Focus, focus, focus.
Or even better, just: focus.
This is a strategy I like to promote to increase the chance of success for implementing new activities. I mean it for healthy lifestyle activities, but it’s applicable for any kind of new activity I want to introduce in my life.
Usually, it starts like this: “I make the decision: once for all, I change my life. From now on, I will live healthier. All ideas come to my mind, eating less fat, drinking more, get up in the morning to do exercise, walk the dog regularly, prepare healthy food for the children, enter my food in the nutrition tracker every day, go to bed on time and sleep good, make wise choices in the restaurant, and so on… I don’t write a list, I remember these, they are important, I want these goals all the time! But yes, this is just too much, of course I cannot do ALL of this, but at least, I can do 10 things. So I let’s make a list of the 10 things I really want to focus on. Some are nice to have, and there are really big ones. I focus my energy on the really big ones, and I do some easy things later on, when I’ll be a pro-healthy liver. “
Most people I talk to, in my business, on forums, in daily life, have a long list of ideas they would do differently. Which I find is a wonderful thing, means they know themselves, have motivation to change, and have ideas on how to improve.
However, my experience advises differently on implementing all these actions. While for dreaming, shaping the future, envisioning, it is great to have a lot of options-ideas-wishes, for implementing them the best is to have only one single thing to focus on. ONE SINGLE THING. Not more, not less.
ONE-FOCUS vs. SEVERAL GOALS IN PARALLEL
My experience is that on the long term it is more successful to have a series of one-at-a-time goals, vs. several goals in parallel. I have tried different versions, many goals, only a handful, keeping a list of the highest priority goals and checking them every day, and in the end, only one goal at a time. My success rate was exponentially higher when I had only one goal.
Do you want to eat better, start with exercise, and sleep longer hours? My recommendation is to capture in a list all of your wishes, and pick one, and deal with that. I don’t say forget about the rest – that’s why you capture it in a list. But I recommend to start only with one of them.
So if you have 5 goals that you really want to focus on, and it just seems impossible to let go any of them, and you want them to do now. My recommendation is to process them in sequential order, vs. in parallel. Say you spend five weeks focusing on your goals. Then spend the first week on the first goal, the second week on the second goal, and so on.
Why is this? I don’t have scientific proof, but I think this is because of our daily willpower reserve is not endless. We have a certain amount of mental and physical energy every day that we can spend on our job, loved ones, daily activities, unforeseen events, and so on. While, implementing a new activity in our daily life has a certain threshold level of willpower to make it happen. Some days we have this, get out and it easily, other days we just don’t seem to have any stamina left to pick ourselves up and do this new activity. If you only spend a little amount willpower on each goal, and none of them reaches the threshold level, all of them will be a failure. Focusing on one goal ensures that your willpower-reserve will be closer to the level needed for success.
Of course, over time, people get better, and can focus on several things, but this usually comes only over time.
SMALLER THE GOAL, THE BETTER THE CHANCE OF SUCCESS
When developing a healthy lifestyle, the basic need is to make a lasting change. My view is that it is more important to develop something that is small but lasts, vs. something big that is given up. This is because over time, I can build up a big change, from the building blocks of small successful changes. However, 3 big objectives with failures, although still give some learning, will more probably undermine my motivation, and leave me where I was.
So if you want to start with exercise, it sounds wise to spend at least an hour running, biking, or something else. I rather recommend you set the barrier much lower: target 10 minutes of running, or even better, target “get dressed up in running gear, and get outside in front of the door”.
How small should it be? Imagine what would be the optimal amount, take that, then at least cut it into half in effort, and target this low-effort one. If in doubt, whether this is still an OK goal to go for, you can ask yourself: which one do you prefer: try a small-effort, and be successful to implement it, or try a big one, and maybe fail or maybe succeed?
If you were out running 10 minutes every day in the last month, you can build upon that, and make longer runs every day.
IT TAKES COURAGE
It takes courage to start small, and focus on a single goal. It feels ridiculous to focus on just a single action, while you made all that big decision to make the change once for all. Friends and family often responds with a smile, and a neglecting message, “You only target 10 minutes of exercise a day? Haha, you will stay as you are!”
My recommendation is to try it for a month. What can you loose anyway? Probably, you tried big, several goals already many times in your life. Now, just make a test on yourself: pick one of your goals, make it a small one, and follow-up only on this one for the next month. It can be anything very small, like starting the day with a glass of water, parking further away and walk to the office, eat a healthy salad for lunch when possible. Does it feel stupid, to only focus on such a small thing for an entire month? You see, it takes courage to do it this way!
I’m interested in your experiences:
– How many goals do you usually have?
– Did you try only one goal at a time before?
– What are the goals in healthy living that you want to achieve?
If you tried this strategy, one small goal at a time, let me know, I’m interested in your learning. Did it work? Did it now? What would you do differently?
You can write me an e-mail through the contact page, leave a comment here on or facebook/linkedin or twitter, I will be happy to read how is it going on for you. If you struggle to choose the one goal from many, or to scale it down, just drop me a note, I’d be happy to give some constructive feedback (no charge). And if you’re hesitating between writing me a long e-mail with all your questions sometime later, or just to drop a note with a small question or feedback now, you already know what I would say. 🙂