Continuing on our theme for the year of getting done what matters to you, I want to hit the most basic and fundamental idea.
All the time people ask me what is the trick to getting yourself doing those things you’ve been avoiding, and this is, quite literally, what matters most—
You must be skillful at getting yourself moving and building momentum.
It’s very simple, but, of course, as with all things that we talk about here, this doesn’t make it easy to do.
Why Is It Hard To Build New Habits?
As I wrote about last week there are many things that can get in the way of making progress on our goals.
Some times we’re resisting. Other times avoiding. Inner conflicts. Lack of commitment. There are lots of reasons we get stalled.
Yet, no matter what the reason, we get held back for more or less the same cause…
We are creatures of habit. And anything new that we “try” to get ourselves to do is, by definition, in conflict with our “muscle memory,” our habits, our old ways of being.
So, while just getting ourselves to take new actions can be hard in its own right, it’s also the elastic pull, or gravity, of our old habits that we must escape.
Think of someone with a goal to change their job. Just imagining all the things they must do to hunt and claim that new job might be resistance-inducing enough, but first reaching escape velocity from their old job can be even harder.
They might be fired up about making a job change, but waking up every day and heading to that old job tends to have a way of starving that new job of oxygen.
To make progress you must be able to get beyond those old ways of being, get yourself moving in a new direction, and build momentum in your goals and days.
Momentum In Your Goals
Progress begets progress. We of course know this. A rolling stone gathers no moss and all that…
But when it comes to our goals, crucially, progress also acts as a “convincer” that we’re on the right track.
Results validate our belief and effort, which begets more belief and effort. And this shot in the arm is often all we need to keep taking action.
In most goals this happens naturally with progress, but we also want to engineer our goals in such a way that we can build momentum with small victories.
Any small victory will do. One more day in a row you ate right. Or went to the gym. Or didn’t drink. Just a couple of great meetings might be all it takes to feel like you’re building momentum in a job search.
You also want to find ways to remind yourself of your momentum. You might do this in your Daily Exercises. A calendar on the wall that you mark with progress. An app that does the same thing.
However you do it keep finding ways to prove to yourself that you’re building momentum, and you’ll find it easier to get yourself focused and taking action.
Momentum In Your Days
The trick to having momentum in your goals is to have momentum in your days!
You might be thinking about what you really want to get done today, but our minds are often bigger than our stomachs, and it can be hard to translate this to action.
As I discussed last week, writing was much this way for me. It’s easy enough to imagine writing a book, but sitting down and looking at thousands of pages of mess tends to freak that out of you.
Yet, if you can just get beyond thinking about why it’s hard to take action, and well, just take action, then that stone rolls with you.
The best analogy to me is going for a run.
Even if you love running (which I don’t!), it can be hard to get yourself in the right state to head out the door. But just by getting moving, starting to get dressed, sliding on your shoes, you feel yourself building momentum. Then, even if those first few minutes of the run are rickety, once you get in the flow, well, you might keep running like Forrest Gump from there!
Thinking is the action killer. And when you stop thinking and start doing, like push-starting a car, the momentum carries you.
You can do this ad-hoc each day, but if you want to become truly excellent at building momentum in your days, I suggest establishing powerful daily routines.
While this approach can seem extreme, it is by far the easiest and most effective way to consistently get yourself focused and taking action on those things you might otherwise avoid.
And in fact, if you think this is a little extreme, in the next couple of weeks I’ll share with you a more rigorous version of this, a system that we built in our consulting firm for Wall Streeters who approach their careers like pros.
It’s not to say you need this. But it is to say that to crush your days, you want to get very deliberate in how you get yourself moving and building momentum.
How? You know what to do!
Use The House Of Flow
You’ve seen it before, and you will keep seeing it again!
To become truly excellent at diving in and getting done those things you might otherwise avoid, just like that run, you want to become truly excellent at getting yourself in flow.
You might keep listening to this House of Flow recording, or you can also simply keep applying these steps to what you’re getting done:
1. Set Clear Intent
To get moving and build momentum in your day and your goals, simply… decide.
It’s this simple. You set clear intent. You decide that you’ll spend X hours on your goal. Or achieve a certain outcome. Or do a certain task.
Whatever it is, just like you decide to wear socks, you decide this is what you are doing.
2. Stop Thinking
In many facets of life, and certainly when we are stalled in our goals, thinking is the enemy.
That conscious mind of ours might be the most fantastical machine on the planet, but it’s also loaded with crappy programming…
Little good comes from thinking about what you “should” or “want” to be doing. Stop thinking. Be doing.
3. Get In State
After setting clear intent and stopping thinking, this is the most important step in the House of Flow…
You must. You absolutely must. Get yourself into the right state for taking action. A boxer doesn’t step into the ring feeling so-so about winning, and neither should you.
If you’re not feeling it, the job of that conscious mind is to get yourself feeling it!
How? Come back to The Cure. Pump your arms in the air. Get excited about what it will feel like to achieve your goal. Get even more excited about how it feels to just be making progress in your days.
Whatever it takes, put your mind there. Get in state!
4. Visualize Your Desired Process and Outcome
Our human “reality” is mostly “coded” visually.
We have phrases like “I’ll believe it when I see it” because that’s generally how we become convinced. Cats on the other hand mostly navigate reality by smell, and so when I’m programming my cat, I have him pull towards a smell he likes 🙂
In our human case, you want to give your brain a map, a movie, a way of seeing how what you’re about to do is driving everything you want!
You’ve set clear intent. You’ve stopped thinking. You’re in state. You’re visualizing your day / task/ goal exactly how you want it.
Now, forget all this other stuff and just absorb. Cut out email, phones, and other distractions. And just absorb in what you’re doing.
Again, just like getting moving on your run, this can be damn hard, and that thinking mind might keep trying to stall you, but stick with it.
Do want you decided. Absorb until you’re done.
Beating The Horse
I know I’m pounding away on this same topic over and over, but I hope you feel like I’m doing it for the right reason.
This is the crux of where many of us get stuck in life.
It’s not easy to get ourselves focused on what matters, and then, actually to be doing it.
And nailing this topic may very well be the trick to nailing everything you want.
It has been for me.
P.S. This article is one in a series, and if you found this article helpful, these will likely be valuable too: