How Not To Make Progress Towards Life Goals

Taking the metaphorical plunge

When I think back to the times I’ve made significant changes in my life, they can almost always be identified by one clear moment:

Breaking up with a girlfriend who made me unhappy.

Starting a company.

The day I moved to Spain aged 20 to learn a new language.

Yet these moments were merely the climax, derived, in fact, from many, smaller, less perceptible moments that built up over time

Starting a company, for example, started with a conversation. Then an idea. Then an evolution of that idea. Then the writing of that idea down in a coherent format. Then more conversations. More evolutions. Then, some three months later, that nascent idea become a concrete business plan.

Yet it’s easy to forget that.

It’s easy to think of these key moments in life as just that: moments. Because we don’t remember all the micro-decisions & the thoughts that led to that moment.

How Not To Make Progress

When, therefore, we try to actively deal with a problem in our lives, we usually approach it with this ‘eureka moment’ mindset.

We want to lose weight, so we say, ‘no more chocolate for the next year’ & quietly forgot our promise a few days later as someone offers us a Cadbury’s Creme Egg.

We want to start a business, so we quit our day job in dramatic fashion & panic the next day as we realise the gravity of what we’ve just done.

We punish ourselves when that glorious moment of decisiveness fades away & we find ourselves entirely unprepared to put our intent into action.

Why this happens

Imagine you turned up to an exam without knowing what’s in the paper.

Maybe you could wing it, scraping a pass, with a bit of general knowledge on the subject.

Unlikely, however, considering your mental state in such a situation:

An overwhelming sense of fear: of failure, of judgment, of consequences.

A crippling sense of uncertainty, paralysing you through indecision.

A sense of panic, preventing you making rational decisions.

And these feelings sit with many of us on a daily basis, coming to the fore whenever we approach big decisions in our lives.

Because many of us are unprepared for such decisions.

We fear leaving the job that makes us miserable because we have no idea what the alternative would be.

We fear leaving an unhappy relationship because we’re scared to be alone, or to find another partner.

We fear trying to lose weight, so we don’t just fail again.

We fear putting our intent into action as there are a hundred decisions we could make, but we are unprepared, scared, uncertain & end up making none.

 Progress Starts Small

And that’s why it’s better to start small.

To not look for that big climactic moment, but instead for tiny moments, each day, that get you towards your goal.

Let’s say it’s leaving your job.

What is the one thing you can achieve today to move you in the right direction?

How can you prepare yourself for that moment?

What are the steps you need to take to mitigate risk? Fear? Uncertainty?

At Scribe, we’re working out how to help people follow this process.

We aim to use behavioural psychology to, firstly, set a goal you want to achieve, and then create micro-steps to help you get there.

Is that through a daily writing series? An online course? A series of exercises to do in sequence? Helping you simply to build habits?

The answer is one we will be exploring over the coming months in the course of our product development, so if you have any ideas — or suggestions from what has worked for you — then feel free to reach out to me in the comments section. Any help is always appreciated.

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Henry Latham

Henry Latham

Founder, Prod MBA

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