I’ve got resolutions on my mind. The New Year has come and gone and I’m thinking of what I hope to accomplish in it. There are plenty of goals I want to reach, but I’ve noticed something about most of my resolutions.
I pretty much never accomplish them. Never.
I can’t even remember the resolution I made last year, suffice to say, I failed miserably.
Most of us have two lives. The life we lived and the unlived life within us.Steven Pressfield
Leave it to Steven Pressfield to scare the crap out of you about how you’re living. He has a point though. I feel like time is flying by, year by year, and I don’t want to be in the situation where I feel like I didn’t truly achieve my goals and fulfill my dreams. So before I decided to come up with a resolution for 2016, I wanted to find a way that I might actually keep it for once. That’s when I came across the idea of momentum.
Momentum is motion. In this case, it is progress towards a goal. The thing about momentum is that once it gets going, it gets more and more difficult to stop. It’s a simple idea, but a very powerful one. An idea that I think might make this year different. I came across this idea of momentum when I read an article about Jerry Seinfeld and how he approached his work.
In the article, Seinfeld explains how he uses a calendar system to create momentum and keep him moving forward. In his case, he used a calendar for writing jokes everyday. His approach was to get a large wall calendar to place in his home or office. Every day he set out to write a single joke. As he did so, he crossed that day off of the calendar with a big red X.Over time, he ended up with a chain of red X’s that represented his progress.
Initially it probably doesn’t seem like much, but soon the goal changes from that daily task to NOT BREAKING THE CHAIN. You’ve got momentum, you can see your progress, and the worst thing that can happen is for you to fail at keeping this up.
It’s a brilliant approach. Of course tackling a goal everyday isn’t novel by any stretch, but what’s great is how you go about it.
The truth is, success comes from persistence. Everything else, such as opportunities, luck, timing, and so on are all born from persistence. So if we can build this momentum, then we can start to achieve our goals. I believe there are a few reasons why this particular approach works so well.
When we have a goal, we often have it written in a notebook, in a task list, or just in our mind. The calendar in this case, makes it much more visible and pretty much impossible to ignore. You can’t just skip a day because it’s reflected on the calendar. The power of visualizing the goal and tracking your actual effort makes a huge difference.
Fear of Failure
Once that chain starts to get longer, you don’t want to break it. That streak becomes something more than just some red X’s. It becomes a symbol of your discipline, effort, and desire to succeed. Missing a day hurts that much more. The fear of failure becomes as strong or stronger than the desire for success. Together, they make a lethal combination.
The act of building momentum is pretty much a stepping stone to real change: creating a new habit. If you do something everyday for a few weeks, it will start to become part of your routine. It’s something you just DO and there’s not so much a need, as there is a want.
Not About Quality
The best part of this approach is that it’s not about writing the funniest joke or making good art or writing the perfect novel. It’s just about trying everyday. That persistence to do the work, even when it’s not good or you don’t feel like it or you hate the world, is what is valuable and leads to success.
The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.Steven Pressfield
As 2016 approaches, remember that momentum may be the key in keeping your resolutions. So if you want to get in shape, start writing, make art, eat better, or anything else, try these simple steps.
1. Pick a single goal.
2. Get a calendar (you can create and print one here)
3. Cross off your first day.
4. Build up your momentum.
It’s as simple as that.
Just cross off that first day and see where it takes you.
Image via flickr