Instant gratification is something that most of us seek on a regular basis. Whether it’s at home, at work or in the gym, we want to see our efforts payoff as quick as possible. As good as instant gratification may feel in the moment, many times (or most of the time) having that as your ultimate goal leads to long-term self-destruction.
In our last article, we talked about the Progress Principle. In short, the Progress Principle tells us that we get sustained happiness as we make progress towards a goal. Reaching the goal itself gives us happiness as well, sure. But focusing on the path is what keeps up truly motivated and happy over the long-run.
See, the problem is, most of us see reaching the goal as an end point. Now that we’ve reached our destination, we don’t have a clear path as to where we want to go next. Many Olympic medalist have been said to become depressed after their win. This is because, now that they’ve accomplished what they were shooting for, they don’t know what to do with themselves.
This, my friends, is why systems are important to have in our lives. Goals are great to have. We will continue to make New Year’s Resolutions until the end of time, I imagine. If you want to maintain that success or have a deeper understanding of what it took to get to your goal, you have to put a system in place to build it into your life.
By definition (thanks to our good friend Google) a system is a set of principles or procedures according to which something is done. Taking this literally, there is no question as to what we mean by putting a system in place to reach our goals. Although this may seem straight forward, it does take some time and effort to develop and maintain the system that works for you. To give you a hand at getting started in building long-term success, here is a quick guide to creating your system:
You would think that starting with the basics would be a no brainer. Being the perfectionists that most of us are, we generally skip this step to move straight to the hardest, most advanced progressions we can find.
Take nutrition, for example. Many of us have body composition goals that we would like to achieve, be that losing fat, putting on muscle or increasing performance. When someone is trying to lose fat, it is not usual for them to ask “Should I be eating gluten?”. This is a quality concern and the answer may be yes. But first, if you’re drinking 6 soft drinks a day and having donuts for breakfast, gluten is the least of your worries.
Find the most basic thing you can implement TODAY and start with that. If we’re talking about nutrition, this may be as simple as drinking a glass of water in the morning. You want small victories to develop your confidence over time.
2. Find a Pattern that Works for You
We are constantly looking for answers to our problems. If you’re stressed to the max, you are searching for any guru who can tell you how to calm yourself down (singing “I Feel Pretty” on a busy bridge in New York seems to do the trick for some).
And they’ll gladly share their input, for a nominal fee, of course. Where a lot of us get caught is finding a one-size-fits-all system and trying to fit it into our lives. It’s like the old square-peg-in-a-round-hole analogy.
Developing your own systems allows you to find a sequence that works for you. Square peg, square hole. Let’s look at nutrition again. Preparing your food may be one of the best ways to developing clean-eating habits. I prepare my food on Sunday. If I tell you that you need to prepare your food on Sunday, as well, but your Sunday is filled with Church, soccer games, grass cutting and family gatherings, then you don’t stand a chance. Maybe Wednesday will work for you, or Tuesday and Friday. Whatever it is, it has to work FOR YOU.
Remember, we want small victories, so don’t shoot for the stars just yet.
3. BE CONSISTENT
I’ll keep this one short. Having systems is about being consistent with the system. Without consistency, it’s not a system, it’s simply something you do.
You’re allowed to make tweaks to your system. Just be sure that you measure the tweaks so that you know if it’s actually improving the process.
Remember to be patient during this process. All things that are worth doing, take time. If you allow yourself to develop a sustainable system to reach your goals, it will stay with you much longer and leave you happier in the end.