Monday, April 30, 2012

slow and steady wins races


Everybody loves fast.  We cheer for the fastest runner, and we want our team to draft the fastest player.

We also want our life changes to be fast.  We want to lose 30 pounds by next weekend.  We want to get out of debt... now!  We want an extreme home makeover, or to pimp our ride, or whatever else - can you just get it done over the weekend?!

I'm not saying fast is bad; I like fast just as much as you do.  The trouble is that most people only have a limited amount of resources - time, money, and energy, available.

It wouldn't be too difficult to lose 30 pounds very quickly, if you could dedicate your life to that particluar goal, without having to worry about little things like going to work or "dealing with" your family.  Is it any wonder the contestants on NBC's The Biggest Loser all lose significant weight?  They get to put their real lives on hold while they focus 100% on losing weight.

And as for that extreme home makeover, no problem.  Just bring in a good contractor and designer, give them a 6-figure budget, and get out of the way.  Your house will look fantastic when you get back from vacation!

Some people out there are able to do it.  They're in the right place in their life, where they're able to put huge amounts of energy into the goal at hand.  Most of us, however, are not so fortunate.

The good news is that the same end results are possible, you just need to slow down.

Losing 30 pounds in a month or two would be amazing.  But wouldn't it also be amazing to lose 30 pounds over the next year? Imagine the difference next spring, when instead of shopping for pool party cover-ups you're excited to hit the beach! And that's only 2.5 pounds per month - totally do-able! 

Even better - the longer, slower process will only require you to make small, slow, modest changes to your current life - changes which won't impact every other part of your life, and which you can continue to maintain for years to come.

The same can be said for life changes in many other disciplines.

Did you want to read more books this year, but you can never find time to curl up without any distractions and power through a few chapters?  Try reading a mere 5 pages a night.  By the end of the year you'll have read about 1,800 pages - 6 full books, give or take!

Did you want to get stronger this year, but you can't find time to get to the gym everyday?  Try doing 15 push-ups in the mornings and evenings.  By year's end you will have done over 10,000 push-ups! (and anyone who can do 10,000 push-ups has to be pretty strong, right?)

The same holds true for learning something new - whether a foreign language or art history or playing the guitar.  20 minutes of practice each day leads to more than 120 hours over the course of a year. For reference, a typical college course includes about 50 hours of classroom instruction.  (I don't know about you, but I only paid attention for about a quarter of the classroom hours!)  The reality is you can learn the equivalent of 2 or 3 college courses this year by using the slow & steady method, 20 minutes a day.

Look - fast is cool.  Fast is sexy.  Fast sells.  But slow & steady works.  Slow & steady fits into your hectic life, wedged perfectly between getting the kids out the door in the morning, running errands at lunch, and getting home in time to cook dinner.  Slow & steady wins races over the long term.

-Chris Butterworth