Tell me if this sounds familiar: You have just finished an inspiring book/documentary/podcast/etc., and in a moment of enthusiasm you decide it’s time for a change.
Assuming the best of your future self, you set an optimistic and radical goal to improve your life in some way. But as the days and weeks pass, the excitement and motivation fades and the slow creep of apathy leads to paralyzing inaction. The emotion that spurred you to action is now failing you.
What’s the issue? Are you a failure? Is that life-changing goal simply out of reach — beyond your capabilities? Of course not. The problem is that emotion is a poor foundation for real change.
Success in achieving anything worthwhile is not a matter of accident, and it doesn’t happen because you magically continued to feel like putting in the work. Success is won by settling in for the long fight, and exercising the discipline of persisting in doing the right thing, despite what you feel like doing.
The number one reason most people do not succeed is because they are unwilling to endure the monotony of success.
The Three Next Steps System
One of the best weapons you have against self-sabotaging emotions is to implement a system for success. The goal of the Three Next Steps system is to take advantage of the temporary enthusiasm to spur you to immediate action, and to use discipline to ensure long-term commitment.
Before leaving your meeting, putting down the book, or otherwise leaving the situation in which you decide to pursue a goal, decide on the following three actions:
- One simple thing you will do today (small task, 5-10 minutes max).
- One thing you will do tomorrow (medium complexity task).
- One thing you will do within a week (your big task for the week).
We start by ensuring that you take immediate action. We’ll pick something that takes no longer than 5-10 minutes, in order to keep the barrier to getting started low.
Next, lets establish a consistency of action. Follow up the very next day by completing an additional task. This can be something slightly more complicated, but probably no more than an hour or two of work at the most. Remember, we’re trying to build consistency; the intensity will come later.
Finally, we build upon the momentum we’ve created, and use it to propel us forward. We spend the remaining 5 days focusing on the last item: Completing our ONE big task for the week.
Bias Toward Action
Don’t expect to be motivated every day to get out there and make things happen. You won’t be. Don’t count on motivation. Count on discipline.
—Jocko Willink, retired United States Navy SEAL, podcast host, author
Systems and routines are the secret for success. By immediately committing ourselves to action, we can take advantage of the temporary boost of enthusiasm and excitement. Use moments of motivation to boost your discipline, not to take the place of it.