As we embark on a new year, many of us are finding ourselves focusing on the year ahead. But think on this for a moment...2018 is only a year. Just as 2017 was and every year before that. And chances are, there will be more years to come as well. So, instead of focusing just on 2018 and what we will achieve this year, wouldn't it be more useful to focus on how we can make 2018 a year of incremental growth so that we can achieve greater things in the years to come?
Don't get me wrong, I'm not implying that you should sell yourself short and set goals with little growth in mind. I'm a big fan of audacious goals, but why not focus those goals on the process of growth versus a destination? Why set some arbitrary day to be a better you instead of focusing every day on how you can be better than you were yesterday?
For example, in 2017 I set a goal to lose 25 pounds. 2016 had been a year of big transitions in my personal life and my health was reflective of that. The thing about losing weight and getting healthy is that it provides a lot of perspective on incremental growth. You can't just go for a run and meal prep for a week and poof! you're back to your prime! Much to our chagrin, that's just not how this works. Instead, you better get comfortable with incremental growth. So, this is how it went for me...
On February 13, 2017, my Peloton bike arrived. I had been lusting after it for months at that point and couldn't wait to take my first ride. I had space in our guest room perfectly reserved, my water bottle was filled, and I was ready for the delivery guys to set it up so I could ride! As soon as they set it up, I hopped on and took my first ride. Truth is, I don't know if you can call the flailing that I did a ride as I thought the instructor had plans to kill me the entire ride, but I just kept pedaling. I got off the bike and felt defeated (and exhausted) and almost started to cry. Here I was, sitting on the floor in a puddle of my own sweat, out of breath, overweight, having spent thousands of dollars on a piece of equipment that I felt like I couldn't even do.
But that night, I got on the bike again. This time only for 20-minutes, unlike the 45-minute deathwish ride that I'd done earlier. It was still hard, but I kept pedaling. My stepkids sat on the bed watching me asking questions like "why are you sweating so much?" and "is that hard?" the entire ride as my fiance encouraged me knowing that I was struggling. Even though it was hard, it was a little easier than earlier that day. This continued throughout 2017 and I ended the year more than 25 pounds lighter than I began it, completely asthma free, and with a heart rate that was well within a healthy range for my age. So, what does my weight loss journey have to do with your audacious goals for 2018? Well, a lot. Much like my goal seemed almost too big to imagine in January; when I was able to break it down into small, achievable steps - it seemed more realistic. In order to lose 25 pounds by the end of the year, you need to lose roughly 1/2 a pound per week. Sounds doable, right?
This is incremental growth. So, maybe you're struggling with the size of your goals for this year. Or maybe you're having trouble thinking about how you get from A to Z by 2020. Start by defining where you want to be in a year, three years, five years, maybe even ten years then be honest with yourself about what it will take to get there. What skills do you need to refine or even learn? What changes do you need to make? What strategies must you master? You won't get there today, but thinking about the incremental growth makes you a lot more likely to get there eventually than your zero to sixty plot you've made up in your mind. Take your time. Make incremental changes. Celebrate your wins. And go crush it.
Small steps add up. You just have to choose the direction.