Like many people, Angel and I spent years struggling to make even the slightest bit of progress on the goals we had set for ourselves.
We started new workout programs with incredible optimism at least a couple dozen times. We threw away all the junk food in our house more times than I can even remember. We tried waking up earlier, meditating, reading more often, writing a book, getting out of debt, running a business, and more…
But, for the longest time, we failed on all fronts.
We’d get started with a new goal, and then we’d get derailed.
And boy did we feel horrible!
We often felt like losers … like no matter how hard we tried, our goals were out of reach! And we’d berate ourselves constantly for not being stronger, smarter, and more disciplined.
But what Angel and I didn’t realize, until we started successfully achieving our goals a few years later, is that it was never a matter of us not having enough strength, intelligence, or discipline. It was a matter of us focusing on our goals in an ineffective way.
In fact, believe it or not, we were actually focusing on our goals too much.
Yes, you read that right. It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s the truth.
Watch this quick video Angel and I recorded for you, and let us explain what we started focusing on instead…
A Rule for Making Your Goals Happen Faster
Now that you’ve watched the video, and you have a better understanding of what rituals are and why they’re so incredibly important, it’s time to memorize and live by a simple rule…
Goals don’t make positive changes happen, daily rituals do.
Seriously, meditate on that for a moment.
Because too often we obsess ourselves with a goal – an end result – but are completely unfocused when it comes to the ritual – the recurring steps – that ultimately make the goal happen. And so the weight of this unrealized goal sits heavy on our shoulders, and it slows us down to a crawl.
Does that sound at all familiar?
If so, it’s time to shift your focus AWAY from your goals. Think about this…
If you completely ignored one of your goals for the next few weeks and instead focused solely on the daily rituals that reinforce this goal, would you still get positive results?
For example, if you were trying to lose weight and you ignored your goal to lose 25 pounds, and instead focused only on eating healthy and exercising each day, would you still get results?
YES, you would! Gradually, you would get closer and closer to your goal without even thinking about it.
The bottom line is that nothing will change in your life unless you make daily rituals that reinforce what you hope to achieve. Believe me, over the past decade Angel and I have successfully worked with thousands of course students and live event attendees from around the world who were struggling to achieve things, so this strategy is well tested. We’ve tried weekly action steps with people, tasks they do in semi-flexible increments, big monthly milestones, and dozens of other variations and combinations of strategies. None of them work well in the long run except daily rituals.
If you’re not willing to make it a daily ritual, you don’t really want to change your life as much as you say you do – you don’t really want to achieve that “important” goal. You only like the idea of learning to be fit/writing a book/building a business/selling your art/etc. You don’t actually want to do it, every day.
But if you DO want it as much as you say you do, here are some…
Good Reminders for Building Goal-Achieving Rituals
- Accepting some level of discomfort is necessary. – Starting a new daily ritual forces us to change our routine in some way, and this change, by its nature, is somewhat uncomfortable. But most of us don’t want to be uncomfortable, so we run from the possibility of discomfort constantly. The obvious problem with this is that, by running from discomfort, we are constrained to partake in only the activities and opportunities within our comfort zones. And since our comfort zones are relativity small, we miss out on most of life’s greatest and healthiest experiences, and we get stuck in a debilitating cycle with our goals. We keep doing what we’ve always done, and thus we keep getting the results we’ve always gotten. And our true potential falls by the wayside.
- Small rituals are easier to start and maintain. – Making a big change all at once not only requires lots of grit and determination, but also lots of time and energy. And if you already have a reasonably busy schedule, you’ll find it hard to fit a new daily ritual into the mix. You might do it once or twice – exercise for an hour, for example – but then the new ritual gets put on hold because you feel like you don’t have enough time. That’s why a small change – perhaps a small ritual that consists of just 10 sit-ups every morning when you get out of bed – is much easier to start and maintain. The bottom line is that enthusiasm always wanes a couple days after you start a new ritual, but it’s 100% easier to keep it going when the ritual is small. And keeping it going is what matters.
- Ultimately, you want to expand your idea of “normal.” – As human beings we get comfortable with a certain set of conditions, and if we deviate from these conditions too quickly we tend to get overwhelmingly uncomfortable. Quitting your day job and building a business requires you to figure out your finances, design and test products and services, write marketing material, set up a website, design sales funnels, etc. … all of this can be very daunting at the beginning. But if building this business is a goal you truly want to achieve, you have to do these things, and you have to start before you feel “ready.” The key, again, is leveraging daily rituals to ease into these uncomfortable requirements. Start with figuring our your finances – paying off debt, saving up a year’s worth of living expenses, etc. Then, once you’re comfortable in that area, decide on a product or service idea (daily market research), then set up your website (in small daily steps), write some marketing copy (again, in small daily steps), learn about Facebook marketing, run some ads on Facebook to test the marketability of your product or service, etc. Ease into each part of your new business and all it’s requirements gradually become part of the conditions that you’re familiar with – your new and expanded “normal.”
