Starting in a new direction, a new course of action, trying to form a new habit is tough. You’re doing something out of your ordinary, something that means having to put a lot of effort in. That could be starting going to the gym, getting up an hour earlier to go for a walk before the day starts, doing an exercise program.
Whatever it is, the challenge is harder if the goal you’re trying to achieve is so far away that you can’t see it clearly. We’re not wired for not being able to see the end and having to push through new or long-term challenges. Ask anybody who is trying to lose weight or wanting a new job. It gets more difficult if you know you’re unhappy with your present situation but not even sure what the end looks like. The only certain thing is ‘I don’t want to be here.’
In all this, let’s say you started to do some online language courses or began to play the piano or learn about blockchain technology—none of which you’ve encountered before. There’s definitely a challenge ahead that is tough and potentially long.
To get beyond the first few corners, something has to happen. You’re going to need a couple of boosts of encouragement.
There’s a need for some early wins.
During the Covid -19 lockdown, there was a little meme making the rounds of WhatsApp; it said ‘you’ll come out of this a hunk, a chunk or a drunk’. My friend Peter decided that he wanted to take the hunk option. So he decided that doing 10,000 steps a day was how he was going to do it.
Great! And with that, he was getting up early to walk in the area around his home. He is not a walker to start, so there was some mental resistance to this plan. When he started walking, what happened was unexpected and pleasurable. His teenage son decided that he’d walk along with his dad a few times.
So for three days a week over a month, the pair went out, and both really enjoyed the time together. As Peter told me later, the main topics were around apple products and tech, but he got a real buzz out of the father-son time together despite this. By the end of a month, the lad didn’t walk as much with his dad but what had happened was that Peter’s early morning habit was now firmly in place. His son coming along at the start gave him the early wins which saw him through.
Whatever the goal to be achieved, we all need those early wins. These moments of pleasure can be small but have to be real. Maybe they come by chance as Peter’s did, but more often than not, we have to plan them in. Learning new skills can take you through many levels, so celebrating achieving small levels can be vital if you’re to get to the end of a long road. Ask anyone who’s ever gone back to college while juggling a household and family.