What's Your Sat-Nav? How To Reach Your Goals One Small, Effortless Action At A Time
Picture if you will, the following scenario:
Current location: Sat in your car on the driveway, at your home in Exeter.
Likelihood of reaching destination: Not impossible. But improbable.
It’s laughter-provoking, isn’t it? Trying to get from Exeter to Dundee with nothing other than desire.
Yet, we all have personal destinations we want to reach in our lives. Lose weight. Drink less. Make more money.
And we do exactly what we’ve just laughed at above. We choose a distant destination e.g. Destination: Lose weight. (This, by the way, is the equivalent of “somewhere very north”. Not even “Dundee”.)
Then we metaphorically get in the car, start driving and hope for the best.
Some people get there. But they represent the absolute minority and not the overwhelming majority.
Which is why, according to US News: 80% of people fail in their new year's resolutions and goals by the second week of February. Equally, research by ComRes/BUPA has found: 80% of people in the UK who set a New Year's resolution or goal fail within 3-months.
Why? Because these people are relying on motivation alone.
Motivation Is Overrated
Question: What separates “motivated” individuals from those who actually succeed in the pursuit of their goals?
Let’s say you’re super motivated to lose weight and on January 1st, you say:
“I want to lose 10lbs by November 1st. This gives me 10 months, which is an average of 1lbs a month. Which is a daily calorie restriction of 115 calories.”
Fast forward ten months later.
How likely is success, when you compare this with a system such as:
“Except for one “cheat meal” a week, I will not eat anything that is beige.
I will not keep unhealthy food in the house. Period.
I will create 4 separate online grocery shopping lists.
One for each week of the month.
Each list contains 21 healthy meals (3 a day for 7 days).
Each meal will be made from healthy, natural, organic produce.
I will buy the entirety of all 4 lists at the start of the month.
They will be delivered to my house on Saturday morning at 9am every single week.
I will hire a personal chef to cook 3-days worth of meals on both Sunday’s and Thursdays.
I will hire a personal trainer who will arrive at my house at 7am on Monday, Wednesday and Friday’s.
I will pay them in advance at the start of the month via standing order.
They will arrive at my house even if I ask them not to. This is something I will agree with them at the start of our relationship.”
Creating a system, designed to lead you to a goal, is much more effective than simply setting the goal itself.
(Sooner or later, this system becomes an identity. And research has shown, that we feel an overwhelming pressure to take actions that are congruent with what we see as our identity.)
Systems vs Goals
Having a system vs. having a goal. It’s the difference between having a sat-nav and having a destination.
Luckily, when it comes to driving, we’ve come a long way from the leathery maps of Game of Thrones. Now, we take satellite-navigation for granted.
Just the other day, I was driving when a call came though via my car’s Bluetooth connection with my phone. The conversation went like this:
Caller: What do you mean?
Me: I don’t really know, I’m just following Google Maps…
Caller: Well… can you zoom out on the map?
You can see where the conversation was going.
The point is, I had no idea where I was. But I had made significant progress towards my destination. A system I was mindlessly following had already taken me 70% of the way. And if I mindlessly continued to follow it, it would take me all the way home.
It will even anticipate roadblocks and setbacks, re-routing me around them. This ensures I reach my destination in a similar period of time.
It's a mindless, effortless system.
Creating Systems for Health & Wealth
We all have destinations we set ourselves in our personal lives. Is the same possible here? I know that it is. That’s what I’m going to talk about in both this post and the next one.
Focusing on two examples; health and wealth.
In these areas, I’m not claiming to be a master. Only a student. I’m not claiming to have the answers. Only questions.
These techniques work for me. They may or may not work for you.
How I Got Started
I pro-actively completed Switch last Christmas.
I set myself a goal in both of those areas, then created a personal “sat-nav” for each.
I’m proud to say, whilst I have a long way to go, I’ve made serious progress in both and it’s been completely mindless.
In wealth, for example. I’ve not become an “overnight millionaire”. That wasn’t the goal I set myself.
The goal I set myself was to increase my feeling of wealth by:
Reducing spending that doesn’t directly create happiness
Reduce wasteful and unnecessary spending
Gain greater control over my finances
So I’ll use myself as an example, for no reason other than ease. But my sat-nav might not be your sat-nav.
So I’ll also talk about the over-arching principles I’ve used to guide me. (Many of them are detailed in Switch).
By writing this, I hope I inspire you. I hope you think about your own sat-nav, programme it, follow it and get to your destination.
The Problem With Our Cultural Expectations
“Success is dependent on consistent, strategic and small actions.”
Modern culture programs us not to believe a statement like that. We live in a culture that celebrates the woman who “lost 30lbs in 30 days”.
Not the woman who maintained a heathy bodyweight her entire life. Whilst having and raising three kids, plus jugging all of the other balls that modern life threw at her.
Our culture celebrates the lottery winners and the over-night “Bitcoin Billionaires”. Not the people who slowly and steadily amass fortunes over their lives by:
Because we live in a culture that celebrates shouting, not whispering. Headlines like: “Eccentric oligarch spoils playboy bunny wife with diamond-studded Nutri-Bullet” rather than headlines like: “Normal couple, happily married for 70 years, admits that they’ve had their share of arguments”.
