The quality of your life is in proportion to the quality of your behaviors, actions, habits, routines, and processes. In order to have a better life, it is important to have better behaviors, actions, habits, routines, and processes. These inputs determine life’s standards, and the results become the quality of your life.
No matter how motivated or inspired you are, you are not going to feel like performing the right actions all the time. Sometimes this is due to a simple lack of energy. There are so many factors that dictate your level of energy or motivation. There are so many everyday attacks on your well being. These attacks impact your get up and go. Then there is the fact that your energy levels that ebb and flow throughout the day depending on how much rest you get, what you eat, whether you get bad news throughout the day, whether you have to deal with an emergency, or whether you have to deal with other people and their moods. With all this uncertainty, you don’t want to leave success up to the fluctuations of your mood. You want to set up a system of success based on what needs to get done rather than your daily feelings.
Another factor that can get in the way of success is putting off activities that make you uncomfortable. People have put off conversations for weeks, years, or even decades because they don’t want to be uncomfortable or they’re afraid of perceived possible consequences. But, the truth is that they must sacrifice a little (or a lot of) discomfort in order to set up their lives for future success.
Part of having an amazing life is being uncomfortable at least part of the time. The more comfortable you are being uncomfortable and going through the growing pains of life, the more you set yourself up to succeed in the future.
Throughout the day, there are activities where you just have to power through. You might have to power through the first minute when you want to hit the snooze button. You might have to power through starting a workout or a yoga routine. You may have to have a tough conversation at work. You may have to power through disciplining your children. The point is that there are times that you will just have to power through.
The desire to feel the immediate pleasure of delaying difficult, yet helpful activities gets in the way of powering through. It’s gratifying to hit that snooze button, to pick up or the phone rather than workout. If we avoid that tough conversation, we eliminate the risk of people being angry or uncomfortable. If we don’t discipline our children, we prevent living with a pouty-faced toddler or hearing the door slamming of a tween.
The long-term effects of avoiding difficult activities are even greater. If you don’t power through at least some of the time these less-than-productive behaviors, actions, routines, and processes become the norm. If you don’t workout, hit the snooze button, don’t put in effort at work, don’t discipline your children, you may not immediately feel the impact. However, when you don’t power through your negative actions become the norm, and your entire life will be affected. You want positive habits to be as commonplace as possible. When you don’t power through your habits have exceptions, your habits turn into suggestions, and eventually your habits just become things that you would like to do, but don’t put any effort towards. It really becomes a never ending cycle of under performance.
So, how do you power through?
Every goal has a process and the better you understand the process, the more likely you are to succeed. Habits are just consistently repeated actions.
The more you maintain a schedule, the more likely you are to perform the actions necessary to achieve your goals. If you want to work out, set a time and the parameters of your work out. How much time are you going to do cardio? How many miles are you going to walk a day? How many sets and reps are you going to do and how often? If you are a writer, how many words are you going to write every day? If you’re in charge of social media, how many posts are you going to create every week? You get the point.
Here’s the good news. You don’t have to power through very often or for very long. This is something I learned in the book Atomic Habits, by James Clear. He writes about decisive moments. Once you start an activity, it’s easier to finish it. It’s the starting that’s difficult, but once you start, you are likely to finish. He writes that when he finishes work, he and his wife decide to either hit the gym or stay home and order Indian food. Once the decision is made, the rest of the night is already decided. If you don’t hit the snooze button and you actually are up and about, the rest is easier. Once you are in the gym doors or even on the way to your gym or even have your gym shoes on, you are not likely to make a U-turn and go home. The toughest part is just to begin.
In the entirety of your tasks there might only be a couple of instances where you just have to power through. You might have to power through not only skipping dessert, doing that last set of exercise, making that last phone call of the day, starting something that you just feel like doing, or just powering through when motivation just can’t be found.
When it comes to productivity, your environment is also important and in Atomic Habits, Clear covers this extensively. It is important to set up your environment to help you make the right decisions. If you don’t want to hit the snooze button, don’t have it next to your bed. Instead, set your alarm on your phone and put your phone on the other side of the room. If you need to go out to eat, pick a restaurant with healthier options rather than the restaurant with the best nachos in town. If you don’t want to have cocktails, meet at a coffee shop rather than a bar. Don’t depend on will power, set up your environment where you can make the right decisions and avoid the wrong ones.
In her book, Five Second Rule, Mel Robbins, describes her methodology of making the right decisions. She writes that she counts down from five, and once she hits one, she just makes the decision to start a positive action. Ironically, she came up with this philosophy while hitting the snooze button, thus, causing her to have a chaotic day.
One way to make powering through easier is to make fewer decisions in the moment. The moment is often a bad time to make decisions because the prospects of making the bad decision in the moment is greater. This is the reason salespeople don’t want you to think about a purchase. Oftentimes you can circumvent in-the-moment decision making by simply making decisions before the moment. If you go out to a restaurant, decide on your order beforehand, and don’t even look at the menu when you get there. If you take your kids out for the day, decide on the needs or spoils you are going to buy them and your budget before you leave the house. If you want to become more productive, write out a to-do list the night before or the Sunday before your week. The farther ahead, you plan, the less emotional you are going to be. This increases the likelihood of making the right decision.
On a macro level and for bigger and bigger goals, you must determine which current sacrifices you are willing to make in order to reach greater future success. Imagine if you decide to build a company and sell it in five to ten years. To accomplish this, you must be focused, work like you never worked before, and forego some of life’s luxuries. However, at the end of five or ten years, you can buy the house of your dreams, or travel, or give your family whatever they want. Making those sacrifices and making investments in yourself is a form of powering through.
Many situations that we tend to avoid involve other people. We are afraid that we may make someone angry. We are afraid that we may hurt someone. A consequence of this is that many people avoid tough conversations or pretend that the problem doesn’t even exist. Nobody likes to hear someone say ‘we need to talk.’ Starting this type of conversation is one of the most challenging activities that we can partake in. First, we have to deal with the conversation itself. Second, we have to deal with the aftermath of the conversation. The conversation itself can be uncomfortable or awkward. Examples of this are telling someone we love that we are not happy or we need to change or their behavior is not acceptable. In a business setting, it can be the same or firing somebody or asking them to step up. With regards to the aftermath we have to deal with people’s reactions for a couple of hours, a couple of days, or even longer. The conversation can easily lead to breaking up. It could also build a bond and make the relationship stronger. Again, in order to grow, people must be willing to sacrifice immediate comfort for future glory.
Success is about taking the right actions and avoiding the wrong ones. Most likely the right actions are more challenging and the wrong ones are much more gratifying, easier, and provide immediate pleasure.