“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Will Durant.
They say write what you know, so I write about running, ad nauseam.
Running is something in which I have a lot of experience, and through my experience I strive to help others succeed in this sport I’ve grown to love. I’m often asked how I started running and how I’ve been able to keep going through the years. Most people just assume I’m a natural distance runner.
I don’t possess some natural athletic ability that enables me to run for miles and miles like it’s no big deal. In fact, I’m more of a sprinter and had never even attempted distance running until a few years ago. (I go into more detail about my running origins here: The Secret to Becoming a Runner)
I was not born with the running gene.
Soon after completing my first half marathon, a friend asked me, “How do you just go run 13 miles like it’s nothing?”, I replied “I don’t. I don’t suddenly decide to run 13 miles and go do it.”
The wheels (or legs) were put in motion many, many weeks prior.
When I began running, one of my goals was to complete a half marathon. Accomplishing that goal felt amazing psychologically and emotionally (physically, that’s a different story). It was a goal I worked extremely hard to achieve, and it made the accomplishment incredibly rewarding.
See, so often in life, we get caught up in the results. The rewards. The trophies.
What we don’t see is what it took to get the shiny trophy. My friend saw the reward. The end goal. The result.
My friend didn’t see the training runs at 11:00 pm when I was exhausted from working all day, taking care of my family, and the other responsibilities of adulthood, but that’s the only time I had left so I ran anyway.
He didn’t see the cold, dark mornings when I forced myself out of bed to get a run in, when it would’ve been so much easier and understandable to shut off the alarm and go back to sleep.
My friend didn’t see the hours and hours I spent pounding the pavement. He didn’t see the pain I endured. The bruises, the wear and tear, the injuries.
He didn’t see the literal blood, sweat, and tears.
When I first started distance running, I could barely run one mile. Completing a half marathon was unfathomable to me at that time. So how did I go from not being able to run a mile to running 13 miles?
Small, incremental changes and habits.
I made running a habit and it evolved into a lifestyle. In reality, there are no overnight successes. You don’t go from nothing to something overnight. Anything worth achieving in life takes time and effort.
Behind every noteworthy accomplishment lies countless hours of hard work, grit, and perseverance. Behind every accomplishment is a person who stayed on track when it would have been easier to give up.
Do you have a goal or a dream that you think is so outlandish, so crazy that it’s unattainable? Those are the best goals. When you look at where you are now and envision the person you want to be someday, it’s daunting to say the least. You think there’s no way you’ll ever get there.
People tend to imagine their full potential as some huge leap, far away from where they currently are. You may not believe it right now, but you are capable of greatness. We all are. What you think is unattainable is actually very much within your reach, and I’m about to give you the blueprint on how to get it.
There’s nothing special about me. I’m the most average person on the planet. I’m not telling you all this stuff to brag or give myself a virtual pat on the back, I’m letting you know that achieving massive goals is not as difficult as you think. If I can do it so can you.
Here’s how I’ve achieved any and every goal in my life.
Obviously, you have to really want it. But, if the desire exists, any goal can be achieved by implementing very small changes on a daily basis.
Small, daily changes lead to life-changing habits. This is the basic blueprint to achieve anything you want in life. Minuscule changes snowball. It’s the power of compounding.
Here’s a practical example.
Let’s say you’d like to get up earlier in the morning. However, mornings are an incredible struggle for you. You’re just not a morning person, but you know if you could get up one hour earlier every day, you’d get way more accomplished and be much happier.
So, you set a goal to get out of bed one hour earlier each day.
If you immediately attempt to arise a full hour earlier, you’ll likely be hitting the snooze button repeatedly and give up on your goal after a few unsuccessful mornings.
Instead, make small incremental changes.
Set your alarm for just 10 minutes earlier. Then the next day, set your alarm for 10 minutes earlier than the previous day. Then, 10 minutes earlier the next day, and so on.
Do the math. In less than a week, you’ll achieve your goal of waking up a full hour earlier while creating a sustainable habit.
You don’t eat a pizza in one bite, you eat it one slice at a time. By applying this basic concept, you can achieve any goal in life.
I wanted to be a runner, so I created a running habit. At first, I started small. I made up my mind to run at least one mile, three times per week. Then, I built it up from there until I reached my goal of completing a half-marathon.
In the years since, I’ve completed dozens of races of various distances, including several more half-marathons.
Now, running is a part of my lifestyle.
The key lies in small consistent moves, one at a time. One moment leads to another moment, and then another, and then another.
See how it snowballs? Life is not some giant leap forward, it’s about habits. Big goals are reached by small, intentional steps that compound.
If you try to think of how you can reach your goal in one massive leap, you’re never going to get there. Ever.
But if you find one small thing you can do each day to move yourself forward, you will always be in a state of accomplishing your goal.
Eat the pizza one slice at a time.
I’ll leave you with a quote from one of my favorite books, The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy.
“The accomplishment of any goal is the progressive accumulation, or compound effect, of small steps taken consistently over time.”
Small, consistent habits. That’s it.