How do some people manage to hit the gym 5 times a week, while others struggle to go even once?
Why can some people drop weight like crazy while others are in a perpetual war with the scale?
Is it willpower? Luck?
If I had to place a bet, I’d guess it was strategy.
Let me show you what I mean.
It all started with 2 minutes every day.
I knew from a young age just how powerful a meditation habit could be. Between increasing focus and creativity to lowering anxiety and stress, there’s no reason not to meditate. So what was my hang-up?
Getting started in the first place!
While everyone around me meditated for 20 or 30 minutes, sometimes even an hour every day, I struggled to survive a fidget-free 10 minutes. Reasoning that I just wasn’t cut out for it, I quickly became discouraged and let the habit slide until one day when I decided to revisit it.
Maybe I couldn’t make it through an entire hour (yet), but if I could just commit to 2 minutes every day, then 5 minutes the following week, then 10 minutes the one after that, then I’d be on my way to an hour a day!
But for right now, just 2 minutes.
Nowadays, a year later, I can easily meditate for an hour at a time. The benefits have been indescribable. I am more focused, more creative, and more loving. I rarely experience resentment, hatred, or apathy any more. Stress and sadness pass by like clouds in the sky, never staying for long or leaving marks.
None of that would have happened if I hadn’t just promised myself to take small, consistent action.
How to use this strategy for other habits
The point I’m trying to make is that even wild or challenging goals are achievable by anyone, even if they seem miles away. All you have to do is learn how to build a map there and take daily baby steps. No matter how small, you’re still one step closer than you were yesterday!
The most effective way I’ve found for making big goals into manageable bites is to break them into S.M.A.R.T goals. If you’re not familiar with this technique, it goes something like this:
Make sure you goals are specific
Let’s say your goal is to “lose weight”. That’s not specific enough to be an actionable goal. Let’s change that to “I want to lose 30 lbs”. Here you should also identify your “why” and your “how”. In this example, you might say “I want to be in good shape for my high school reunion. I will do this by eating no more than 2,000 calories a day and exercising 5 days a week at the gym.”
Make your goals measurable
In the example of losing weight above, you might say “I want to lose 40 lbs of fat and gain 10lbs of muscle”. Doesn’t that already feel a little more achievable, now that you’ve put a number on it? Now you know when you’re on course and when you will have achieved that goal.
Make your goals achievable
Be honest with yourself. If you’re putting in a 9 out of 10 on the effort scale, could you realistically achieve this? In the example of losing weight, you probably will struggle to lose 30 lbs this month, but you could probably lose it within 3 months if you’re dedicated to the process.
Make sure your goals are relevant
Is this goal in line with the rest of your goals and with your lifestyle? Is your reason for doing it strong enough to keep you on track? If your goal is to lose 30 lbs for your high school reunion but you’re not so sure you’ll even go, that might be a weak goal. If you’re wanting to lose weight to avoid the heart disease that runs rampant in your family, you’ll probably find yourself rather motivated to make that goal a reality.
Make sure your goals are timed
Keeping the previous points in mind, set a date or time frame by which you need to get this accomplished. In our weight loss example, the full picture might look like this: “I want to lose 40 lbs of fat and gain 10 lbs of muscle by December 1, 20XX. I will do this by eating no more than 2,000 calories daily and exercising five times a week. I’m doing this to lower my risk of heart disease so I can stay strong and healthy enough to watch my kids grow up.”
But keep in mind that this technique is massively helpful to any goal! I have personally used it to build habits for meditation, exercise, and self-directed study.
Want to learn to meditate?
This has become a life-changing habit and I highly recommend it to anyone. Even if you do it for only 2 minutes a day as I once did, it will do wonders to help you understand yourself and your (often toxic) ways of thinking. If you’ve ever wanted to stop being yoked around by your emotions (stress, anxiety, depression), I could not think of a better tool.
Here are some of my recommended tools for beginners:
Calm (smartphone app)
This is my most-used app. With meditations ranging from 5 to 30 minutes long, you’ll always find one that’s the right duration for you. There are guided and unguided meditations, both of which are equally useful.
Aura (smartphone app)
This one might be better suited for beginners as each session is only 3 minutes long. It’s very handy though, because each session is designed to target a specific emotion. If you need a meditation to help with stress, it’ll hook you up. Likewise if you’re happy, angry, sad, or just middle-of-the-road.
Small, daily action helped me (start) down the road to a successful meditation habit, but the same techniques can be used to tackle any Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal. What small daily habits are you guys incorporating into your lives?