- Renewing your trust in yourself is imperative. – What Angel and I lacked before we learned to build goal-achieving daily rituals was the trust that we were actually capable of achieving our goals. We had failed so many times in the past, and had grown so discouraged in ourselves, that we started choosing procrastination over future attempts to fulfill the goal-oriented promises we made to ourselves. In essence, we lost trust in both our abilities and ourselves. It’s kinda like another person constantly lying to you – eventually you stop trusting them. The same holds true with the promises you make to yourself that always end in disappointment – eventually you stop trusting yourself. And the solution in most cases is the same too – you have to renew your trust gradually, with small promises, small steps (your daily rituals), and small victories. This takes time, but it happens pretty fast if you stick to it. And it’s arguably one of the most important things you can do for yourself.
- Small, incremental changes add up to huge changes pretty quickly. – The concept of taking it one step at a time might seem ridiculously obvious, but at some point we all get caught up in the moment and find ourselves yearning for instant gratification. We want what we want, and we want it now! And this yearning often tricks us into biting off more than we can chew. Angel and I have seen this transpire hundreds of times over the years – a coaching client/course student wants to achieve a big goal (or ten) all at once, and can’t choose just one or two daily rituals to focus on, so nothing worthwhile ever gets done. Let this be your reminder. Remind yourself that you can’t lift a thousand pounds all at once, yet you can easily lift one pound a thousand times. Small, repeated, incremental efforts will get you there. It doesn’t happen in an instant, but it does happen a lot faster than not getting there at all.
(Note: Angel and I build small, daily, life-changing rituals with our students in the “Goals and Growth” module of the Getting Back to Happy course.)
If you’re feeling up to it, we would love to hear from YOU.
Which specific part of this article (or the included video) resonates with you the most today?
Anything else to share?
Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
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Incredible overview of the importances of rituals and how greatly they effect our ability to achieve things! I loved the video too — it felt like I was sitting in your living room listening to your point of view.
As for which part resonated with with me, I’ve been a student in your Getting Back to Happy course for about three months now, and the whole idea of building tiny, life-changing rituals has enhanced both my business productivity and my personal relationships. It’s actually quite amazing when I look back at how disheveled I was with everything and everyone that’s important to me, and how focusing on a couple simple, daily rituals snapped me out of the negative cycle I had been stuck in for years, in under three months.
One step at a time, one day at a time, in the right direction, with the right support, and magic happens!
Marc and Angel, thanks for continuing to be a significant source of magic in my life.
Yes, I loved the advice of focusing? on rituals than on goals.
As Aristotle said,
We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence is not an act, but a habit.
Ms. Jordan says
The article makes a lot of sense, and it came at a Great time since I just started A+ training for IT, and my Goal is to pass the course. Great Info.
Marc Chernoff says
You’re very welcome, Gale. And well done with all the progress you’ve made. We’re proud of you. 🙂
Jason Daily says
This new post landed right in my gmail inbox when I needed it. Too often I focus on the wrong this, or I just simply over-think it all. I’m totally the person who mulls over her goals without doing enough of the daily work that’s required. So thank you for this little bop in the head, M&A. Your emails and blog are indispensable resources that continually move my life and my goals forward.
Also, I really liked the video as a supplemental medium. It’s great to see your faces and hear your voices.
Marc Chernoff says
Thanks for the video feedback. We’ll be making more of these.
“If you completely ignored one of your goals for the next few weeks and instead focused solely on the rituals that reinforce this goal, would you still get positive results?”
I never thought about it like that before. Simple, but such an important reminder! So I just printed that question and it’s supporting text and placed it between two pages of your 1,000 Things book (which I use as a daily inspirational reference), so that I’m reminded to reflect on it again.
Marc Chernoff says
Thanks for supporting our work, Megan!
Focusing on daily rituals is definitely the way to go!
Found this very motivating,
Gregory Haynes says
You guys are good! Whenever my life gets a little squirrely I tend to read your emails a little more regularly, and more so often than not things seem to get a little smoother. I should probably be a paid member for all the things you’ve got me through in my life, but I just have to say thank you for sending out your emails every morning — they do help.
I’ve been trying to accomplish some career goals for 8 months and while I can research all day long, I cannot seem to make progress getting the website together and all the marketing details you described. I felt like you were talking to me. I have a daily planner where I list my activities but I haven’t stuck with it. My goals are not out of line, but my dedication to the rituals most definitely are! Thank you for this reminder, kick in the butt, for motivating me to get moving and stop just ‘thinking and obsessing’ about my goal, but actually taking the necessary steps to make it happen. I’ve been lost for a while and paralyzed! Today I’m getting back on track!
