The Number One Thing You Can Do to Achieve Your Goals

set yourself up for success with this trick to achieve your goals

one trick to achieve your goals

“So have you made any New Year’s Resolutions?” I asked my friend. “Oh yes! I’m going to lose weight, start running, declutter my house FOR REAL THIS TIME, start eating better, get organized, be a better mom, stick to a budget, ….” My eyes got bigger and bigger as the list got longer and longer. I felt overwhelmed just LISTENING to her plan to basically reinvent herself.

But let’s be honest, she’s not unusual. Many of us take the New Year as an opportunity to see every single personal failing and decide we have to completely change who we are and doitrightnow. I suppose there is someone on this earth who could accomplish that, but I’m not that person. Most people aren’t.

Other people pick a word for the year, like courage, or intention. I do like that, but I’m very tactical, and if I don’t have a plan of execution, what does that even mean?

I have several points in the year when I like to evaluate my life and what I can improve, and just like most people, the new year is one of those times. I’ve been actively trying to shift my thought patterns, and in the last few months, the same messages kept showing up through different sources, and I took that as a confirmation that I was heading in the right direction.

Last year I started listening to a podcast I shared with you in my July Favorites video (and SO MANY of you have messaged me to say how much of an impact it is having on you as well!) called The Life Coach School with Brooke Castillo. I listen to the episodes multiple times, and one I listened to several times is #236 – The Compound Effect. She talks about the power of consistency in our actions and the success that brings. She talks about the power of doing something 365 days a year and the power of doing something every day. I’ve thought about that a lot, and how to apply it to my life. What do I want to 365? Yes, I just made 365 into a verb.

“The big wins are made up of the little wins, and the big quits are made up of the little quits. The little decisions that we make every day will eventually add up to an effect, to a compound effect.” – Brooke Castillo

It’s easy to overlook and dismiss the power of small choices every day. Does it matter if I do this thing again today? I won’t see a big change immediately, but doing or not doing it everyday does add up.

“Anything you do everyday is significant.” – Brooke Castillo

“The way we change our lives is by changing our days.” – Brooke Castillo

“Success is built daily in the small, insignificant choices we make, and that is the compound effect.” – Brooke Castillo

Changing my days is 100% doable, and doesn’t feel as overwhelming as changing my life.

Over the Christmas break I read an amazing book called Atomic Habits, and it reinforced the same concept in two words: SHOW UP.

Showing up is the first step to succeeding at anything, and for this post I will use exercise as the example, since I really want to get fit and strong (again) this year.

This year instead of resolutions, I’m focused on habits.

“Standardize before you optimize. You can’t improve a habit that doesn’t exist.” – James Clear – Atomic Habits

This blew my mind. I am a perfectionist, and have a hard time thinking in terms of progression. It’s time to get fit? Then chain that Suburban to my waist and I will pull it to New York!!!!! The concept of starting with a small amount of daily exercise doesn’t occur to me. It’s cross fit til I puke or nothing! But I am still working my way through recovery from adrenal fatigue. When I go all or nothing, I crash. First I have to create the habit of showing up before I can perfect it.

A walk around the block is a great start at showing up. Will one walk around the block transform my body and tighten my tush? No. But will a year of walking around the block have an impact? It will. Will starting with one block allow me to expand to walking around the block twice? And then a mile? And then two? YES.

“The point is not to do one thing. The point is to master the habit of showing up.” – James Clear – Atomic Habits

The other trap I fall into is planning my perfect habit to the point of never getting started because my plan/cirumstances/mood/weather/moon cycle/day of the week isn’t perfect. Am I the only one who only wants to start on a Monday, the first of the month, or preferably a Monday that is the first of the month? Or a Monday on January 1 at the turn of a century or millenium? The most important thing is to show up every time and stop waiting for the perfect time to start showing up.

You can start a habit on the third Wednesday of September. Just start showing up!

