When I was a high school freshman, a 260-pound freshman girl showed up for track and field tryouts right alongside me. Her name was Sara, and she was only there because her doctor said her health depended on it. But once she scanned the crowd of students who were on the field, she turned around and began walking away. Coach O’Leary saw her, jogged over, and turned her back around.
“I’m not thin enough for this sport!” Sara declared. “And I’ll never be! It’s impossible for me to lose enough weight. I’ve tried.”
Coach O’Leary nodded, and promised Sara that her body type wasn’t suited for her current weight. “It’s suited for 220 pounds,” he said.
Sara looked confused. “Most people tell me I need to lose 130 pounds,” she replied. “But you think I only need to lose 40?”
Coach O’Leary nodded again.
Sara started off as a shot put competitor, but spent every single afternoon running and training with the rest of the track team. She was very competitive, and by the end of our freshman year she was down to 219 pounds. She also won 2nd place in the countywide shot put tournament that year. Three years later, during our senior year, she won 3rd place in the 10K run. Her competitive weight at the time was 132 pounds.
There was a time when Sara was convinced that it was impossible to lose weight because, in her past experience, it had never worked out the way she had hoped. She had completely lost faith in herself. But, with consistency—with a daily ritual of trying again and again—she restored her faith and achieved the “impossible.” And when Sara showed up to my 37th birthday (pool) party recently, I smiled when I overheard another guest she just met compliment her on her bathing suit and physique.
Of course, Sara still works really hard—she tries again—every single day to maintain what she has achieved.
And, so do I…
I Lose Faith Sometimes Too
Some people get this idea about me, because I’m a New York Times bestselling author who has spent the past decade writing and teaching people how to create more success and happiness in their lives, that I don’t ever fall short and fail miserably in these areas. But of course, I’m human, so that’s not true at all. I fall short and fail at things much more than you might imagine, and certainly far more than I’d often like to admit. And, it feels just as horrible for me as it does for you or anyone else—I absolutely lose faith in myself sometimes.
Deep down, of course, I know these negative reactions aren’t helpful. So I own up to what happened, learn a lesson or two, and then get back up and try again. The final part is the most important part—the trying again…
- I fail at eating healthy and exercising sometimes, but I try again.
I fail at loving myself sometimes, but I don’t give up on myself either, and so I try again.
- I fail at being a great dad sometimes, especially when I get distracted with stressful business endeavors, but I keep trying, and oftentimes I invoke a fresh smile on my son’s face.
- I even failed at writing the article you’re reading now. I made an initial attempt and scrapped it because it didn’t feel right. But I started again, and now I’m done.
When I try again and again, I often succeed, and feel much better about myself, in the long run.
If there’s only one thing you take away from this article, let it be that trying again—giving yourself another chance every day—is always worth it. Because…
What You Do Again & Again Defines You
Many of the most meaningful results you will ever achieve in your life—the milestones, the relationships, the love, the lessons—come from the little things you do repeatedly, every single day.
Regardless of your unique talents, knowledge, and life circumstances, or how you personally define success and happiness, you don’t suddenly become successful and happy. You become successful and happy over time based on your willingness to try again and again—to create little daily rituals that amass little bits of progress, through thick and thin.
So, what do your little daily rituals look like?
You really have to sort this out, and get consistent with what’s right for you on a daily basis! Because failure occurs in the same way. All your little daily failures (those that you don’t learn and grow from) come together and cause you to fail big. Think in terms of running a business…
- You keep failing to check the books.
- You keep failing to make the calls.
- You keep failing to listen to your customers.
- You keep failing to innovate.
- You keep failing to do the little things that need to be done.
Then one day you wake up and your whole business has failed. It was all the little things you did or didn’t do on a daily basis—your rituals—not just one inexplicable, catastrophic event.
Now, think about how this relates to your life: your life is your “business!”
Remind yourself that the vast majority of the results in your life—positive and negative alike—are the product of many small decisions made over time. The little things you do today, and tomorrow, and the next day, matter!
Too often people overestimate the significance of one big defining moment and underestimate the value of making good decisions and small steps of progress on a daily basis. Don’t be one of them!
Obvious but Not Easy to Sustain
The concept of taking it one day at a time, one step at a time, might seem ridiculously obvious, but at some point we all get caught up in the moment and find ourselves yearning for instant gratification. We want what we want, and we want it now! And this yearning often tricks us into taking on too much too soon. Angel and I have seen this transpire hundreds of times over the years: a coaching client or course student wants to achieve a big goal (or three) all at once, and can’t choose just one or two daily rituals to focus on, so nothing worthwhile ever gets done, and gradually they lose more and more faith in themselves. Let this common mistake—this quick-fix mentality—be your wake-up call today.
You really can’t lift a thousand pounds all at once, yet you can easily lift one pound a thousand times. Small, repeated, incremental efforts will get you there. It doesn’t happen in an instant, but it does happen a lot faster than not getting there at all.
Do your best to consciously shift your focus away from the big goals—the big ideals—you want to achieve in your life and toward the little daily rituals that support them. Consider the following…
- If you’re a competitive athlete, your goal is to win sports competitions. Your ritual is the time you dedicate each day to training your body (and mind).
- If you’re a university student, your goal is to learn and earn a degree. Your ritual is your daily study habits.
- If you’re a parent, your goal is to be a great role model. Your ritual is the time and energy you commit to setting a good example each day.
- If you’re a human being, your goal is to live a happy, meaningful life. Your ritual is the small, positive steps forward you take every day.
Now consider this small excerpt from our New York Times bestselling book: “If you stopped focusing on one of your big goals for a while and instead focused exclusively on your corresponding daily ritual, would you still make progress? For example, if you were trying to lose weight and you stopped thinking about your goal to lose twenty pounds, and instead placed all of your focus on eating healthy and exercising each day, would you still lose weight? Yes, without a doubt! Gradually you would get closer to your goal—your target weight—without even thinking about it again.”
And if you mess up occasionally?
You own up to it, you forgive yourself, and you try again.
One day at a time, one step at a time, you get to…
Restore Faith in Yourself
Restoring your faith in yourself is arguably the most significant hidden benefit of consistently practicing a daily ritual—of trying again and again and again. In fact, what I lacked before I learned to implement these kinds of daily rituals was the faith that I was actually capable of achieving the positive results I desired in my life. I had tried so many quick fixes in the past that ended in failure, and had grown so discouraged in myself, that I began subconsciously choosing procrastination over future attempts to fulfill the little promises I made to myself—to learn, to grow, and to make progress in various ways.
In essence, I lost faith in both my ability and myself. It’s kind of like another person constantly lying to you—eventually you stop trusting them. The same holds true with the little promises you make to yourself that always end in disappointment. Eventually, you stop trusting yourself.
And the solution in most cases is the same too: you have to restore your faith and trust gradually, with small promises, small steps (your daily rituals), and small victories. Again, this process takes time, but it happens if you stick to it. And it’s undoubtedly one of the most important, life-changing things you can do for yourself.
(Note: Angel and I build and customize tiny, life-changing daily rituals with our students in the “Goals & Growth” module of the Getting Back to Happy Course.)
Now, it’s your turn…
Don’t wish away any more time waiting for better times ahead. Just appreciate where you are and try again. If you faithfully take small steps day after day, one day you’ll look back with gratitude for how far you’ve come.
And, if you’re up to it right now, I’d love to know:
- In what way will you “try again” today? What small step forward can you take today, that can be built upon tomorrow?
Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
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