Post by Zen Hustlers contributor Hien Lam co-founder of Chillpill
We've all been there...
We find ourselves getting inspired to change our lives, and we give up before we even start. Usually this happens at 11:59pm on New Year’s Eve, and 1/15 we’d have already told ourselves, “next year”. But next year is never the year... is it? 😒
Year in, year out we go through our annual tradition of setting goals we never expect to achieve. It makes no sense, and it’s time to change that. We’re not here to learn how to set goals though. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably great at coming up with goals. The biggest problem for most of us is tracking whether or not you’re working towards your goal. (You can admit it)
As much as achieving goals is about actually following through, most people fail because they don’t track their progress. Over the years, I have to say the overwhelming number of goals and habits I set out to achieve were not tracked. And to no one’s surprise, most, if not all, of them ended in spectacular failure.
However, for all the times I did track my progress, I noticed something – that I stayed with the goal longer and actually achieved it. And though there are a lot of reasons why tracking your progress is important, an absolutely critical reason is that it visually keeps you accountable.
Let’s say your goal is to not drink soda
If you didn’t track this goal, you’d have no way of really knowing how many sodas you’ve had in a week, a day, or even an hour. And if someone asked you, you’d probably go easy on yourself, and say something like, “eh probably 1 or 2 this week. It wasn’t that much.”
BUT if you tracked every soda you drank a day, and looked at it, you’d see the real number, and either think to yourself
A) HELL YES
B) OH SH*T
Either way, habit tracking lets you see the real story rather than one you make up for yourself.
BUT HABIT TRACKING CAN BE A TON OF WORK…
If you go to the App Store, you’ll probably find at least a jack ton (that’s a number, right?) of apps that do NOTHING but track habits. On top of ALL those apps, you can also jerry-rig together an Excel spreadsheet, or buy one of those fancy, schmancy notebooks or journals made to track habits. And there’s probably a ton of other ways I haven’t named.
What I’m trying to say is this – there are a TON of ways to track your progress, and figuring out the right tool can leave you with your head spinning. To make things worse, you have to learn how to use it AND fit into your schedule. In other words, you have to create a habit out of using the habit tracker that’s supposed to help you create the ACTUAL habit you want to create. It’s unnecessarily confusing and this is where most people just throw up their arms, say, “forget it.” (Are there trackers to track whether you’re using your habit tracker?)
IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE SO COMPLEX TO WORK
Just stupidly simple. Rather than trying to learn some fancy, schmancy app, all you need are 2 things:
An index card
That’s all. (Seriously.) Even if you don’t have an index card, you probably have a piece of paper somewhere (even the back of a receipt will do or a napkin.)
Follow these easy 3 steps:
1- Write down your goal on your index card.
2- Under your goal, write down why you want to reach this goal. Make it mean something to you. A reason like “coz I want to lose weight” is a HORRIBLE reason. Dig deeper and find out the true reason why this goal will positively affect your life.
3 - Now flip your index card over, and daw 5 horizontal lines and 5 vertical lines (don’t need to be perfect lines) to make 36 boxes.
And that’s it.
VOILA! YOUR VERY OWN HABIT CARD!
Okay, so now you have a random craft project I just forced you to do. Now what? Well, hold on to your butts coz this is the fun part:
Each day you do your habit, put an X in the box. [BOOM]
For each day you don’t do your habit, leave the box empty. [BUMMER]
The whole idea with the habit card is to give you a simple, cheap, and clear habit tracker. You don’t have to download anything, or go through tutorial videos. You either put down an X or not.
IT'S THAT SIMPLE
Your goal is to write down 30 Xs and fill up your habit card. Because if you can do that, you’ll build the necessary momentum and consistency that will lead to success. If you can fill out all 36 boxes, even better, but we’re not going for perfection, we’re going for consistency. Once the habit is formed, you can then make improvements and get better. One step at a time though. Because humans hate feeling like they’re letting someone down.
Seriously, I have anxiety thinking to myself looking at my habit card and seeing blank boxes. This means that I consciously decided I wasn’t working on my goal that day. And you what? Knowing that sucks because every empty box represents me letting myself down. Just look at the card below and tell me it doesn’t piss you off seeing all those blank boxes.
(Annoying right? And this is just a fake card - it’s not mine or your’s. )
Trust me, you’re going to hate seeing blank boxes on your ACTUAL card. Think of them as your own personal Vaders they’re there to block you from NOT working on your goal, don't let the dark side win! You make the choices that determine your life. And I believe, there are 2 choices you can make in Life:
You choose to get better
You choose to get worse.
Everything revolves around these 2 choices.
No one forces anything on you. You’re in control. To get where you want to go you have to take the necessary steps every single day to get there. And the best part is – these steps don’t have to be big ones. Honestly, they shouldn’t be. All you need are baby steps – small wins.
In order to change your life, you must change your habits. Using a habit tracker helps you make the small changes each and every day that lead to huge results over time. And the beautiful thing about using the habit card as your habit tracker is that it perfectly captures these choices – an X means you choose to get better and a blank box means you choose to get worse.
Are you going to choose to get worse in life? (Finger wags) I don’t think so - not today!
Arthur bio: Hien Lam is a blogger, public speaker, and a “philoso-preneur”. He co-owns a design & marketing firm based out of Ann Arbor called Ohm Works (www.ohmworks.co), and also runs a personal development blog, Chillpill, where he share solutions to complex personal and business problems. Hien see the potential in everyone, and it’s his mission to help get people and businesses from where they are today to where they want to be.
Follow on Medium @YoChillPill
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