Rapid personal development does not work.
Drastic changes to your current lifestyle are rarely the solution to achieving your long-term goals. The primary issue with drastic issues is that you’re relying on motivation to succeed. The problem is that motivation is limited. It runs out. Once it runs out, you regress to the same habits that you have been doing for the greater part of your life.
Why do new years resolutions fail? Because you have not worked out in six months and yet have made a goal to work out 45 minutes a day for 6 days a weeks. Why do you fail to get up at 5 am every morning? Because you have never established a disciplined sleep routine in the past.
When it comes to personal development that actually works, development that is more than just temporary, we need to accept that we do not have the discipline and willpower to make such sudden changes over a short period of time. Just think about it. If I have eaten burger and fries (or something similar) every day for the past three years for lunch, how can I all of a sudden convince myself to eat a substance-less salad? Not only will my mind rebel, but my body will too!
Slow personal development does.
In my opinion, the true solution to achieving your personal goals is what I like to call the snail’s way to personal development. Make very calculated and slow changes to your routine that seem almost non-existent, and then, incrementally increase the intensity of that change over time. For this to work, you need to be patient. Extremely patient. However, with this method, if you can just keep at it and continue to stay patient, you will start to see results and form habits that actually stick. As James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits says, “From today onward, if you aim to be just 1% better than you were yesterday, then in just one year, you will be 37 times better than you are today.”
The reason slow development works is because the changes you make are so small that they do not seem very different than what you have been doing your entire life. They require very little energy and motivation to complete, and the consequences that result from deviating from your normal routine (e.g., cravings, withdrawal, physical pain) are less severe. Below are a few examples from my own life that illustrate how this works:
- Goal: Reduce my caffeine intake and break my caffeine addiction. I usually drink about 2 cups (10 oz per cup) of coffee per day. If I were to quit immediately, I would experience major withdrawal symptoms that would severely inhibit me from being productive at work. Therefore, I really cannot do that. Nor do I want to. Instead, I have been slowly and slowly reducing my caffeine intake every month. In the morning, I still drink 10 oz of coffee. However, in the afternoon, I now drink just 8 oz of coffee. Honestly, my body can’t even tell that I have reduced my caffeine intake, and yet I am having 10% less caffeine than usual. I do this for a month (drinking 18 oz instead of 20), and after, I reduce the coffee consumption by 2 more ounces. I repeat this process for 10 months, and before you know it, I am entirely free of my caffeine addiction. Very strategic, very slow, and yet very effective.
- Goal: Start a consistent meditation routine. This slightly differs than the caffeine goal as I am trying to add a positive habit as opposed to getting rid of a bad habit. Nevertheless, the concept for incorporating a positive habit is the same. The first thing I do is block off time on my calendar to start meditating (I block off 30 minutes on my calendar in the morning since my end-goal is to meditate 30 minutes a day). This is my eventual meditation time, and therefore, I need to make sure that I do not fill this time, on any day, with any other commitment. I start off by meditating just 3 minutes a day. After a week, I increase the amount of meditation to 4 minutes a day. After another week, increase it to 5 minutes. Keep doing this until I get to meditating 30 minutes a day. Again, 3 minutes does not seem like a lot. However, in about half a year, that will turn into 30 minutes.
When taking the snail’s way to personal development, it is important to make sure you have an end goal in mind and then just break the end goal down into small pieces. Start very small. It’s very important for the goals to be process-driven and things that you can control. For example, don’t set a goal to lose an X number of pounds. Instead, set goals that target positive habits that will eventually lead to the reduction of weight. Also, be patient. This is not one of those processes where you get instant gratification. You don’t. It is easy to quit when you feel like it is taking forever to reach your goals, however, be patient. Keep your end goal in mind and remember that you will get there.
What I have presented to you is a basic and simple summary of a very powerful concept. Of course, you may encounter some hiccups along the way. In those situations, it is important to recalibrate your goals as needed. In a future post, I will discuss common struggles that you might face along the process and things that you can do to stay on course and continue to develop.