How many times have you made a firm resolution to lose weight or join a gym but a few weeks later find you've dropped the ball? You were sure you wanted to do it when you set the intention - but it got hard, took too much time, .... (The excuses are legion - pick your favourite).
We all know that success in any endeavour comes as a result of persistence. So why is it so hard to stay on track? I think the answer, for many of us, is that we become bored with the restrictions and intensity.
Often we try too hard, in a way that's not sustainable. In a weak moment our old behavioural patterns take over, we beat ourselves up for failure, and before we know it, we've flagged the good intention, given up the effort and resigned ourselves to the old habits.
According to Tom O'Neil, the 1 per cent Guy, whom I interviewed a few weeks ago for my weekly Chicago-based radio hour on Webtalkradio.net, by reducing the level of expectation to something much more manageable we will achieve far more long-lasting results.
Tom highlighted a key principle about continuous improvement - that if we just focus on a tiny 1 per cent daily improvement in any area of life, in a surprisingly short time we'll find ourselves significantly more effective/successful in all areas of our life.
It's easier to pick one small behaviour to work on per day. Then the next day choose something else. The benefit of changing focus each day is that you're spreading the emotional load over your whole life instead of becoming too intense about one area. All you're doing is tweaking, not instituting major change. A tiny change is easier to integrate.
I noticed this a couple of weeks ago. I've been learning French through the Alliance Française for nearly three years but had fallen into a rut and found myself feeling a bit discouraged. I'm certainly not a fast learner and need a lot of repetition - something to do with age, my adult children tell me!
I was so close to giving up, but thank goodness didn't. Instead another tutor with more flexibility has been allocated to meet my ever-changing schedule. Just that one small thing made a huge difference - to my attitude and motivation. Now I'm away again with enthusiasm.
Some micro improvement ideas for you:
• Put away one thing you'd normally leave lying around
• Turn off your email alert
• Improve a regular process
• Read 15 minutes of a business or self-development book
• Take the stairs instead of the elevator
• Reduce the sugar in your coffee by ½ teaspoon
• Go to bed 20 minutes earlier
• Set your alarm for 15 minutes earlier
• Take lunch one day a week instead of buying food at the nearest café every day
• Exchange one café coffee per day for a free plunger coffee at your home or work
• Call a family member or friend you've not spoken to for a while
• Watch one less TV programme tonight
• Have a TV-free night once a week and instead do family things
• If you like exercising with friends, join a group.
For most of us, making a commitment to others is much easier to sustain than trying to stay on track by ourselves. (For instance, I've committed to do the Alps to Ocean 5-day cycle ride next Easter. Suddenly exercise takes on a much more important focus - no way do I want to let my friends down by being tail-end Charlie and holding them up.)
Have fun instituting your 1 per cent habit.