It has happened to us all. We decide to make a change. No! We need to make a change! Maybe we want to lose weight and get in shape. Maybe we want to find work that is deeply fulfilling. Maybe we want to dedicate our time to getting out of debt. Whatever it is the self-improvement bug has taken hold. We feel the energy and momentum pulling us forward toward the success we have long envisioned. We begin to change our lives, improving in all those areas that we have long left alone.
Our job asks us put in over time. That extra slice of pizza is too tempting to pass up and we really want that new special-super-deluxe-limited edition Halo game that just game out.
And like that all of our hard work ends. Our furnace like ambition fizzles and cools. That successful dream? You don’t even think about it anymore and you are right back to where you started. You are out of shape, unfulfilled in your career and in debt. Worse still, you are now an out of shape, unfulfilled and indebted failure!
That failure stings. Failure fuels self-doubt and extinguishes ambition. But time heals all wounds and before long we are feeling the need to improve our life once more and we find ourselves back on the hamster wheel repeating the cycle of dream big, start the work, encounter an obstacle and fail. Only to wake up one New Years Eve to started again once more.
How do we stop this vicious cycle of self-improvement? How do become those that we envy or look up to with admiration? How do we keep going forward after twenty or thirty failures?
There are reasons for our cycle of failure.
First we need to stop dreaming big! Wow, that’s counter intuitive to everything we have ever read about self-improvement and certainly it goes against every motivational blog we can find on YouTube. Yet it is true. We need to stop dreaming big. Okay not in the sense that you might be thinking. Dream big, dream so big that your dream no longer fits in this world, but don’t focus on it. Dream it and forget it. Dream and then blind yourself to the success.
When we spend all our time and energy focusing on the big success we can become easily overwhelmed. Big Goals are overwhelming when faced all at once. What we call stress is better labeled fear! The psychological effect is the same. When our simple brains encounter something that is seemingly too large to conquer the good old fight-flight-or-freeze response kicks in.
Stop expecting to succeed immediately! No one does. No one will. So stop! There is no magic formulation that will bring you instant success. There is no “for success just add water.” We have grown up in a society where everything comes quickly. We have become accustomed and addicted to speed. The whole of human knowledge is literally at our fingertips. Any TV show or movie is mere seconds away from being on your screen and we now expect 2 day shipping for free…Thanks Amazon Prime.
As I was getting ready to sell my house to help fund my 12 month motorcycle journey I was filled with anxiety at all the fixes I had to do to get the house ready sale-worthy. Over a decade of stuff collected in so many rooms. Coming home and seeing all that needed to be down and in my mind seeing the end result brought on doubt that it was even possible to do within the time frame I had given myself.
Instead of focusing on the big goal, focus on the small goals. The Japanese call this Kaizen which translates to “continual improvement”. The concept is simple; ask what can I do to become 1% better today?
Just 1% better!
Success is does not come in the big moments, the monumental tasks, but in the small daily improvements.
If you have never put money away to pay down your debt; pay one dollar more toward your credit cards. Want to stop cursing say one less curse word tomorrow than you did today. Every day improve 1%. Do 1% more than you did the day before. Being 1% better each day works because it has a compounding effect. At first our small improvements will be insignificant, barely noticeable but over time our compounded actions begin to bear fruit until eventual we achieve the success we wanted. Think about it like this: 1% of 1 is just .01; 1% of 100 is 1. Maybe you are at a 1 right now, and will only be making tiny improvements for awhile. But stick with it. You’ll eventually reach that 100 level and then beyond where you’ll be improving by a factor of 1 and beyod every day.
Success is not achieved by natural talent alone. Sure natural talent helps but it does not breed instant success. Natural talent is a talking point of self aggrandizement! We are already enough. We can achieve whatever dream we can conjure.
Natural talent is overrated!
Success is born out of consistency. Deliberate and intentional action focused on a specific goal and repeated consistently every single day is the foundation of every successful person in the world. Ask every great basketball player how many jump shots they practice every day. Ask and Olympic archer how many arrows they shoot every day. The answer to the latter is around 1000; just in case you were curious.
This deliberate and consistent action allows us to define our own personal successes. Do you really want to be an all-star athlete? Or do just want to excel at a physical sport. There are many people who can far out perform professional athletes but are not playing on professional sports teams because fame is not part of their success, making a livelihood off their talents is not their dream. Define your personal success regardless of what others and especially what society tells is successful. Define your success and then apply consistent and deliberate effort every day!
So, if this is so simple and a 1% improvement is so easy to achieve, why isn’t everyone successful? Because, we are unwilling to make the necessary sacrifices. We are unwilling to sacrifice the time it will take to improve a little bit at a time. We are unwilling to sacrifice our time and our focus.
We are easily distracted by the world around us especially when obstacles are thrown in our path. When we encounter these obstacles we stop doing the very things that were leading us to success in the first place. Let’s say we put $100 dollars toward paying off our credit cards! We are experiencing success but we become complacent, lazy and we begin backing sliding on all the hard work that had actually worked.
When I was suffering from depression after my divorce I started taking medication to help. As soon as I started to feel better what did I do? That’s right! I stopped taking my medication and in only a few days I crashed. I had done what almost every single one of us has done on our journey to succeed. I confused success with being the destination.
We confuse self-improvement and success as a destination. Improvement and success is not a destination! You are never done succeeding. You are never done improving. If you want to maintain your success in any area of your life you must keep doing what you were doing to get there. Happiness does not come in achieving our goal; happiness comes in making progress towards our goals. Progress is not perfection but progress is certainly happiness.
Napoleon Bonepart warned that “The greatest danger occurs at the moment of victory.”
Are you ready to be successful?
Are you ready to improve just 1% every day?
Are you ready to be consistent every day?
Are you ready to celebrate the progress you have made and continue to do the hard work?
Are you ready to sacrifice all that you need to in order to achieve that which you want?
Are you ready to defy Napoleon’s warning or will you be one more victim of the success/failure cycle?