Or my perfect habit is so complicated and time-consuming that I abandon it nearly immediately because it’s too big, too much. Instead I am working on showing up and doing something. ANYTHING.

There are a lot of circumstances that can derail a habit. Vacations, getting sick, company, holidays, deadlines, etc. What I have decided about showing up is that I will choose it no matter what. Even if I’m sick, I can get up and do some stretches to maintain that habit of showing up. Even on vacation I can go on a walk on the beach.

This morning we overslept, and I had an 8 a.m. appointment. I still took 10 minutes (instead of 30) to do some yoga stretches. Did I do anything to improve my fitness today? Probably not, but I SHOWED UP. I perpetuated the habit I’m creating. I am mastering the habit of showing up.

“Many habits occur at decisive moments- choices that are like a fork in the road- and either send you in the direction of a productive day or an unproductive one.” – James Clear – Atomic Habits

My ability to show up for yoga this morning was facilitated by the fact that I showed up for a few other habits last night. I made my breakfast smoothie (I also love this one). I set out my morning adrenal medicine. I set out my workout clothes (although I could have done this in my pajamas because it was just some basic sun salutations). I took a shower last night.

These are the forks in the road that set my day up for success or failure. Showering at night is how I can get ready in 20 minutes or less (see all my tips and a video of my get ready routine here). If I had skipped that last night, I wouldn’t have made it out the door on time. Period. I could have done my yoga without my breakfast and my medicine, but I wouldn’t have had time to do 10 minutes of yoga if I hadn’t.

Even if I had failed to do all those things, I could have showed up for my goal of getting fit and strong by doing 20 pushups or 100 jumping jacks, or something else to get that movement into my day and practice the habit for showing up. I had time for 10 minutes today, so I did that.

“The first mistake is never the one that ruins you. It is the spiral of repeated mistakes that follows. Missing once is an accident. Missing twice is the start of a new habit.” – James Clear – Atomic Habits

The failure mentality tells us that since we missed yesterday, we may as well wait until Monday to get started again instead of getting back to it today. Or that we are such a failure because we messed up once that we may as well give up FOREVER. And that, my friends, is a trap. It’s ok to miss exercise once, or indulge in too much food once, or miss a day of meditation, or whatever habit you are working on. But letting that become a pattern is a failure.

“Too often we fall into an all or nothing cycle with our habits. The problem is not slipping up; the problem is thinking if you can’t do something perfectly, then you shouldn’t do it at all.” – James Clear – Atomic Habits

Ok, James, have you been reading my mind or something? I am the queen of all or nothing, and refusing to do anything I can’t do perfectly. I have missed out on a lot of amazing experiences and opportunities in my life because I was afraid of failing. And I regret it.

I have been trying to embrace the motto, “Done is better than perfect.” It is painful even typing that, but done is progress. Perfection can come later. And perfection is a process, not an action. This article demonstrates how that works in the business world. But in the exercise world, if I waited until I could do a perfect up dog or crow pose or head stand to go to a live yoga class, I’d never go. SHOWING UP to yoga class and falling over in front of everyone as I repeatedly attempt a crow pose is the only way I will ever achieve one.

So this year instead of resolutions, I’m working on habits, and the habit I’m focusing on is showing up to anything I want to do better. I’m showing up to exercise every day, whether it’s a walk around the block, a 60-minute hot yoga class, or 10 pushups. I’m showing up and doing those fork-in-the-road habits that set my day up for success. I’m showing up for my business. I’m showing up for my husband and kids and giving them more of my undivided attention. I’m showing up.

Where are you showing up this year? What is your approach to self-improvement in the new year?

If you are looking for more inspiration, check out this post about committing to self-care, and this post about how to start and stick to a fitness routine.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means if you purchase through my links I get a small commission, but it doesn’t cost you anything extra.

