Yes, this is another carefully timed Monday motivational post and one that will likely get lost in the clutter of similar motivational nuggets to get your week started. The message of this post is so easy that there is a strong possibility of it getting disregarded altogether in favour of a more glamorous motivational meme. Even though such images and quotes are enticing, unfortunately there is no special trick and no amount of scrolling through timelines that will prompt you into action (at least not for any effective amount of time).
I was listening to Jordan Peterson being interviewed on the Joe Rogan podcast (I can hear you judging me already) and whether you are left-wing / right-wing / postmodern neo-marxist (lol) etc. you can still get something from the following bit of advice. Peterson talked about ‘aiming low’ in terms of self improvement. When prodded about this, he talked about the importance of making a simple change and building from there – not having low expectations of oneself.
If we want to make a change, we often imagine a grand change. We are told to reach for the stars! This is a noble aim to aspire to and we should look to aim high BUT be aware – often times, the magnitude of this end product leads to inactivity or paralyses either due to being afraid, being low in confidence or being put off by the daunting gap from where we are right now compared to where we see ourselves in these moments of perfection.
Within those lofty goals, we should have stages to get there – milestones to make sure we are on track. And this is where we should aim lower. This isn’t sexy or inspirational but an accumulation of these ‘insignificant’ targets can lead to huge progress over time.
It is not good enough or beneficial to think that we are above setting ourselves such small tasks to complete. And of course, if we fail to achieve these smaller goals, aim lower again. The same piece of advice applies when we don’t know where to start (aim lower again!).
This piece of advice reminds me of another from a book I read last year and one which I recommended before – Switch. In this book, the author challenges the reader to ‘shrink the change’ when looking to work towards self-improvement. Its the same principle.
Setting the bar low or at least making a change manageable does a few things…
- It builds momentum.
- The small wins reduce the importance and stress of attaining the big wins.
- An accumulation of ‘wins’ also raises perceived skill levels and then confidence.
- Ultimately it gives us purpose and direction and feeling that we are working towards a goal helps to alleviate and agitation or stress around our current situation.
For some, self-improvement can become a ‘trap’ or a negative cycle at times – it is important to take stock from time to time and be grateful for what we have, and where we have gotten to. At the same time I am a big believer in looking to improve constantly – no matter how small the increments (kaizen). I also think it is important to make sure we do not let ourselves off the hook to say we are perfect the way we are and stifle growth through laziness either. Honest – but not harsh, self-appraisal is key. Possibly ask a family member, loved one or friend for help here if you are not able to show yourself some compassion!
So, for this week think of one small change that you could make consistently (preferably daily or multiple times a day) that will improve your life in some shape or form – it may be dietary, it may be waking up 10 minutes earlier per day in order to meditate or just relieve some stress of rushing around first thing. Possibly making your bed each morning, packing your training gear before you go to bed. Something simple. And for God’s sake, DO NOT start adding to the list. The whole point of this exercise is to set a task that seems almost too simple to see through.
It is only one step in a long journey but it is a step, that over time will lead to more steps and have you within reaching distance of those stars you are looking at right now. Start to take responsibility and things will get better.