Worked A Little

There’s a strange pattern I see people often repeat, and it baffles me. A person will want some change in their life, so they’ll adopt a particular strategy to achieve that change. The strategy will start to work a little; some early progress towards that change will get made. Then, they’ll declare victory and quit.

The strategy was working, and they quit! Now, I say this baffles me, but I actually do have a working theory why people do this. Change is hard. Improvements are usually harder. So when you want something in your life to improve, you have to commit to a certain amount of extra effort. And it’s always easier to commit to things than to follow through on them.

So people commit, but then it’s haaaaaaard. So they want to stop, but they also don’t want to be the kind of person who quits. You know what’s psychologically easier than looking at yourself in the mirror after you’ve quit, though? Just saying “I got what I wanted” after the first minor milestone.

Now you don’t feel like you quit – after all, you improved! …a little.

This is one of the reasons it’s so important to set specific goals, rather than just vague “I want this aspect of my life to get better” statements. Those vague statements give you all sorts of back doors to slither through when you hit the first incline.

But even beyond that, there’s something you have to recognize. Improving your life isn’t something you can do as a discrete action. Your life will only improve if you live it differently for the rest of it.

Let me say that again: Your life will only improve if you live it differently for the rest of it.

You can’t improve some part of your life by working a little on it and then walking away. The default state of your life is the way it is now, and it will always return to that default state without something supporting the new shape of it. You have to build that, and you have to maintain it forever. You need to either accept that – nay, embrace that – or else you will always end up walking away from things that worked a little, but could have worked a lot.

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