If you are like most people in the world, you entered 2020 with some New Year’s resolutions. And, if you are like most people in the world, those resolutions were fairly demanding. You are going to lose forty pounds or train for a marathon or make another $100,000 this year or finally remodel the house. In other words, you have set your sights on some large targets.
I applaud you, but I want to suggest another—think of it as an additional—approach to growing and improving in this new year and in life as a whole. I want to suggest that instead of or in addition to your big goals, you start the practice of making constant small increases on a variety of fronts throughout this year.
Let me explain.
I do planks every other day and I hate them. Truly. You know the drill. I get in that frozen push up position and then hold that position until I nearly collapse. They aren’t easy for me. I’m 6’4” and so I have a lot of length to keep up in the air. My less lengthy friends tell me they have a decided advantage. Exercise experts tell me planks are better than sit-ups and so I do them with hate in my heart the heat of a nova.
I use a trick to keep me in the game, though. I add one second of time—yes, I time my planks or I wouldn’t do them well—every time I do them. So every other day, I do planks adding one second to my time goal. Only one second. I tell myself I can do this. It’s only a second. And, I do. Because it’s only one second on my iPhone’s stopwatch.
I’m tricking myself. One additional second added every other day means that in a matter of months I’ve added a minute. So two minutes turns into three and let me tell you that a three minute plank is an achievement. One second at a time.
Once I started this, a friend taught me an acrostic when he was talking about something completely other than planks. He said he uses the acrostic BEST. It stands for Better Every Single Time. When I heard this, I knew it was a great way to think about how I was doing planks—and a whole lot more.
What if you simply decided in 2020 that you would do just a little bit better each time you did something in which you wanted to improve? Each speech would get a little more effort. Each email just a smidge more craft. Each customer interaction would be a bit warmer and more skilled. Each date with your spouse just a tad more loving and invested.
You see my point. What if you added a second’s worth of effort on ten important fronts each time you did a given task? You would grow. You would improve. Painlessly. Never would you fear doing your version of planks because, you know, it’s only a second’s worth of extra effort you would be demanding of yourself.
I know you want to be better by year’s end. That’s what resolutions are for. But perhaps if you take that thousand mile journey one easy step at a time, you’ll arrive at some startling goals by next year.
That’s it. Be BEST. But don’t make yourself miserable on the way.