Success programs and books always seem to start with goals. This seems the logical first step but I see a problem with that. When motivating people, I don’t think it’s a good idea to start off with a big task. That will scare a lot of people, or cause them to put to the side whatever program they are looking into by saying they will do it later. (Later means never.) We don’t want to motivate procrastination.
Many people have already gone through some sort of goal setting program in the past, often more than once. The idea of writing down your goals for the 10th time just isn’t appealing. And once you do have your goals, then what? It looks like a massive overwhelming task and that can be intimidating, again causing people to procrastinate.
On the opposite end are the people extremely motivated, but really don’t know what to do, or people who jump in without a plan. Not realizing that a goal is not a plan.
Instead of starting with big goals I think it’s a good idea to get momentum going, and create a few habits first. Most people already have an idea of what they want anyway so I think goals can be delayed for a while. When following this idea people even without goals should be more successful.
Don’t clean your house
Let’s say you want a clean and organized house. Congratulations you have a goal and it only took 5 seconds. If your house is the disaster area most people think it is, cleaning a house seems like a ton of work, and that may not be motivating.
The secret is to not clean your house, instead clean a room. But even a room can be intimidating, so instead do some dusting, or clean a table, organize a bookshelf. If the bookshelf is too daunting, just one of the shelves.
Now you have done something and succeeded. You have achieved your task, your smaller goal, and have made a step to the larger goal.
Make it too easy
When trying to achieve goals the secret is to make it too easy. There is an old saying, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” (Or a call to Uber.)
Achieve something small and you made your first step. Then do another, and another. The next step doesn’t even have to be today, it could be tomorrow. Often that momentum will carry you forward, and you end up taking 2 or 3 steps, maybe more. But not because you are forcing yourself to, you already achieved the goal, you do it because you feel like it.
I first ran into this concept with an author that said he couldn’t write a book, but he could write 10 pages in a day. He then went though his process to end up with a book.
Tim Ferriss takes it further by making himself write only 2 pages a day, and it doesn’t matter if they are good or not. If they aren’t good he just tosses them. But he finds that sometimes momentum takes him further and he gets many more accomplished, while other days he stops at the 2 when it isn’t working. Either way his goal is achieved.
Anthony Robbins also uses this idea. He describes how a tiny 1% difference doesn’t seem like a lot, but over time it is quite substantial. From LA to New York the difference is 153 miles, and puts you below Philadelphia.1
Another person I learned this from is Dr. John Berardi. Probably one of the most successful physical transformation coaches around. He gives one simple and small goal or task to follow every day for 2 weeks, and only if the person believes there is a 90% chance he or she will follow it. If they do it for 2 weeks it starts to become a habit and takes little effort to keep up, so another habit is introduced, and the cycle continues.
Nobody quits because it’s too hard. In fact, they worry about how little they are given to do. But a year later they have become a different person. One of his 2-week habits might be just be more mindful (pay attention) when you eat.
We shouldn’t just work on our goals but make our actions to achieve them habits. When something becomes a habit it no longer seems like you are really putting in the work. It can become harder to not do it.
Tim Ferriss interviewed a person who had a rule that he had to put his exercise clothing on every day. That’s it, nothing else, just put on the clothing to exercise. Later he had to walk to go to his car, and sit in the driver seat. And later he added driving to the gym. He didn’t have to go in, didn’t have the rule that he had to work out, but more often than not he would think, “Well I’m already here, might as well workout.”
Bottom Up Approach
This is a form of what is called a bottom up approach. Many systems focus on the top down, from goals to tasks, while this focuses more on tasks to goals, and sometimes not even the goals. This is popular with the Getting Things Done system put out by David Allen. (I use a modified version myself.) Scott Adams of Dilbert has stated that he believes in systems instead of goals.
I’m a little more in the middle. I think that starting with the systems and habits is good for everyone, but I still believe in goals, at least eventually, I just believe that once this system of achievement is in place, your success with goals will be greater. You won’t just have dreams on paper, but a system to achieve them already in place. I plan on discussing goals later.
1. I used a direct straight line, not a route, and 1% of 360° resulting in 3.6° of angle. 1° would have resulted in 42.7 miles.