With resolutions on the mind, the common narrative I’m seeing online right now is to dream a little smaller. Aim a little lower and make sure you set a realistic goal. If you want to exercise every day, reduce your goal to 2–3 times per week just to make sure you accomplish it.
I couldn’t disagree more. Setting a small goal is trap. It’s a way to hide from actually changing a habit and becoming a better version of yourself.
“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” — Michaelangelo
If we’re serious about change, we shouldn’t select a goal of 2–3 times per week. We need to be working every day.
It’s too easy to compromise when we’re doing something three times per week. We can push off exercising on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Then we finally go to the gym on Thursday! Woohoo! But Friday is Friday, so we don’t go then. We’re busy on Saturday, so we miss your trip yet again. Sunday rolls around and we look back on the previous week. We think about how we made the same resolution last year and didn’t keep it. It looks like it’s another year and another failure. We accept the loss and carry on with life as usual.
This is how 90% of people feel after setting New Year’s Resolutions! The problem isn’t that the goal was too big. The problem is that we aren’t committed to changing our behavior to make it happen.
“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily.” — Mike Murdock
If we’re serious about improving our lives, we need to make a daily habit. This constraint changes the way we look at the situation. It’s conceivably possible that we’ll have free time “two to three times per week” to go to the gym by keeping our current schedule. Thus, we just have a normal week.
If we plan to make daily habit, we’re going to have to redesign our entire schedule. That’s a lot of work, but if we’re serious about change, we should do it. It’s worth it. Ask yourself, “what would my calendar have to look like so that I could exercise every day?” Now, get creative in making that happen and alter your plans accordingly.
Two years ago I decided that I needed to be a better writer. Everything I read said that the only way to get better at writing is to write. Reluctantly, I started typing away until I had a somewhat cohesive article that I published on Medium. I did this about once a week. Sometimes more, but usually less. A year passed and I had published about 30 articles. I felt more comfortable writing, but far from where I wanted to be. I accomplished my realistic goal, but I hadn’t gotten the results I’d hoped for.
After hearing Seth Godin’s advice several times, I finally started a daily blog on September 14th, 2016. There was no more compromising. I had to finish an article every day and post it online. Having to post something ever day changed the way I thought about my day. I needed to wake up earlier to write. I needed to have ideas, opinions and observations to write about. I started being more observant, taking more notes and seeing inspiration in everything.
Now, after just three months of writing every day, I’ve improved more in the past 100 days than I did in an entire year of writing sporadically. This post is not my typical format. Usually I write anywhere from 50–250 words. Sometimes I’ve written as few as 20 words because that’s all I needed to express my thought.
It’s important to recognize that your daily habit doesn’t have to look the same day in and day out. It doesn’t make sense to go to the gym and only do pushups every time. Some days you will do squats and lunges. If you want to loosen up, just stretch and do yoga. Some days you’ll play basketball with friends. Add variety to your habit so that it doesn’t become dreadful.
No matter what your goal is, you can make progress every day. Say you want to become a better tennis player, but can’t play outdoors right now — time to get creative. Go to an indoor racketball court and work on your volleys. Stand in the driveway and practice your toss for your serve. Keep your racket by your desk and take five minute breaks to bounce a ball in the middle of the strings. You might not be able to take a full swing, but you can visualize it. All of these habits will make you a better tennis player before spring rolls around and it’s time to step on the court.
As we set intentions for the year, many of us are doomed from the start. Our lofty goals are made impossible by a life full of counterproductive habits. Ambition is no match for discipline.
The good news is, every day we have the opportunity to do something difficult that will make us better. Anyone can set a goal, but those who are serious about improving their condition make daily habits.