Greg (my husband, for new readers) has a natural passion for helping people and a crazy ability to motivate, coupled with a ridiculous amount of energy. The man is like a Labrador, and sometimes just watching him is exhausting. I think about joining him and doing something productive, but then I also think about opening the back door and letting him run his energy off outside in the yard while I eat chocolate and watch Netflix. Because two things can happen when you live with someone so motivated: 1) you in turn become motivated – yay! – or 2) you slump into a unmotivated and self-loathing puddle of pathetic-ness, because his incredible energy sort of makes you feel like maybe there’s something wrong with you and therefore you can’t get anything done.
Currently it’s had the latter effect on me. It’s nothing he’s doing to me; I’m doing it to myself. I can’t seem to accomplish anything, and the more I think about it, the more I beat myself up and get stuck, only to find myself spinning my wheels with no progress. For instance, one of my ‘resolutions’ this year was/is to blog every other day and write a chapter of my new book project per week. HA! Do you know where that got me?! Let’s just say it’s January 20th and this is the first post I’ve been able to eek out this year. I put too much pressure on myself which led me to get nothing done, and when I think about what I’m asking of myself I started having slight panic attacks.
And don’t get me started on resolutions. Here’s a statistical nugget for you: 92% of all resolutions fail. 92%! You know the other successful 8% is made up of freak shows like Oprah and Tony Little. I mean who are we putting ourselves up against if we make resolutions?! This is why I think New Year’s resolutions are total BS, and if we make them, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment.
Even if it’s not an exercise-related goal you are setting, who the hell can keep motivation in the dead of Winter, directly following a season of hibernation, fatness, and indulgence? Not me. But the stats and lack of motivation doesn’t stop me from still thinking about all those goals I want to accomplish.
And this isn’t just about working out. I bet you have a ton of other things you’d like to do: write a novel, clean out your closet, get a new job, start a business, and on, and on. So what do we middle-class mortals strapped for time, money, and energy do?
Greg suggested an idea I try that might help, and it’s actually…working. And no, it’s not hard drugs or alcohol. I’m starting to really love this idea. And you know I don’t like holding out on you, so here’s the low-down.
Small Idea, Big Results
Do you think you could commit to doing ONE pushup every morning? Seriously; get out of bed in the morning, take less than ten seconds, and do one pushup. Could you do it? Greg asked me if I could do one push-up per day and I almost laughed in his face. Of course! That would be ridiculous if I say I couldn’t do it. But what good would it do for me?
He got the idea from a book he read: Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results. And, actually, it is doing me a great deal of good. The premise is this: select one or two goals you would like to accomplish, then break it down into daily nuggets that take almost nothing for you to do. Like the one push-up.
In addition to my morning push-up, Greg suggested I write fifty words per day. Fifty words per day is nothing – to give you perspective, there are forty two words in this paragraph. I could write fifty words per day, no problem!
As another example, my mom has been trying to organize herself for a while but the totality of the chore seemed so big, that every time she would approach it she would get overwhelmed and walk away. Just the thought of it was too much, and as a result, nothing got done. But Greg broke it down and gave her a small task to do: every day, get rid of one item. Simple as that. It could be as small as shredding a piece of paper she no longer needs, clearing her closet of one shirt that goes into the ‘donate’ bin – it doesn’t matter. But every day, she has to get rid of one item.
The reason why the these seemingly small actions are so effective is because they are so tiny, so non-invasive to your regular routine that you can’t not do it. And, since half the battle of getting anything done is essentially showing up, you’ll find yourself ‘showing up’ at least once per day which will lead to results in the long run. Writing 50 words per day doesn’t sound like much. But after one month? I could knock at a couple of chapters, and that’s at a minimum!
Because what happens in many cases is that once you show up, you’ll find yourself doing five pushups, or throwing away two, three, maybe even four or five items, or writing 1000 words – but there is NO pressure to do this. In fact, Greg suggests that you start by keeping it small and NOT over-achieving, because this could put extra pressure on you for future days and backfire. Keep it simple; one small action per day. But showing up – even for that one silly push-up – is pretty damn motivating. You should try it.
And so that’s what I’m doing. I’m showing up every morning with my one push-up, and somewhere throughout the day I’m sitting down and writing fifty words.
Want to join me? Do you think you could do one push-up every morning? If you’re with me on this, let me hear it in the comments. Tell me what, along with your one push-up a day, will be your mini-habit. Or tell me you’re goal, I’ll go consult with the Labrador, and we’ll develop one for you. Screw Oprah and Tony Little – we’re doing this OUR way. Who’s with me?