James Clear, author of the best-seller Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones, recently dropped this gem:
You have to master the art of showing up. A habit has to be established before it can be improved.
It's worth listening to his interview with Disrupt Yourself author Whitney Johnson. In the meantime, let's break down what Clear means.
Clear says we should aim to be 1 percent better every time. Not to crush it or to seize the day, but to just add a little less salt to your food, to just put on your jogging gear, or to just do one extra client outreach email today. Then, tomorrow, you push a little harder and do a little more.
It's natural to go all or nothing, particularly in the New Year. I break it down in The Bite-Sized Entrepreneur, but I first explored the extreme decision-making trap in this column:
We fear that we will never make a move, so we create an extreme situation ("It's do or die!" "It's now or never!") to motivate us... The real problem is that the sensible approach is infinitely less romantic. Skydiving out of a plane is the most exciting proposition, but sometimes you'll see that the plane itself is heading toward the runway and you don't need to skydive at all.
Habit goes beyond doing what you should be doing. You also need the habit of conquering the challenge, too.
Tim Ferriss shared an excellent story from IBM's most successful days:
Ferriss talks about how IBM, once the most powerful computer company in America, gave its sales reps infamously low quotas -- and still did amazing sales. The low quotas actually made the reps feel confident enough to start the cold calling and, with a win in their grasp, gave them the momentum to keep making calls after the initial quota was reached. It's worth watching the entire Tim Ferriss Creative Live interview.
Clear is saying the same thing: Aim low to get in the habit of successfully reaching your goals. Winning, then, becomes the habit.