I’m Trying To Lose Weight
And it’s one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done.
But I have Josh and John, my Entreprogrammers group, to keep me accountable – and I absolutely need that, or I would completely give up. But a couple of days ago, after going to the donut shop with my kids, I sent this email to the group:
7 years of donuts every Saturday is hard to give up. I held out for about 10 minutes… and i did eat less than usual, by about half. so that’s progress at least.
but, still… :-/
A few minutes later, John replied:
Don’t sweat it. What is done is done. Don’t let it ruin the rest of your day or derail you. Just try to hold out for 20 minutes next week.
That, for me, was a much needed reminder and a great perspective on something that is really easy to give up.
It’s Not About “Perfect”
When was the last time you decided to go “all-in” on something difficult, that required a tremendous amount of will power, motivation and effort, and found that you were able to do it perfectly every time, from the start and never stop? For me, that would be never.
Think about kids: when a baby is born, do we expect it to jump up and start walking and talking immediately? When it gets old enough, do we expect it to stand up and walk without ever falling? Do we expect perfect grammar and logic in speech, immediately? Of course not. It takes time to learn. It takes mistakes and experience, as well. So why do we expect nothing but “perfect” from ourselves, when we have not had the time, training and experience to learn, grow and build new habits and understanding?
It’s About The Journey, And Progress
Ultimately, long-term goals for habit and process change cannot be measured solely in achieving the goal at 100%.
For losing weight, I have a goal of dropping 50 pounds. But my actual measurement of progress is not just in weight lost. I have strategies and tactics that I measure myself against. How well did I eat today? How much did I eat today? Did I meet my daily goal for these (and other) measurements? It’s these daily goals that are important, but even then it’s not about being perfect every day.
The 80% “Achievement Unlocked”
I don’t expect to be perfect in anything, any time soon, when I first start. Instead, I expect it to be a difficult journey where I will fall off and get back on. It’s not about being perfect with my daily goals. It’s about getting there. And getting there requires measurement and tracking to know how often we do accomplish something.
Knowing how often you get it right is important. Seeing progress is motivating. But don’t wait for 100% perfection. Instead, look for 80% of the time and call the achievement unlocked when you are hitting 80% or more, consistently!
Once you hit 80% accomplishment, consistently, change your goals. Add the next level of difficulty – the next challenge that is just out of your reach. Aim for 80% of that goal next, and you’ll soon find that you are hitting your previous goal nearly 100% of the time while steadily working toward 80% of the next goal.
Not Just Weight Loss
This applies to far more than just weight loss, too.
Are you looking to do test-driven development? Set a goal of writing tests for ONE PART OF YOUR CODE, 80% of the times. Not the entire system… just that one part where it’s easy to write tests. Hitting that goal, now? Add the next part of your system where it’s slightly more difficult to write the tests and aim for writing tests 80% of the time on that one.
The 80% rule applies to every goal where we have. You only need to break that goal down in to measurable steps and track how often you are hitting those steps.