Can you believe it?
It’s 11 days into 2017. How are your goals coming so far?
We make New Year resolutions, set goals, and make plans to do bigger and better things in the new year. That "New Year, New You" saying gets us excited about self-improvement.
But, somewhere along the way, we end up struggling. Our progress slows down until we just stop and quit before reaching success.
We chock it up to life, work, family, and other things. But the truth is, once we drop the ball, we rarely attempt to pick it back up again. Even if we do, it’s never with the same enthusiasm.
So what are we to do?
How can we make sure we don’t drop the ball? And if we do, how can we pick it up and start again with the same determination as before?
Well, here are a couple ideas.
Don’t Break the Chain
When Brad Isaac ran into Jerry Seinfeld at a comedy club, he couldn't wait to ask him for advice.
He asked if Seinfeld had any tips to help the young comic improve. Here's how Isaac describes Seinfeld's response:
“He said, the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day.
He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day.
After a few days, you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain.”
Isaac credits Seinfeld for helping him become a more productive person and comedian.
So how does this apply to you?
If you want to get better at a specific thing, the best way to get there is to practice it every day. Each day that you work toward your goal this year, make a note of it.
Place an "X" on a calendar or use a productivity app, but find a way to keep visual track of your progress each day.
As that chain grows, do your best to keep the chain going.
That level of consistency and commitment to a task alone will cause you to be a different person. Instead of someone who tends to quit and give up. You’ll be someone who’s accomplished something that many people haven’t.
I’m using this technique this year for my reading and writing. I use an app that shows me my progress each day.
Use this technique to make better progress on your goals.
Let me guess what you’re thinking.
Regardless of how much we commit to our goals and dreams this year, for some of us, we will end up breaking the chain. It’s practically inevitable, right?
Well, that may be true and I’ll address that in a moment.
But, there are things we can do to stave off what we perceive to be inevitable failure.
Here are two great strategies:
Make it Easy…Really Easy
For some of us, lofty goals that need a lot of work make us feel overwhelmed. Instead of putting all that work and pressure on yourself, simplify your goals.
For example, I want to read 20 books this year. For me, an average reader who still likes to binge watch Netflix and Hulu, 20 books is an aggressive amount.
I set the same goal last year and only made it halfway. Last year, I thought I was making it easy on myself by setting the goal of reading 20 pages a day.
That didn’t work. For some reason, I felt that I had to read my 20 pages in one sitting. That wasn't my original plan when making this goal, but for some reason that's what I felt I had to do. So, I kept falling behind or getting interrupted before reaching my 20 pages.
This year, I'm trying for 10 pages in the morning and 10 in the evening with no pressure to do it all in one sitting.
In other words, I made my easy reading plan even easier. So easy in fact, that the only way I can fail, is if I don’t try at all.
Under-promise and Over-deliver
If you look at any great company, you’ll notice two distinct features about them. First, a lof of these companies make promises that seem to be well within their reach. Then, they deliver more than what they said they would.
For example, Facebook is working to help connect people all around the world. They’re striving to make social media more social. They also want to make your interactions on Facebook as real as possible.
That’s a steep promise. But, it's within the grasp of the world's largest social media platform, right?
They've been at this for years, with over a billion people now using Facebook on a regular basis.
But recently, they did something that wasn’t expected. They created a way for users to record a video and stream it out to the world at the same time.
How’s that for over-delivering on making your social media interactions more real?
We can use this same concept in our own lives. By under-promising on our goals, we give ourselves the opportunity to over-deliver.
How do we do this?
Whatever goals we set, we make sure they are within our reach. They should still be challenging, but reasonable to achieve. With our goal in place, we can set a secondary goal to surpass our original one.
I’m keeping this in mind with my reading goal this year.
Again, my goal is 20 books this year. But I’m hoping to over-deliver and read 25 books with a little extra effort.
Look at your own goals for 2017 and set some secondary goals and over-deliver this year.
Don’t just run toward your target, run through it!
What if You Break the Chain?
OK, I hear you. All that stuff sounds great, and I know you’ll try your best this year. But, what if you break the chain?
If that happens, you’re allowed to have your emotions about it.
You’re allowed to be mad or upset. You can be angry, disappointed, or any other emotion you might have at that moment… for about 5 minutes.
Then forgive yourself, learn from it, and start back the next day.
The strategy of never breaking the chain isn't about the outcomes. It’s not about seeing the finished product.
It’s about consistency.
This strategy helps you build a habit of showing up to work on something that's important to you every day. The point isn't the outcome, let that be a byproduct of your work.
The point is to do the work.
Life does happen. Things do get in the way. We all get derailed at some point.
But, it’s our job to right the ship, get back on course, and keep going.
That’s true strength. That’s true courage.
If life knocks you down to the mat, you get back up and start going again. You owe it to yourself to keep going. You owe it to yourself to pursue your dreams and get better and stronger every day.
How to Keep Going
When I started learning about blogging, I found the work of Jon Morrow.
In the blogging world, Jon Morrow is by far one of the greatest bloggers of all time. He has worked tirelessly to build some of the most popular blogs ever. But, that’s not what drew me to him.
It wasn’t his ability to paint a picture with his words or to explain things with amazing detail.
It was his story.
You see, Jon has a neuromuscular disorder called Spinal Muscular Atrophy. It’s a form of Muscular dystrophy that severely affects children.
Most of the children who have this disease don’t survive for long, usually just a few years.
For Jon, who is now 34 years old and the oldest living person with his disease, this means he can't move his arms or legs. Except for the ability to move his eyes and lips, he is paralyzed.
But Jon had a mother who would do anything to help him survive.
There were nights when Jon's mom would have to beat on his back and chest every two hours just to help him cough. She would do this for days on end. This brutal assault on his fragile body caused him to suffer from fractured ribs in the process.
Just imagine, being unable to move. Picture being unable to help yourself. Imagine crying and suffering from the pain that your mother has to inflict on you, just so that you can live.
At one point, when Jon was struggling to breathe, his mother brought him a framed quote. The quote explained everything that his mother wanted Jon to know.
She placed the plaque on the table beside Jon and told him to read it aloud.
He couldn’t muster the strength.
“Whisper them, then,” she said, and Jon did.
He whispered them that night and every night afterward. He thought about the words when he was in the hospital.
Jon thought about them as he grew older and learned to navigate school from his wheelchair.
He recited them as he learned to use a computer and write articles using dictation software and a lip operated computer mouse.
Today, he’s a sought-after writer and teacher. He travels the world and changes the lives of millions of people.
How did he do it?
Sure, he had the help of his mother, doctors, and aides. Sure, he had people give him a chance when nobody else would.
But, what helped Jon become so successful were the words on the plaque that his mother bought him.
It was a short quote from Winston Churchill. Just 5 words in total.
“Never Never Never Give Up!”
Overcome your fear of public speaking. Conquer talking to strangers, meeting new people, and starting a deeper relationship.
Travel the world, start your business, write your book, and tell your story. Become the person you’ve always wanted to be.
Just take the advice that helped Jon and remember it every day.
Never Never Never Give Up!
Take Action Today
When researching for this post, I came across an amazing graphic designer and blogger, Karen Kavett, who makes "Don't Break the Chain" calendars for her readers.
I reached out to her on Twitter and asked if I could share this year's calendar with you. She happily agreed.
So, if you're interested in not breaking the chain this year, grab one of these free Don't Break the Chain calendars for 2017 today and start your chain. Click the calendar below to print as many as you want.
Looking for something a little bigger? Click here to get this awesome calendar.