filters occasionally reflect the dreary of the former the brightness of the latter. In this description, (which is most descriptions) what is fascinating to me is that the most important part is usually missing, hurried or summarized. “The middle”
The middle is the most important part, yet – the most ignored. The middle is the routine, it is part that is absolutely not fun. It is inconvenient, slow, and annoying and demoralizing and often painful. In the middle you do not have the fuel of euphoria to sustain you, it is robotic, repetitive, and drives people crazy. It is consistency, it is doing, over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.
I write that many overs to show you how annoying the middle can be, and how we have been scammed, and are wired to skip or hurry through the middle to the end. The very first step in your journey with discipline begins with living in the middle.
Fall In Love With The Middle: In this new year, as you think about your goals differently that you might achieve them this time, building consistency that lasts all twelve months (or at least most of them), it helps to flip the script. It starts from a mental posture. The very first step to being friends with the middle is to envision the long and windy road that achieving your goals will be and accept it. In fact, fall in love with it, anticipate it, revel in it.
Yes, tell yourself that losing 20kg is no joke, and it probably will take much longer than you expect and will be much harder than you expect. No skipping or time-lapse in the middle here! You will need to do hard things you don’t want to do over and over again and continue to do them.
Mentally visualize yourself being irritated by having to wake up by 7am to the gym or eating that tasteless meal, over and over and over and over and over again but visualize yourself doing it anyway. We need to spend more of our mental time living out the middle so that we might be prepared and adjust our expectations for the long road that is ahead.
How You Feel Has Nothing To Do With It: Building consistency has nothing to do with how you feel. It is continuously doing a thing till you reach your desired results. You feel great? Good for you. Do it still. You feel terrible. Sorry. Do it still. To build discipline, you have to mentally disassociate your feelings from your actions in a way that no matter how you feel, no matter your state of mind. You put one foot in front of the other way more times than you don’t.
“Motivation and euphoria are amazing tools to kickstart a thing, but never, never to sustain it” - Anonymous
Keep It Simple, Build Confidence: There is power in breaking down big goals into small actions. I know, I know, its tempting. Keeping that big audacious goal as is. You’re totally pumped about the fresh aura of the new decade and achieving the impossible but friend, there is power in setting simple goals, that help you build confidence incrementally toward setting even more ambitious goals.
If you have 10 amazing audacious goals right now on your new year’s resolution list, I’m sorry to break it to you - but you’re probably taking on too much and likely won’t achieve them. Then you know what happens? You feel sad and demotivated and you wallow in self-pity and feel bad next year when you have to set the same goals all over again.
That doesn’t have to happen. I share with you a proposition. Set only 3 goals this year. 3 simple achievable goals. Instead of saying you want to lose 20kg, decide to take a walk or exercise once every week for the next three months and move from there. Decide to drink Soda only on one day a week. Start very very small and build your way up. This has worked wonders for me.
If You Don’t Measure It, You Don’t Mean It
Finally, folks, this is one of my favorite quotes in the world. “If you don’t measure it, you don’t mean it” and this is true. If you haven’t designed a way to measure yourself on whether or not you’re achieving your set goals, you think you want to achieve those goals, but you don’t. Really. Because, what will happen is that you'll say you want to achieve these fantastic goals, but then life happens, and all of a sudden it is June 2020 and you have made zero progress.
“If you don’t measure it, you don’t mean it”
So, as you set your goals, also design ways for you to track your performance. For example, a simple table showing all 52 weeks of the year where you have to cross out if you worked out or not that week with a red marker can work wonders. Put it on your bedroom wall, where you cannot ignore. That’s a simple tracking mechanism.
The spirit is the same for any goal you set, you need to measure yourself. We as humans respond well to being scored, and mentally optimize to win somehow. Use that to your advantage this new year.
I hope you think of discipline a little differently, and I look forward to slugging it out through the middle with you all in 2020.
Happy New Year!
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