How many of your goals and aspiration are nothing more than notes on paper or ideas in your head? Maybe they seem too far-fetched. Maybe it seems as though you have no time for them. However you rationalize it, chance are it’s just an excuse. You have every reason to pursue that goal, but just won’t take the first step.
Ryan Holiday covered something of this nature in a recent post, but it wasn’t his words that resonated with me. Instead it was one of his comments, who posted the following:
Detach your ego from the outcome of any one particular day – the only thing that matters is that you showed up.
The commenter, JC Deen, used fitness as his context, but his wisdom applies universally. By taking the simples possible action, showing up, you’ve started the process. Eventually it will take more than showing up, but at the start it’s the most important step.
Making a commitment
Showing up every day displays commitment. Even if you have no idea what to do next, or if you have no idea what to do at all, your mere presence signals that you’re willing, if not able, to do something. This signal doesn’t only go out to those around you — co-workers, partners, observers — but to yourself. After all, why would you continue to show up if you weren’t committed?
Four years ago I wanted to write a novel, so I made an appointment with myself. From 5 p.m. until 6 p.m. every day I had a date with my word processor. At first churning out even two pages in that hour produced agony. By the end I sometimes finished 15 pages with energy to spare. There was no way I got to that point if I didn’t show up every day.
Showing up every day also played a crucial role when I lost 40 pounds from October 2010 through June 2011. You can apply it to nearly every goal you set. If you’re not showing up every day, you’re not putting in the maximum effort.
Taking the next action
While showing up is the most important step towards your goals and aspirations, decisive action needs to follow. Again, this is where many people feel overwhelmed. Even if you’re showing up consistently, a general lack of progress can erase that good habit.
Remember, JC’s quote centers on results of any one particular day. After a few weeks, though, there needs to be some progress or else you’ll inevitably lose momentum and motivation. The solution is to break down the goal into parts, and then break those parts down into steps. It’s the simplest way to determine the next action to take.
While David Allen covers this comprehensively in his Getting Things Done program, I think Steve Kamb nails it with his gamification of life. It’s essentially what I said in just a few sentences, but Steve covers it perfectly. Assess your current level and then plot a path to your goals, gaining experience along the way.
The paradoxical effect
Picking a goal you want to achieve, breaking it down into parts, and then showing up sounds like it’s the easy part. Actually taking action seems like the hard part. Yet in practice they’re reversed.
For some reason we humans place as many barriers in our own ways as possible, making it difficult to get started. But once we hurdle those barriers it’s easy to let momentum carry us. The barriers we create are much more imposing than the barriers reality has placed in our ways.
If you want to do something, just show up every day for a week. See how that feels. Then look at the situation. Was it really that hard to show up and give even a bare minimum effort? Probably not. So what could be so hard about what lies ahead?