“The primary reason we do not work at areas in which we know we need to improve is that the rewards (and pleasures) are in the future; the disruption, discomfort and discipline needed to get there are immediate.”
David Maister Change This
I’m a bike rider. I attempt to ride 100 to 250 miles a week. That goal is hard to pull off living in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. where it rains most of January through March, and darkness prevents weekday rides. Still I persist. My companion on my rides is Strava, a social media app that tracks everything about my rides: distance, speed, calories burned, elevation gain, the whole deal.
A few years ago, Stava used the technology at its disposal, including GPS tracking of lots of people like me, and the mountains of data we all generate, to aggregate 31.5 million publicly-shared physical activities in the month of January. What they wanted to know is how long do we keep our New Year’s fitness resolutions. Their data-based finding: we stop by January 19th.
This is how January 19th became known as Quitter’s Day.
From there, Stava pretty much left people like me to fend for ourselves. I want to use this post to take a cut at helping us get back to work on January 20th. Here are five strategies for getting back on your “bike”.
- Start with strength and energy: There is more power and juice when we use our talents, gifts and strengths to achieve our goals. Define clearly which of your talents and gifts you can leverage as you work on your resolutions. Put aside your oil leaks for now. Be a positive narcissist for this short time; focus on yourself. You will access more reserves when the work gets hard because it will get hard.
- Don’t go alone: All resolutions are about behavior change. This is not easy work, as David Maister smartly states above. It helps to have partners and peers who are on the same trip. In the winter months I ride with a group. No matter how bad the weather is, at least one other person is willing to ride so that tips me forward and onto my bike. I do the same for others.
- Cut it in half: We humans are an ambitious species. Particularly when it comes to our resolutions. Fair enough. The purpose of a resolution achieved is not just the objective accomplishment of the goal, but also building a better change practice in our lives. To do this we need to keep making progress. Saul Alinsky and Karl Weick call this Small Wins. Small Wins have three criteria for working goals: 1) very concrete, 2) realizable, 3) results will be immediate. A wise approach to achieving small wins is to cut your resolution in half. When you achieve your goal, keep moving forward.
- Go “small” Public: Declare your resolutions out loud to two or three people who care about you and want you to achieve in your life. This strategy is equal parts support and heat. People who care will be there when you need help. Do ask for that help. We turn the heat up on ourselves when we publicly declare our goals. Our work is to keep enough heat on ourselves to stay in productive action.
- 19 x 2 = 38 Days: Mythology has it that we need about 30 days to form a new habit and behavior. You know best how long it takes you. Stava is telling us that 19 days doesn’t get it done. I suggest doubling the Quitter’s Day total of 19 days. Thirty-eight days of Small Win discipline is likely to impress your partners and satisfy you.
Remember it’s okay to stumble, to fall, to go to sleep, all of that. What is not cool is to surrender. It’s not great for our head and our story making. If you find yourself in such a place, check in with your heart, relocate some energy and then connect it to your work. Let’s ride.