A number of years back, I read Albert E.N. Gray’s The Common Denominator of Success. A short but powerful study in human behavior, Gray asserts that the world can be divided into two groups: those whose daily behavior is driven by an obsession with a set of desired outcomes in life, and those pre-occupied with enjoying the ride. The raw perspective of that message stuck with me for a long time, fueling an obsession with the idea that to be successful, I must make a habit of doing things unsuccessful people don’t like to do.
Whether it’s more money, more freedom, or less stress, we’re all hard wired with a desire to progress in life. Positive or negative, the habits we create and live by become the driving force behind how our life unfolds, and the older we get, the more entrenched they become. We hear mythical tales of professional athletes arriving for practice before the sun comes up and rising to the top of their game, and we assume there’s some sort of superhuman DNA at work, but the reality is that Tom Brady faces the same dilemma each day when the alarm clock goes off as you do. It’s far easier to hit the snooze button than it is to get up and hit the gym. We all face a series of decisions throughout each day that may seem trivial in the moment, but have considerable impact on our health, our relationships, and our success in life.
Most of us have goals, and some may even have written them down. But few have the discipline to zero in on the daily activities that bring them to life. We make New Year’s resolutions in January that are forgotten by February, and there is always an abundant supply of excuses: My boss assigned me a new project so I couldn’t start that side business, my son or daughter got sick so I couldn’t make it to the gym, I was running late this morning so I ate Cheeto’s for breakfast. In society today, it’s this habitual failure to stay committed that feeds rising levels of obesity, income inequality, and so many abandoned dreams.
To break this cycle, it starts with purpose – your why. Perhaps it’s the impact you can have on the lives of others – your family, your colleagues, your customers, or a cause you are committed to. Perhaps it’s the pursuit of a bigger home, a faster car, or a better body – aspirations you should make no apologies for, by the way. When you’re clear on your why, the how becomes easier to commit to. When you’re ready, here are five steps to put you on a path to achievement:
- Download an App. You can’t make progress in your life if you don’t know where you stand. There are no shortage of technology-based tools available today to aid in forming habits and tracking your progress. I use Strides, which shows progress bars relative to all your goals throughout the week – green if you’re on track, red if you’re behind. Get obsessed with your stats.
- Broadcast Your Goals. Tell your family, a colleague, or someone else you don’t want to disappoint what you’re committing to. Hell, post your intentions on Facebook. It will be far more difficult to quit when you’ve publicly declared your intentions.
- Find an Accountability Partner. If your goals are business or work-related, ask a boss, a partner, or even a vendor to hold your feet to the fire on the key measurements that drive your success. Be aware that someone you are too close to, like a spouse, may or may not make the best accountability partner. Choose someone you not only respect, but who will call you out if you are falling off track.
- Give Yourself a Break. If you want to maintain a healthy lifestyle, you need to control what you eat. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a burger and a beer on a Saturday afternoon. Instead of allowing yourself no margin for error, set a daily calorie intake goal, and commit to sticking with it 5-6 days a week. If you’re tracking at 80% or better, you’re likely making progress towards your goals.
- Reward Yourself. And include others. If you commit to saving $1000 per month by cutting back unnecessary expenses, pre-determine a reward, such as a night out at your spouse’s favorite restaurant, or a weekend getaway. If you commit to running 10 miles a week, schedule a massage at the end of any month you’ve hit that every week. Be creative, and commit to the reward.
No matter your age, background, past failures, or limitations you may face, your future is within your control. Make the commitment to create sustained change in one area of your life, and you’ll find that carries over into others.