A couple of weeks into the new year, here are two important statistics:
- It takes 21 days to form a habit.
- Most people give up their New Year’s resolutions on January 17th.
If you’re planning to quit, you only have two more days left.
If you can hang in there through next Monday, it might just stick.
OK, I realize the numbers are artificial. But it’s interesting that we often give up on something right when we’re on the verge of success.
I’ve wondered often about that. What makes us hang in there for a while, but we eventually quit – even after we’ve made some good progress?
Here’s what I’ve observed:
At the beginning, we’re focused on our goal, not the day-to-day routine. We use willpower to plow through.
But after a couple of weeks, we’re focused on the process instead of the goal. The immediate “pain” is right in front of us, and it obstructs our view of the destination.
I was reminded of the story of Florence Chadwick, a long-distance swimmer who attempted to cross the 21-mile channel between Catalina Island and Palos Verdes, California.
At 34, she had already crossed the English Channel twice. But on the day of the Catalina swim, the water was icy cold. The fog was so thick she could barely see the support boats that followed her. Her team used rifles to drive away the sharks that prowled around her, while both her mother and her trainer yelled encouragement from their boat.
All she could see was fog. For close to 16 hours, all she could see was fog.
She couldn’t see the shore.
So she quit.
The shoreline was only a half-mile away.
During an interview, she told a reporter, “Look, I’m not excusing myself. But if I could have seen land I know I could have made it.”
Two months later, she completed the crossing. The fog was just as thick. But she kept a clear image of the shoreline in her mind throughout the swim.
It’s exciting to start a new year with new goals:
- We’re picturing our success.
- We feel energy about making changes.
- We focus on how things will be different.
- We feel like we get a “do-over.”
But we weren’t expecting the water to be this cold. We saw “Jaws” and it stuck with us.
And we didn’t think there would be fog.
If we focus on the goal without thinking through the process, we’ll set ourselves up for failure.
If we focus on the process and forget the goal, we’ll give in to discouragement.
Both are realistic. We need to keep both in view.
So before we hit January 17, what can we do?
Once a week, we need a tune-up. We need to set aside time before each week begins to do two things:
- Revisit the goal – We need an exact, clear picture of our destination, and review the exact reasons why we set that goal in the first place.
- Plan the week – Before each week begins, we need to determine exactly what we’ll be doing this week to stay focused on our destination, consider everything that could go wrong, and decide ahead of time what to do when it does.
If the goal is important enough, it’s worth taking 20 minutes each week to make sure we’re not getting off course.
It’s almost January 17. Are you thinking of giving up? Think again . . .