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17 thoughts on “The Number One Thing You Can Do to Achieve Your Goals”

  1. Happy New Year April! So happy to hear that you are showing up for the success of your health, each and every day. I love that “the first mistake is never the one that ruins you…” We preach and teach this to our children and friends daily but don’t show ourselves the same grace at that first mistake nor hold ourselves accountable for making the second. This for me applies to missing a Pilates class, eating a cookie, ruminating on a negative thought, or even enjoying a lazy morning…. all of these things are fine but can be gateways to failure for me. 2018 was great but I’m not going to stop there! ????

    1. Happy New Year to you, Penny! I completely agree. It’s ok to sleep in sometimes, have dessert sometimes, skip a class sometimes, but most of the time, we have to show up, or it won’t work. I’m so glad you had a wonderful 2018. So did I! Here’s to an amazing 2019.

  2. Great post April! I can attest to the fact that even two or three years down the path of ‘done is better than perfect’, it still hurts me to not be perfect, but it HAS also allowed me to move forward in my business and in my life in ways I couldn’t have foreseen. I do love the idea of showing up…my coach has a mantra of focus, consistency and action…which sounds similar.

    1. Mardell that’s helpful to hear. I have to actually say the words out loud, "Done is better than perfect," to force myself forward. This post isn’t perfect, but it’s done, and it impacted people. That’s better than a draft that is helping no one. Let’s see how much progress we can make by not being perfect this year!

  3. This is exactly what I’ve been thinking about. I made a list of things I want to start doing regularly – most of them I actually was in the habit of doing at different times in my life but I’ve fallen out of a lot of habits since having kids. It would be great if I woke up earlier but my toddler recently decided he wants to hang out all night. I’m conflicted if I should push myself or give myself more grace at this time when my kids are little. Did you ever feel like you just needed to get through these years when your kids were younger or did you feel like you could still thrive?

    1. Tiffany, there has to be some of both. It’s important to meet your own needs. Society glorifies martyr mothers, but that is not healthy. I learned the hard way that exercise is essential. After 5 kids in 3 years, I learned it’s not a luxury. I had no strength to care for my kids. Taking 30 minutes a day to get stronger made me healthier, nicer, able to play more, gave me more energy. Taking time to get ready every day (even when I had newborn triplets), makes my day better. I feel better. I linked above the post about getting ready in 20 minutes or less. To me that is non-negotiable. I get ready. I need and deserve that. Having friendships, a life outside of my family, quiet time (a minimum of 30 minutes alone) is important. You don’t stop having needs just because you get married or have kids. You can thrive and have young kids.

  4. I’m making lists of no more than 5 things daily. I’d rather commit consistently to achieving fewer goals than let goals remain on my todo list. Thanks for doing this blog. I will set an intention of done rather than perfect since "perfecting" is a long term process when you think about it.
    Wishing you the best year with your blog and business goals. Thanks for asking for our input.

  5. A happy new year for you and your family!
    For me this comes just in time. Being perfect is something that I love and hate. I have to remind myself to start without the need of perfection. My thoughts know that but….
    So thank you, this is a good idea for the new year,
    Show up ????

    1. Happy new year to you, Barbara! The perfectionism is a life-long struggle for me as well. I don’t want to miss out on anything more bc I was paralyzed by perfection. A lot of my life has to be in the good enough category, or I won’t have a life.

  6. This is so helpful, April! I am totally a perfectionist/procrastinator because I completely over think things. But thinking about something doesn’t get it done (or even started). I do work well under pressure, but I often look back and wish I had just started sooner and then used the extra time to perfect. Besides, it usually isn’t until I get started that the best ideas start flowing. I have a big opportunity awaiting me this year, but it requires action. This is just what I needed to get going – show up and do something every day, no matter how small. It will only get me closer to reaching my goal. Thanks again – reading your posts brings me joy!

  7. These are supe thoughts to start the year. Thank you for the permission to start our progress with imperfect steps to travel to real greatness.

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