So nice & inspiring…very well written…thank you both for inspiring me always with positive thinking & thank u both for making me believe in me & my dreams…hope this help from you both lives on & on…:)
I really like the challenge of forgetting my goals and focusing on the daily activities for getting there. I’m looking to take the next step in my career but I’m just not getting the traction that I need to get job offers after I interview. I’ll bet that if I start working on making daily changes in my life, seeking community involvement, reading career-related literature, etc, I would develop more of what employers are looking for.
Annette M Weltin says
Losing trust in self; “liking the idea of a certain thing rather than really wanting it”-this one resonated with me. I have felt a restlessness in my profession-I’ve made the best of it;tried other things, failed, went back to it. I tell myself that I want to be the best in my field, yet lack the drive to work at it because I have tried and I don’t seem to get where I “think” I want or ought to be.
My heart is not in it, but I need to work, so once again I tell myself I am going to be the best, then I give a half hearted attempt and fail to reach that star.
I get your newsletter in my inbox regularly but don’t get to read them. This one is timely and I am going to use this .
I am going to write things down to focus on daily and let go of the goal. For 30 days.
I will see then if I feel better about my profession; I use to love it at one time.
thanks for this article.
Paul Henzey says
Just a wonderful article. I’ve read it twice now and love the replies from others. It is all so true and I’ve certainly ‘been there and done that’ when it comes to failures. But, I am no longer discouraged because this is what I’ve gradually been adapting to – the small rituals each day and then adding to them and expanding upon the rituals. I am also becoming more mindful and present with each action that I do take. For instance, I started a few months ago with a work-out regimen – I was pretty, um, let’s just say it – bad at first – overweight, out-of-shape, etc. I started eating very healthy foods, and started with a few push-ups, sit-ups, stretching. Each day, I attempted to add just a little. I am amazed at how my work-outs are now a real part of my life and most importantly, I try to be aware of each action I take. I don’t just try to do my 20 push-ups – I feel each one, while breathing and allow myself to feel the push-up, the occasional discomfort, the satisfaction of the muscles working, and focus completely on that ‘moment’ doing the push-up, being very present with my mind and body and not thinking of other things I need to do next. One of my rituals is to continually try to be aware of the moment, the now, and apply it to all my daily actions. Marc and Angel, your articles are amazing and so very helpful. My wife and I so look forward to them coming in on our email and both read them two to three times. You provide the very best advice and wisdom and I want to thank you for offering it to others. You are helping others, including myself more than you can imagine. Thank you!!
santa ferrer says
I love reading your emails and related blog posts! So inspiring! Always helps me in a great way! Thank you guys so much for the sharing!
It is not the first time I read about the power of rituals and habits. And yet, I didn’t consider when I read it the first time.
There is no coincidence … your article resonates as a reminder, in this period of time when I need it the most … meaning now! The whole article is insightful I think.
Thank you !
I like this advice (and video) very much. Such an important reminder! Thank you.
Thanks for writing this at the time I really needed some encouragement to continue learning to speak Spanish. I have been studying every day for about 18 months, and I thought by this time I would be able to speak enough to at least hold a conversation. It has been tough and the progress has been slow. I do continue to keep the everyday ritual of doing my lesson, and at least attempting to speak it. Surprisingly enough, I have actually been discouraged from speaking it by some of those who are fluent. They do not have patience with errors I make and the questions I need to ask when I don’t understand them.
I think today’s video helped me to realize that the final goal is wonderful to get to, but I need to stay focused on actually doing my daily lessons, and eventually it will all come together.
John Downes says
My house is a mess from hoarding. The structure is falling apart bc of deferred maintenance and remodeling never completed. I’m a mess. I’ve tried every which way to get a grip. And somehow stumbled upon focus on one ritual a day by myself. Going along, if there is a road block, as in taking to resale, then went to auctioneer who didn’t work out. Getting back on track is extremely difficult, I stall. Then quit.
Started ritual a day. Ok for a while. Finally, I couldn’t keep up the 5 things I wanted to do: walk, not hour, brought it down to half hour, and voila, easier to accomplish; pack up one box, do one remodeling thing, take half hour to change/tweek/ spider up my website and work on one client a day. By the time I got done with the elephant (client) I was too exhausted for the REALLY 4 small things. Always read get the biggest thing out of the way first. Nope. Today, I’m going to do it backwards. First pack the box. Have two half full, been that way 2 months. Ok. Next? Small remodeling thing: stuff insulation into the wall where pipes were replaced bc have to put up drywall there. 10 YEARS it’s been like that. Then website tweak then client work. It’s MY method. Bc I see immediate results, even though small in someone else’s eyes. And that moves me to my next small step. 4 baby steps = 80% of 5 to do steps. Wow! I’m 80% of the way to the goal. Does it work? I’ll let you know in a couple of days.
