12/300: How Achievement Motivates

It’s sort of like a snake eating its own tail. Motivated people accomplish things regularly. Regular accomplishment is a motivator. The circle draws itself.

Over the last few years, I’ve been frustrated. I had ideas. I had a long list of things I wanted to do – I’ve written about my goals already, but those projects included language and books, this blog and fitness, meeting people and diving into books. The list accumulated. Over time, it grew larger and more intense, more intimidating, more impossible.

But, as I’ve written, I decided to change things this year and self quantification became the crucial tool in my workshop to getting it done.

Last night, I went to the gym. My kids had basketball practice and (yes, I realize how insane this sounds) yoga. The morning was too cold to run. It would not have been safe. So I packed my gym clothes and arranged to meet my wife and kids at the rec center so I could watch practice and do my Wednesday run inside.

I watched my daughter play basketball for the first time – adorbs, BTW – and took my son to his practice then jumped on the treadmill and banged out my run. As I finished, my Couch to 5K app ping and I looked down to see an ‘award.’ I’m a quarter of the way through program. Congratulations me!

I went to watch my son’s basketball practice and a friend stopped by to chat. We got to talking about my project and I told him about the goal to write eight books this year. He seemed dumbfounded. Any writer who has completed a book understands this experience. You tell someone you’ve written a book, a non-writer, and they are impressed, but even more so, they can’t believe someone can do such a thing.

I explained to him how much better my writing has been since I decided to limit my writing; how I work no more than a half-hour six times a week and he told me that what was probably making it possible was to ignore the result and focus only on the moment.

He was right.

Every morning, I write in my journal the tasks I plan to accomplish that day. I check them off as I go. I will be checking off ‘blog’ in the next few minutes. I keep track of my daily accomplishments, not my overarching goals and it keeps me motivated to start again the next day.

Too often, we think about the things we want. We think about the finished book. We think about crossing the finish line. But I’m learning that the best way to get to a finished book is to focus on the thousand words you have to write that day; the next step of your run. Goals, when you look at them this way, are the result of shifting your mindset from the macro to the micro, from the book to the keystroke. It’s a lot easier to write a thousand words than it is to write a book. But if you write a thousand words enough, you’ll end up with a book.

I was really proud of 25% completion accomplishment in the Couch to 5K program. I’m proud of my 33% fluency in Spanish on Duolingo. I’m proud of the 14,358 words I’ve written in my book. I’m proud of the 12 blog posts I’ve written this year.

So proud, in fact, that I want to keep going.

I’m not thinking about the 288 blogs I have left to write. I’m thinking about this one, about the check mark I’ll put in my journal and how I’ll write ‘blog’ in tomorrow’s entry as well.

The snake eats its tail. The circle draws itself. Small wins yield big victories and accomplishment breeds the motivation for more.

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