Diet and Exercise
The other day one of my mentors caught my in a silly over-achiever mood. We were discussing some of my goals for the next 90 days, when I started to suggest that I might do 50 of X in the next 90 days, which might lead to maybe 5 Y from which I could at the most fanciful hope for 1 Z ... but that would depend on how those Y went... then I was off to the races.
My mentor just shook his head and smiled. Then he asked me a simple question: 'Daniel, what two things could you do, that work every time, if you want to lose weight?' 'That's easy', I thought, confused 'Diet and Exercise, right?' He nodded. Then he elaborated, Diet and Exercise are simple. Everyone knows about them, and they do in fact work. But you won't sell many books explained that all people need to do to lose weight is diet and exercise.
Yet there is something very important that make these simple, common-sense, activities effective. They are wholly under your control. You can decide what to eat, and you can decide whether to go to the gym. Those Y and Z 'goals' weren't in my control. So I couldn't control whether or not they happened. And that got me to slow down. I realized that I had confused hopes, wants, and goals. I can hope for rain tomorrow. I can want to lose weight. But if my want is to be an effective goal, I need to have an action under my control that gets me there. I need to start doing push-ups.
Now that my mentor had my attention, he pointed to another improvement we could make on my goal. I was quite literally going from 0 X in a Quarter to 50 X in a Quarter. While he appreciated my enthusiasm, he didn't want me to burn out. I wanted to achieve excellence. So he read a quote off one of the walls in our office, 'Excellence is not an occasional act but a consistent habit.' He agreed that 50 in a quarter would be a good thing. But jumping there directly would not result in the Excellence we were after. Instead he suggested that I aim for establishing a cadence. 1 X per week for a quarter. He knew the result would only be about 16 X. He knew that establishing the cadence was more important.
It wasn't until this weekend that the import of these changes truly hit me. I look back now and cannot help but laugh at my 'youthful exuberance'. I wanted excellence, and so aimed for a short-term too high goal. Y and Z were shiny, but I cannot cause those things to happen.
Instead, I should work on the more bland common kind of goal. Doing 1 X a week for example. I shouldn't 'goal' things I cannot pursue. So we trimmed out Y and Z related goals. And If I want to achieve excellence, I need to start small, and achieve consistency first.
I recognize that much of this is not new. But my mentor's example, 'Diet and Exercise' might help other as it did me.
'People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.'