One Day at a Time
“Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better” — Émile Coué
Overnight success is a myth. Almost every overnight success story is really a story of persistence, overcoming doubt, and hard work. It took over two decades for Steve Jobs to be the overnight success that produced the iPhone. J.K. Rowling worked on her first novel, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” for six years and was rejected twelve times by various publishing houses before being published.
In reality, overnight success is a long story of goals and incremental execution. Success is driven by planning and then moving in the direction of the goal with small, persistent, determined activity. Each day we move forward and try to do better than the day before. We move forward in small amounts, making adjustments and keep going, building our accomplishment by combining the progress of the past with the incremental progress of today.
Our goals are important and provide a direction for our efforts; however, we execute our goals one day at a time. When we plan on achieving our goals in small amounts over a long period of time it yields an amazing result. We not only move in the direction of achieving our goal, but we get better at what we are doing with each iteration of the activity. Steve Jobs improved his ability bring consumer electronics products to market with each new idea. J.K. Rowling was a much better writer at the end of her six year journey to publication than she was at the start.
Sometimes our goals are so lofty that they feel unachievable. As an example, looking at a goal to lose 40 pounds in a year seems like an impossible task, though we know it is achievable (or we would not have set it as a SMART goal). When we consider that in order to achieve the goal we only need to lose less than one pound per week, it does not seem as impossible. In addition, as a byproduct we will also learn how to better control our diet and build our self-control.
Writing a book in a year is a reasonable goal, but also a huge undertaking. Looking at the goal in total makes it seem so impossible; it can be hard to even get started. However, when we view the activity through a smaller lens of writing just five pages per week, it becomes a less daunting task. Through repetition, we will also become a more efficient and better writer.
Consider if we focused on achieving just two percent of our total goal every week. In less than a year we would have achieved our goal and through persistent repetition improved our ability to perform that activity as well. By setting smaller repetitive activities around our larger goal we are able to accomplish a much larger goal without being overwhelmed with the immensity of the challenge. By breaking the goal down into a series of repetitive activities with a measured outcome at the end of each task, we incrementally work our way to achieving our goal and improve our efficiency along the way.
As I point out in my book “EXCELLENCE: You CAN Get There From Here!”, our journey to Excellence requires a persistence and drive to keep moving forward to achieve our goals. Our goals are important because they move us toward greater success and satisfaction. Taking an incremental approach to achieving our goals helps the impossible become possible. As the age old expression goes: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Here are 4 tips for achieving success one day at a time:
1) Identify the goal – Make sure we have a clear articulation of the goal and understand how we benefit from achieving it. Use the benefits of the goal to provide motivation to keep going when our energy runs low.
2) Define the activity – Identify the repetitive task that needs to be done on a routine basis to accomplish the goal. Divide the total work into smaller tasks that can be performed every day or week to achieve the goal. Setup a scheduled time and place to work on the activity and then pursue that schedule relentlessly.
3) Track progress – Keep track of our progress. Setup a spreadsheet, or use some other tool to record the progress every time we work on or complete an activity. In the beginning, the progress will seem slow. Before too long we will be stringing together a series of accomplishments that will show our progress.
4) Celebrate our success – Celebrate! Not just the completion of the overall goal, but celebrate the completion of each activity each time. We are making progress and will get to the goal in due course. We are also winning every time we complete an activity. Feel the satisfaction.
One day at a time. Good advice for many things including achieving our goals. Step-by-step progress with a relentless drive will produce the results we need. Not only do we achieve the goal, we continue on our journey to Excellence.