You may remember my post about how taking small steps can lead to big things. I used the Bowflex Max Trainer as an example. The Max commercial says that in just 15 minutes a day, you can lose weight and get healthy. I say that if you commit to any goal for 15 minutes a day, you will see big changes happen.
A few weeks ago, I started a new daily goal of 1 push up. Just one – and that didn’t even take me 15 minutes. But I could hardly do a single push up, even a “semi” push-up from my knees. I knew that if I gave myself one very small goal, I could build success by repeating that one push up every day. So I committed to that one push up every day. I checked it off on my calendar so I could see my progress. And starting with just one a few weeks ago, I’m now up to 20 and I feel much stronger.
You may think one push up is a silly place to start, or that it’s too easy, but making it easy is the point. As I got stronger, I would do more than one every day. I only HAD to do one to reach my goal and feel that I did what I set out to do, but since I was down on the floor anyway, I figured I’d just do as many as I could.
When I started, I used to have to think about fitting in that one push up every day. Now I do it automatically. It’s part of my regular routine and is a habit. I still only have to do one, but usually I choose to do 15-20.
Doing something until it becomes routine, until you do it automatically, is how you build a habit. And when you build a habit, it takes you a lot less effort to do every day. Do you think about whether or not you have to brush your teeth each day? Do you really think through all the steps you do in order to brush your teeth? No – you just get out of bed and automatically go through each step until you have minty fresh breath.
You may have heard that it takes 21 days for something to become a habit. There’s a lot of research out there that says the amount of time it takes varies. It might take 21 days, it might take two months. I recommend choosing one small step that is exciting to you, something you want to do or need to do, and that fits with your long-term goal of graduating high school or going to college. If you feel strongly about it, you’re more likely to keep with it until it becomes a habit. It’s not easy, even with the smallest of goals, but if you commit to it and stick with it, you’ll have success.
One thing you can do to add to your chances for success is to make your commitment visible. I checked off every day I did my push up on a large wall calendar. Once I started accumulating check marks, I didn’t want to miss a day and see a blank space. That helped move me to get to the floor no matter how tired I was at the end of the day. After all, I’d tell myself, I only have to do ONE! Those visual cues can be a big help.
What if, instead of one huge goal like “going to college,” you thought of one very small goal that would get you one step closer to college? Let’s say math isn’t your greatest subject and you want to do better. What if you committed to doing one math problem every day? You could ask your teacher to give you one problem each day that fit what you were learning at that time. That’s all you would commit to – that one problem. If you did one every day until the end of the school year, you’d probably become pretty good at solving mathematical problems. And your grades would improve along with your skill. Then the college admissions committee would see a good math grade. In the scholarship interview you would talk about how doing just one extra math problem every day lead you to becoming a better student. That’s a great visualization, isn’t it?
Just one small step can have amazing results.
I’d love to hear your plan for one small step you will commit to doing every day to make it into a habit. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m happy to help look at ways to make a larger goal into a mini-goal as well.
Thanks for reading! Make it a great day!
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