Every great superhero shares one superpower: in the end, they don’t give up on what matters. We can all have this superpower. In fact, we need it. We all want to get good at hard things. Things like getting fit, writing a book, building a business. But mostly we don’t finish. We start only to quit. Why?
Because good things take time.
And yet, we are impatient.
To really feel this in your bones let me tell you a story.
Imagine a kid wishes to grow a blueberry bush because he longs to eat homegrown blueberries.
The kid plants a seed. Nothing happens.
He dumps a wheelbarrow of fertiliser on the seed.
He drowns it in buckets of water.
When a tree casts a shadow on the garden, his imaginative mind contemplates sticking the seed in a pot, and strapping the pot on a jet plane so that as it circumnavigates the world it will always be exposed to the sun. You see, the kid really wants that blueberry. Right now.
The kid sits in a tent, pitched next to the blueberry patch. In his lap is a horticulture encyclopaedia. It seems that overnight, he’s taught himself how to read just so he can figure out how to be a professional gardener. Blueberries have become his life’s focus. But every time the kid looks at the patch of dirt beside him, he sees deeply unmet expectations. Not so much as a sprout, let alone a blueberry. The next day he’s on to another scheme: making bows and arrows.
Many decades later, an old gardener with a long grey beard also plants a blueberry seed. He doesn’t hurry (due to a combination of arthritis and hard earned wisdom). Every morning he waters the seed for a few seconds before pottering on to something else. It’s so easy, that laziness won’t even bother visiting.
Months pass. Watering the seed becomes part of his day. A day without watering, is not a day.
One sunny morning, the old gardener stares down in amazement. A tiny leaf stands proudly in the dirt.
The gardener smiles and introduces himself to the leaf (because he’s at an age where he doesn’t give a shit if he seems batshit crazy). Then he waters the leaf and he carries on with his day.
A few years later the old gardener is watering his long blueberry hedge. He notices something. There, behind a leaf is… a perfectly ripe blueberry. He’s waited for this moment for a decade. He remembers that a long time ago, when he was a young kid reading horticulture books, he once planted a blueberry seed… But his kid self gave up on it long before it could bear fruit.
In the story, the old gardener knew that the bush would take a decade to grow, so he did less. He spent a minute on it everyday. And a sustainable habit you stick with is better than the impressive habit you fail. And the reward was so delayed that he came to enjoy the process itself which made things more self-sustaining.
Say you want to meditate daily. If you think in years, you might decide to simply take 3 deep slow breaths after waking. It’s so easy it’s laughable. Great. Make habits so easy you can’t fail.
Every week add a breath. After a month or two you might start meditating for 1 minute. And every few weeks you can add a minute until you reach a desired duration or until you’re meditating 24 hours a day.
By increasing the habit slowly, you don’t notice the effort. Not being hard is key because difficulty makes us want to quit. In fact, it can be so easy that you need to hold yourself back from doing too much which again makes things hard.
Granted going this slow will not work for every behavior. But it’s another tool in the toolbox.
I’ll leave you with this:
Imagine right now you’re standing in a stadium of hundreds of people each resolving to change their habits. How would it feel, that in a year, you could be one of the last left standing? Amazing! My body is buzzing. I’m pumped to start right away with a grand plan!
Whoa, whoa, hold your horses!Be patient little kid.Just start small and be consistent.Plant the tiny seed and water it everyday.