When I was a high school freshman, a 260-pound freshman girl showed up for track and field tryouts right alongside me. Her name was Sara, and she was only there because her doctor said her health depended on it. But once she scanned the crowd of students who were on the field, she turned around and began walking away. Coach O’Leary saw her, jogged over, and turned her back around.
“I’m not thin enough for this sport!” Sara declared. “And I’ll never be! It’s impossible for me to lose enough weight. I’ve tried.”
Coach O’Leary nodded, and promised Sara that her body type wasn’t suited for her current weight. “It’s suited for 220 pounds,” he said.
Sara looked confused. “Most people tell me I need to lose 130 pounds,” she replied. “But you think I only need to lose 40?”
Coach O’Leary nodded again.
Sara started off as a shot put competitor, but spent every single afternoon running and training with the rest of the track team. She was very competitive, and by the end of our freshman year she was down to 219 pounds. She also won 2nd place in the countywide shot put tournament that year. Three years later, during our senior year, she won 3rd place in the 10K county run. Her competitive weight at the time was 132 pounds.
There was a time when Sara was convinced that it was impossible to lose weight because, in her past experience, it had never worked out the way she had hoped. She had failed a few times and eventually lost faith in herself. But with consistency — with the right daily choices and willingness to try again — she restored her faith and achieved the “impossible.” And when Sara showed up to my 40th birthday pool party and BBQ last year, I smiled when I overheard another guest that she had just met compliment her on her bathing suit and physique.
Of course, Sara still works really hard — she chooses wisely — every single day to maintain what she has achieved.
And, so do I…
I fail and lose faith sometimes too. We all do.
Some people get this idea about me, because I’m a New York Times bestselling author and coach who has spent the past 15 years writing and teaching people how to create more success and happiness in their lives, that I don’t ever fall short and fail miserably in these areas. But of course I do — I’m human. I fall short and fail at things far more than anyone could imagine, and certainly far more than I’d often like to admit. And it feels just as horrible for me as it does for you or anyone else — I absolutely lose faith in myself sometimes.
Deep down of course, I know these negative reactions aren’t helpful. So I own up to what happened, learn a lesson or two, and then I get back up to try again. And the final part is the most important part — the trying again…
- I fail at eating healthy and exercising sometimes, but I try again.
- I fail at loving myself sometimes, but I don’t give up on myself either, and so I try again.
- I fail at being a great mom and wife sometimes, especially when I get distracted with stressful business endeavors, but I keep trying, and oftentimes I invoke a fresh smile on my son’s or husband’s face.
- I even failed at writing the article you’re reading now. I made an initial attempt yesterday and scrapped it because it didn’t feel right. But I started again, and now I’m done.
Bottom line: When we try again and again, we often succeed and feel much better about ourselves in the long run.
So if there’s only one thing you take away from this essay, let it be that trying again — choosing to give yourself another chance every day — is always worth it. Because that’s honestly the foundation of the following three daily choices, which Marc and I directly attribute to our own success (and to the success of the 1,000+ incredible coaching clients we’ve worked with over the past 15 years)…
1. Choosing to be consistent with the right daily habits.
Many of the most meaningful results you will ever achieve in your life — the milestones, the relationships, the love, the lessons — come from the little things you do repeatedly, every single day.
Regardless of your unique talents, knowledge, life circumstances, or how you personally define success, you don’t suddenly become successful. You become successful over time based on your willingness to try again and again — to create little daily habits that amass gradual progress, through thick and thin.
So what do your little daily habits look like?
You really have to sort this out and get consistent with what’s right for you on a daily basis. Because failure occurs in the same way — it’s gradual. All your little daily failures (those that you don’t learn and grow from) come together and cause you to fail big. Think in terms of running a business:
- You keep failing to check the books.
- You keep failing to make the calls.
- You keep failing to listen to your customers.
- You keep failing to innovate.
- You keep failing to do the little things that need to be done.
Then one day you wake up and your whole business has failed. It was all the little things you did or didn’t do on a daily basis — your habits — not just one inexplicable, catastrophic event.
Now, think about how this relates to your life: your life is your “business!”
Too often people overestimate the significance of one big defining moment and underestimate the value of making good choices and small steps of progress on a daily basis. Don’t be one of them!
Keep reminding yourself that the vast majority of the results in your life — positive and negative alike — are the product of many small decisions made over time. The little things you do today, and tomorrow, and the next day, truly matter!
2. Choosing not to obsess over a goal (or rush the journey).
The concept of taking it one day at a time, 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 taking on too much too soon. Marc and I have seen this transpire hundreds of times over the years: a coaching client or course student wants to achieve a big goal (or three) all at once, and can’t choose just one or two daily habits to focus on, so nothing worthwhile ever gets done, and gradually they lose more and more faith in themselves. Let this common mistake — this quick-fix mentality — be your wake-up call today.
You really 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.
Do your best to consciously shift your daily focus away from the big goals you want to achieve in your life, and redirect your focus toward the little daily habits that actually support those goals. Consider the following:
- If you’re a competitive athlete, your goal is to win sports competitions. Your habit is the time you dedicate each day to training your body (and mind).
- If you’re a university student, your goal is to learn and earn a degree. Your habit is your daily study routine.
- If you’re a parent or guardian, your goal is to be a great role model. Your habit is the time and energy you commit to setting a good example each day.
- If you’re a human being, your goal is to live a meaningful life. Your habits are the small, positive steps forward you take every day.
Now consider what would happen if you stopped focusing on one of your big goals for a while and instead focused exclusively on your corresponding daily habit. Would you still make progress? For example, if you were trying to lose weight and you stopped thinking about your goal to lose twenty pounds, and instead placed all of your focus on eating healthy and exercising every day, would you still lose weight? Yes, without a doubt! Gradually you would get closer to your goal — your target weight — without even thinking about it again.
And if you mess up occasionally?
You own up to it, you forgive yourself, and you try again.
One day at a time, one step at a time.
3. Choosing to restore and maintain faith in oneself, day by day.
Restoring and maintaining your faith in yourself is arguably the most significant hidden benefit of consistently practicing a daily habit — of trying again and again to make progress. In fact, what I lacked before I learned to implement these kinds of daily habits was the faith that I was actually capable of achieving the positive results I desired in my life. I had tried so many quick fixes in the past that ended in failure, and had grown so discouraged in myself, that I began subconsciously choosing procrastination over future attempts to fulfill the little promises I made to myself.
In essence, I lost faith in both my ability and myself. It’s kind of like another person constantly lying to you — eventually you stop trusting them. The same holds true with the little 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 restore your faith and trust gradually, with small promises, small steps (your daily habits), and small victories. Again, this process takes time, but it happens if you stick to it. And it’s undoubtedly one of the most life-changing things you can do for yourself.
(Note: Marc and I build and customize tiny, life-changing daily habits with our students in the “Goals & Growth” module of the Getting Back to Happy Course, and we also establish a foundational habit of consistency through daily journaling in our newest publication through Penguin Random House, “The Good Morning Journal: Powerful Prompts & Reflections to Start Every Day”.)
Now, it’s your turn…
Yes, it’s your turn to try again with the right daily habits. Because, once more, if you diligently take small positive steps day after day, one day you’ll look back with gratitude for how far you’ve come, and you’ll look forward with renewed faith in yourself and the next step.
But before you go, please leave Marc and me a comment below and let us know what you think of this essay. Your feedback is important to us. 🙂
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