Ours is a culture that celebrates big success in small time-frames.
But the average human-being lives for around 80 years.
So not only is this thinking fundamentally flawed, it puts tremendous pressure on us all. We set unrealistic destinations and unrealistic time-frames for getting to them.
We look at steroidal actors. Anorexic models. Immoral and nefarious bankers. We see what they have, and we want it. We want it now. Or at least within 30-days.
Finding A More Realistic Timeframe
That’s the beauty of a sat-nav. Before it performs any of its other wonderful functions, it gives us a realistic time-frame. It brings us down from the clouds of egoic imagination.
According to Google Maps, Exeter Central Station to Dundee Central is going to take “between 8 hours and 26 minutes and 9 hours and 27 minutes” depending on the route you take.
Even then, once you set off on your journey, those numbers are going to fluctuate;
Tony Robbins once said, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”
Because ten years is hard to imagine, it’s a long time. Even a year is hard. So we tell ourselves we’ll do X, be Y or not be Z in three-months.
Three months is still a marathon!
But we ignore that painful reality. Then we sprint at 100% for five, six weeks, run out of willpower and give up.
It’s much more effective to give yourself six months and pick a pace you can maintain for the whole race.
Using The Rules Of The Sat-Nav
That’s what I’m hear to talk about, focusing on two areas I’m trying to improve myself.
Within these areas I’ll cover the following strategies for maintaining pace.
The goal is the destination. Where we are now is our point-of-origin.
Set the game up so it’s easy to win (Using a sat-nav).
Running an 80/20 analysis. (The Sat nav chooses the roads that deliver the most bang for your buck. These roads have the fastest speeds, least traffic and least obstructions.)
Setting binary rules (avoid toll-roads, avoid London).
Set If, then rules. (If there’s traffic, then sat-nav re-routes you).
Programming habits (the instructions we mindlessly follow. e.g. Turn left, turn right, at the roundabout, take the third exit onto the A412.)
Setting systems that eliminate choice and by default, the possibility for bad choices. (Just follow the sat nav, even if you think you know the way).
Setting stakes (If I don’t arrive by X time, I’ll miss my very important meeting).
Incentives. (If I get to Manchester, I’ll buy myself a really fancy latte.)
The rejuvenating power of stopping off on the journey.
These are all tools we can use to get us to our goal. But they are most powerful, when combined.
So, let's apply this to my first goal area...
Setting The Game Up So It’s Easy To Win
I exercise at home. It’s cheaper than a gym and I don’t have to go anywhere.
I exercise in the morning. Before work. Before commuting. (It’s the only period of time we have each day that’s guaranteed.)
I do one large grocery shop per month. I bulk buy any foods I’ll need that month that won’t go off. (Peanut butter, frozen veggies etc.)
I don’t keep unhealthy food in the house. Period.
If it isn’t in the house, I can’t eat it.
Or, let’s phrase it another way: if it is the house, it’s guaranteed that I will eat it, at some point.
The 80/20 Rule
The Pareto Principle is a theory named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto.
Pareto showed that approximately 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. He developed the theory to show that in almost every area of life, 80% of outputs come from 20% of inputs and 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes.
For example, you probably wear 20% of your clothes 80% of the time. 80% of the happiness in your life is likely created by 20% of the people in your life. Roughly 20% of sports teams win 80% of games.
The split isn’t always 80/20. But a little does often create a lot.
Having run an 80/20, I knew that roughly 20% of bodyweight exercises deliver 80% of results. (Muscle gain, fat loss, cardiovascular fitness).
I decided what these where and built a program around them.
Binary rule number 1 - “On Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays, I exercise for 1-hour, no matter what.” Because of my commute, this means:
Waking up at 5am (I’ll talk about how I tackle these 5am starts later in the post.)
20-minutes of coffee making, drinking and waiting-to-kick-in-ing
1-hour of bodyweight training in my living room.
Roughly 20% of foods and drinks have 80% of negative effects on the body.
Binary rule number 2 - “Sunday to Thursday, I don’t drink alcohol”
Binary rule number 3 - “Sunday to Thursday, I don’t eat meat and I don’t eat beige-coloured foods.” (I no longer have much of a sweet tooth, which helps).
Binary rule number 4 - “Except for post-workout, black coffee, black tea, green tea and water are the only liquids I drink.”
In “Bodyweight Muscle”, Fitness Youtuber (and unbelievably inspiring person) Anthony Arvanitakis says, “It’s not what you drink or eat the 5-days of Christmas that sculpt or sabotage your body, it’s the other 360.”
And to nod back to Krish once more, “Success is dependent on consistent, strategic and small actions.” We are what we repeatedly do. And what we repeatedly do is habitual. Habits dictate up to 95% of our decisions.
Our bodies, our health, our relationships, our careers and our lives are all the result of the habits (positive and negative) that we live each day. We make far less conscious decisions than we think.
It made a bad habit incrementally more difficult to fall into. But the best thing about habits, is that they can be programmed.
The Pain/Pleasure Principle
The habit cycle operates under the umbrella of the pain/ pleasure principle.
Effectively, as humans, we’re wired to move towards things that are pleasant (objects, animals, people, experiences) and we’re wired to move away from things that are painful.