How are we going to work towards our goals?
After a year filled with uncertainties and anxiety, I’ve been continually searching for solutions to improve my mentality to cope with my physical and mental health. Mindlessly scrolling through the Internet, I found a list of book recommendations that are very useful in recalibrating my beliefs to personal development. In particular, I chose this book title called Atomic Habits by James Clear.
Before reading this book, I always have a hard time sticking to my habits, and it took a lot of effort to rebuild them. One of the major reasons I couldn’t keep up because I didn’t see visible results after 21 days.
And the severe lack of discipline made me lose more hope in overcoming the adversity of transforming my old lazy self.
This book sells a simple idea of the compounding effect, which is closely related to the idea of long-term investments. As an accounting student, I might find some relevance to why the compounding effect can be powerful. Let me share with you some key insights that really help me find my momentum in rebuilding good habits to meet my personal goals.
The 1% Rule
The author introduced the “1% Rule”, which is a bite-sized idea to help someone who is struggling to visualize how to start their first step in building a new habit.
Why 1%? It means that you only need to take baby steps to create changes. Often, many of us fear starting to build a new habit for fear of failure. And creating a new routine takes up so much effort and energy, leading to inaction and procrastination. As most people are afraid of being judged by others, this is when most people fail to take action.
However, if we allow ourselves to start doing something beneficial to our future selves, we can move forward and work on something truly for ourselves.
As we were so tied up with the modern idea of seeking instant gratification, most people failed to focus on things that will lead to long-term benefits. If we keep repeating the 1% errors day after day, they will accumulate into larger problems. For example, if A starts snacking on junk food regularly, A will end up obese.
However, when we choose to put in small pockets of effort, over time, it will snowball into something greater and pay “dividends” in the long run. As mentioned in the book, “Time magnifies the margin between success and failure. It will multiply whatever you feed it. Good habits make time your ally and bad habits make time your enemy.”
By setting your mind into beginning your transformation journey, allowing yourself to start putting in the 1% is what it takes to get your momentum going. Breaking a big step towards starting a new habit into smaller steps is more manageable for one to begin a step toward a positive change.
The Plateau of Latent Potential
You would have known by now that this is what kills many productivity warriors who set their goals high from the start. That’s when they found out they no longer go ahead once they’ve gone beyond the initial surge in their progress.
Likewise, I always thought that if we put in constant efforts into what we are truly invested in, the results will pay off in a linear way. But when we fail to achieve our desired results in a given timeline, our lost instinct begins to feel the initial value of disappointment.
We start to give up and break that routine of trying to build positive habits, and every time it gets harder and harder to build due to the fear of disappointment. One way is to recognize that even if you work hard, results will be delayed. It will take time for results to show, and we should continue to persevere.
Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work. — Stephen King
Systems vs Goals
If both winners and losers set goals, then what sets them apart?
This makes me wonder why some people couldn’t achieve their goals despite going through the hassle to write their goals right at the beginning of the year.
Is there anything wrong with their goals?
Or are they just not realistic?
Most people had no system to rely on when their motivation runs out, and self-control is not enough to succeed. While they may be able to resist temptations once or twice, it is unlikely for them to muster their willpower to overcome their desires each time.
Therefore, setting up systems can add friction to resist temptations and maintain good habits when our self-control is low.
While I agree that the initial idea of starting a new hobby or habit gives us the initial surge in motivation, this point resonates with me most.
When we are faced with difficulties doing something new, we often ask ourselves why we are doing what we do from the start. We begin to cast doubts, which is targeted to our “new” identity. For example, I am not a marathon runner, so I shouldn’t be too hard on myself. Let’s stop my run at the 1km mark.
When our insecurities kick in, it breaks our momentum to maintain progress in creating new habits. And this will repeat for the next few attempts when we have the urge to build or rebuild habits.
I came to realize that if I could be a marathon runner for myself, I would be able to overcome the adversities because I want to, not I need to.
Reframing our mindset to overcome this identity crisis will determine how we can start building our habits in a sustainable way.
Willpower, persistence, and grit are very personal traits, and it varies among people. And if I can identify any equalizers, it would be the kind of environment and people you are with when you are building your habits.
Some may prefer to be with people who are more driven, ambitious, and goal-oriented because they have the will to succeed. And building good habits is their second nature.
In contrast, there are many who seek comfort by surrounding themselves with people who constantly find excuses and blame everyone for their fall while owning the worst habits and negative thoughts.
The author mentioned that we humans tend to seek approval from our tribes, and there is always tremendous pressure to comply with the norms of the group. I can’t agree more because we are who we become because of the people around us.
What if you are alone? Is your willpower strong enough to change yourself despite not being accepted by your group?
Therefore, one of the simplest ways is to surround yourself with like-minded people and create an environment to shape new and positive habits with less resistance.
Also, by making the change attractive, it is certainly more rewarding for anyone to start their habit change.
“Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement” — James Clear
After summing up these learning points, the steps towards our goals are to build our arsenal of good habits and create a powerful system.
Before our “New Year, New Me” motivation runs out at the end of the month, we must realize the reasons we fail to maintain our drive and recognize the obstacles that prevent us from reaching our goals.
And we need to visualize how we can stop making the same mistakes and wasting time rebuilding our momentum to achieve our goals.
If you are ready to set your mind and start putting in the work, your efforts will pay off.
Thank you for reading this article and I will see you in my next one. Stay safe and take care.
About The Author:
Vince Law is a Final Year Accountancy and Finance undergraduate at Singapore Management University. He has worked at one of the Big 4 Accounting firms and having completed a consulting internship with an SME in Singapore. He writes on topics related to personal development and current affairs through his lens.