March 26, 2022

Big Goals No Big Deal

If you have a goal worth mentioning, it’s probably big, life-changing, impressive.

But you can’t do that…not all at once.

The best way to accomplish big goals is by small steps.

Sound like common sense?

It is.

Why is it so uncommon that we actually do it?

Answer: It’s boring.

Small steps lack impact, buzz, juice. When I started walking at age 59 — very slowly, and for a very short distance — it felt like I did nothing. Didn’t lose a pound…probably not an ounce.

Ninety-six days later, I was 35 pounds lighter. I took a brisk 10-mile walk to celebrate my 60th birthday.

So here’s what accomplishment of a big goal looks like:

Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

Not much. Not much more.

Dull. Boring. Tedious.

Success!

Most realize this already. But it’s hard to muscle through all of that dull nothing.

I tricked myself two ways:

  1. Created a routine that bypasses my active thinking brain, and goes straight to my non-thinking action brain.
  2. Find fun aspects of an otherwise tedious task.

I bypassed my active thinking brain by orchestrating a simple series of events that take just seconds, and almost no effort, each. Those little steps end up with me sweating and breathing hard after burning some calories. When I break it down, it sounds kind of silly.

Here’s my daily routine…

  • Get out of bed.
  • Drink water.
  • Stretch ankles.
  • Make coffee.
  • Read Bible (or Bible Commentary)
  • Write in journal.
  • Pray.
  • Put exercise wrist-band on my watch.
  • Put on t-shirt, shorts, sweatpants, hoodie, socks, walking shoes, hat.
  • Do brief stretches.
  • Walk out the door.

No single one of these steps takes much effort, or thought. But I do them in this order each day. At first, I had to think a bit. But quickly it became automatic. We do automatic stuff all the time; shower, brush teeth, iron a shirt, etc.

From the moment I get out of bed, a cascade of habits begins to flow naturally from the first action.

By the way, my walking clothes are in the same place, in the same closet, all of the time. So I never hunt for what to wear.

In his book ‘Atomic Habits,’ James Clear talks about the power of using environmental triggers to spur routines that flow from little actions that take just seconds each. I started reading ‘Atomic Habits’ in September, long after I started my walking routine. I kind of stumbled into what Clear found from his exhaustive research.

My second trick: Find fun aspects of tedious tasks.

I did several things.

  1. walk outside where there’s lots to see
  2. take different paths daily
  3. listen to books or podcasts as I walk

My short attention span can’t handle the drudgery of a treadmill, or track. I’ve wandered all over several neighborhoods, along the lake trails, over bridges, through the woods.

I keep my routine by breaking the routine.

I always walk, but it’s always different.

The fitness tracker on my wrist doesn’t care where I am, what I’m hearing, or how much I love the view and the variety. It just counts the steps.

I write this to remember. I’m creating a manual I can use to achieve other goals.

Hope it helps you too.