Do you ever wonder if you are on the right path? There are many ways to get to a destination, so it can be hard to know if you are on the right one. To ensure that you are on the right path, you must first have the right mindset.
The Motivation Myth illustrates that you are most likely to reach your goals when focusing on the path rather than the destination. Let’s use the hiking trail of New Zealand as a metaphor. Their trails are guided by orange markers, which help inexperienced hikers navigate their way through the sometimes hostile terrain.
These orange markets decrease the skills required to just one: preparation. Preparation is required when you wish to accomplish anything. With a well-laid-out plan, you can achieve almost anything.
During our time in New Zealand, My partner and I depended heavily on these markers. Our descent from Mueller Hut could have been a catastrophe without these markets. We climbed up to the hut expecting to wait out the morning rain, but we began to worry when that rain turned into snow. The snow landed on the cabin for hours, and we could hear it avalanching off the roof.
We waited patiently, but we had only brought enough food for the overnight trip. We were starting to worry about going hungry before the snow cleared. Luckily, we could call in and confirm that the snow would stop falling. Still, we had to deal with the snow already on the ground – a reasonably substantial but manageable amount.
We walked out of the hut into the fresh snow and grey day with calm confidence. Visibility was minimal; we could only see one marker ahead, but that was enough. The rocks were slippery with the wet snow, and avalanches fell periodically beyond what we could see, reminding us of our danger. Still, we kept going one marker at a time.
Marker after marker, the snow slowly thinned as our altitude decreased until we got to the point where it had only rained. We still had a long way to go, but the path from here was clear, and it was only a matter of time before we got home.
Goal vs. path oriented.
Now it’s your turn; imagine you want to climb one of New Zealand’s beautiful mountains. Would you trust the trail or forge your own path? If you are a skilled mountaineer, you might make your own path. But more likely, you will trust the track.
With this faith, you will trek through the forest, encountering one marker after another. Then, before you know it, you will have reached the peak. You had a plan: follow the markers, and you knew your goal: get to the top. However, while you were on the path, you were free to distract yourself from this goal, so long as you stayed the course.
Alternatively, if you had looked at the mountain’s peak and started walking towards it, you would have gotten lost as soon as an obstacle obstructed your view of the peak. Preparation is required to reach your goal.
Making a Plan
Whatever your goal, it is crucial that you plan how you will use to get there. If longevity is your game, you’ll need a plan to develop longevity habits such as meditating, fasting or taking cold showers. These habits suck, but they are worth developing due to their benefits.
I believe it is better to suffer a little today day rather than a lot tomorrow. Sure, it’s easy to succumb to consumerism’s fallacy and live out all your heart’s desires. You can skip the gym and watch Netflix instead. You can have a bag of chips instead of a salad, but at the end of the day, those bad habits will catch up with you.
Instead, it’s better to have a forward-looking mindset and think of the conciseness of your actions long before they manifest themselves. Once you develop this mindset, you can use the three-step approach to reaching your goals. The three steps are:
- Identify you goal
- Define the steps
- Take the first step
Identifying your goal
First and foremost, you must know what you want. If you wish to lose weight, be more active, sleep better or just feel better, your first step is to decide what you want. Once you have identified this thing – let’s call it a goal – you can start to plan how to get there.
Just like Bruce Bogtrotter ate the cake one bit at a time in Matilda, you need to break down your eventual goal into micro-steps. These should be doable with minimal friction, which brings us to the next step.
Define the steps
Break down your goal into easily manageable chunks of effort. Whether your goal is to meditate two hours a day, take a fifteen-minute ice bath on Sundays or something much less hardcore. Your first step will be to break it down.
If you dive right into the ice bath, you might flop around like a fish for a bit, then get out and decide that ice baths are uncomfortable and just not your thing. Contrarily, if your goal is the ice bath, but your first step is to finish your shower with ten seconds of cold water, you might stick with it; that is a manageable first step.
The next step might be twenty seconds or even a minute. Then you slowly build up to a strictly cold shower. Once you are comfortable with cold showers, you are ready to experiment with ice baths. You can invite people over for one and challenge everyone to a two-minute. Longevity is a team sport, after all.
Eventually, as you get addicted – cold is strangely addictive – and forget about your goal of fifteen minutes on Sundays. Then, you find yourself getting out of an ice bath on Sunday after being there for fifteen minutes.
It’s not complicated; once you internalize that goal and design a path to achieve it, you make it inevitable that you will succeed. Ice bathes might not be your thing, and if not, I get it, they are cold, but you can use this formula to accomplish any of your goals. But to do that, you need to do the final step.
Take the first step
A well-laid-out plan is great; getting started with it is better. It doesn’t matter how good your plan is if you never take that first step to get out of your comfort zone. Don’t keep telling yourself that you’ll start tomorrow because tomorrow never comes.
Start now, and make your first step approachable enough that you can do it immediately. Then, you will find that just doing that first step will kickstart the feedback loop of motivation, which will keep you coming back.
The more steps you accomplish, the more motivated you will feel. So go on, go get started, and if you want a little help designing your plan, reach out to me, I would be happy to help. Otherwise, you can subscribe to my newsletter and have my content sent directly to your email.