Thank you for your words. A true inspiration.
A week has passed – how is it going, John? (I commiserate.)
Bruce A says
Another great article – thanks guys! I agree with your comments about setting daily (and weekly goals) to complete tasks. I have a daily “To do” list in my kitchen which I tick off as I complete each one – this in itself boosts my self esteem. Paul H wrote about daily push-ups and exercises. I started doing push ups about a year ago and now set a weekly target of over 1000 which I now easily achieve – because of my age (70) I do the cheat’s version with my knees on the floor! Six months ago I started doing more walking and found my Fitbit (any other pedometer brand will do) so motivational in helping me achieve my daily goal of 12,000 steps. I have been known to get out of bed around 11pm and walk around the block when I discover I have not quite reached my target!
Goals don’t make positive changes happen, daily rituals do. Resonates with me. Found this article very useful. Thank you.
There’s a lot of hope in this post. I love how you shared your experience with setting goals.
Keeping it simple as daily rituals remove the fear of one wrong move will destroy everything.
A lot of times we don’t want to commit to a new way of living because of our past failures.
We must change our focus visualizing ourselves doing these rituals instead of seeing ourselves failing.
Thank you for this article, I needed this. The biggest dream of my life is creating beautiful music, but after reading this post I realized that quite often I dream my life away instead of practicing guitar, writing lyrics, composing melodies learning how to use recording software etc. Now I know what to do 🙂
I’ve been reading your blog for three years and it hugely improved my English abilities (because I’m not native speaker) and my life attitude towards better. So from the depth of my heart thank you 🙂
God bless you! 🙂 (Yours blog is best thing in the Internet!)
Thank you! thank you for this article, it changed my perspective on life completely, you have no idea. I will give a testimony soon, watch the space Marc and Angel love you guys.
“Quitting your day job and building a business requires you to figure out your finances, design and test products and services, write marketing material, set up a website, design sales funnels, etc. … all of this can be very daunting at the beginning. But if building this business is a goal you truly want to achieve, you have to do these things, and you have to start before you feel “ready.” The key, again, is leveraging daily rituals to ease into these uncomfortable requirements. Start with figuring our your finances – paying off debt, saving up a year’s worth of living expenses, etc. Then, once you’re comfortable in that area, decide on a product or service idea (daily market research), then set up your website (in small daily steps), write some marketing copy (again, in small daily steps), learn about Facebook marketing, run some ads on Facebook to test the marketability of your product or service, etc. Ease into each part of your new business and all it’s requirements gradually become part of the conditions that you’re familiar with – your new and expanded “normal.”
I am a marketing student so in the future I hope i will have a business of mine and that’s why that part resonated me.
Thank you guys!
I loved the video addition guys! You need to do more of these!
Extremely important topic. Thank you, guys.
I’m reminded of the typical sports interview where the players say “We’re going to take this one game at a time.” As cliché as it sounds, they are completely right.
Most chase goals but fail to see what makes the goals happen. It isn’t a large, overbearing change that brings the goals to fruition. No, as you so beautifully pointed out, it is the small things that we do each day that cause the goals to happen. Change those, and life begins to change.
I’m bipolar and depressive. This article helped me a lot in maneuvering my daily tasks as a wife and a mother of two boys.
I’ve just started a daily routine of walking an hour in the morning and in the afternoon. I’ve also started working part time from home. I teach English to Chinese kids and adults. Since I started following you I would always read articles you post when I have time. THANK YOU FOR SUCH INSPIRING ARTICLES!!!!!
I definitely over-think things a lot of the time! I guess it’s time for me to shift that thinking time to something else while remaining on track. Great post guys, interesting one.
The Tepid Tamale says
A reminder that I need. I have been making progress, sliding back, doing the right things, then not. I need to break the cycle with one small change at a time that I then do not forget, but make sure I maintain. Then I can add another change. Thanks so much for the reminder!
Losing trust in myself. Thanks for pointing that out.
Marg Trollope says
My broker once said, ‘Just do the work, and the rest will follow’.
You know when you hear something at just the right time – this was it! Thanks so much 🙂 It was good to read that goals can be overwhelming and when we focus on them too much it ends up getting really heavy. We put so much pressure on ourselves. I focus so much on the end goal that it ends up tiring me out before I even start. I’ll be starting with small rituals tomorrow 🙂