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Onward & Upward

The beautiful thing about the calendar is that with the beginning of each new year we all have a chance to start over and improve. Honestly, when you think about time, a day is a day, an hour is an hour, and a minute is a minute no matter how you classify them. Sorting all the days and minutes into months and years helps us to regroup and refresh. That’s why we set goals this time of year.

Most people think that in order to achieve a goal you have to attack it with fierce intensity. Comic Jerry Seinfeld disagrees. According to Seinfeld, the reason for his success was consistency rather than intensity. When he was just getting started he made it a goal to write one joke a day. He put a big calendar on the wall and whenever he had completed the daily joke, he put a big red X on that day. Over time Seinfeld claims that it wasn’t the lure of money or fame that kept him going, but rather that he didn’t want to leave any day “un-Xed.”

If you are a list maker, like me, this makes a lot of sense because working for your goal in little daily chunks becomes a habit. Consistency is the key.

Here are a few ideas about how to make it happen.

Get Clear about Your Goal

When you finally get serious about making something happen in your life, being wishy-washy is a great way to fail. Rather, be very specific and write your goal down. For example, my goal, for each of the past 6 or so years is to do 800 miles of run-walking, either at the gym or on the street. Each day, in my Planner Pad, I write down how many “countable” miles I’ve accomplished for the day, and then at the end of the week, on Sunday, I add them up and write it down as well. Some weeks I do 20 miles, other weeks I do 5, but the consistency of doing something each week keeps my eye on the goal. 

Be Clear About What Behavior Counts

Unless you are really specific about what exact behavior you need to do to achieve your goal, I promise you, you will cheat. On my 800-miles-in-a-year quest, ordinary walking around at home or in a grocery store does not count. To make it to the Planner Pad, it needs to be miles done in the “guise” of exercise. It’s one of those little brain contracts I make with myself, and I’ve done it for so long now, it’s just a part of me. It’s a priority, just like eating, sleeping and watching Jeopardy!

Track Your Progress

I know I mention my Planner Pad a lot. I’ve used Planner Pads since, gulp, 1999. They haven’t asked me to be their poster child yet, but I expect that call any day.

I like to write things down because I don’t sit at the computer every single day. Every Sunday afternoon I fill out my Planner Pad for the next week. I write down story and cartoon ideas as well as things I need to get done at home, like going to Costco or making a doctor’s appointment. At that time I also calculate how many miles I’ve done for the week, and carry over to the next week how many miles that I need to do to make the 800 mile goal. It really boosts my motivation to see my visual progress.

Partner Up

For me, because, well, it’s just the way I am, letting someone know about my goal and progress is really important. It is a strong way to make me accountable. This person could be a family member, friend or coworker, or even a professional coach or trainer. But make sure that your partner is someone that will be encouraging rather than ridiculing you when you fall short.

Just like Jerry Seinfeld, progress toward any goal is within your reach. But, you might need to do a little planning and restructuring of the way you think about your goals. Remember the old riddle, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer of course is, “one bite at a time.”

So what is your elephant and how hungry are you?

On your darkest days try not to concentrate on the light at the end of the tunnel, but rather focus on where you are right now, and carefully put one foot in front of the other. Before you know it, that light that seemed impossible to get to will be within reach and be an integral part of who you are.

You’ve got this, Wimpy Girl.

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This work by Anel “Pookie” Ryan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

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