The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.
– Muhammad Ali
Yes, it’s time to make those New Year’s resolutions! As you make your big plans, keep in mind that one of the most powerful methods for goal achievement is to break your goals down into tiny steps. However, from an entertainment perspective, tiny habits and tiny stretch goals are about as exciting as watching the grass grow. There will be no Hollywood movie agent calling when you achieve your tiny stretch goals, you won’t be getting 100s of likes on Facebook if you shoot 110 foul shots today. No one is going to re-tweet the fact that you wrote in your journal for an hour, or had a healthy salad for lunch! So how do you keep energized during those long times of preparation and practice? It turns out, the secret for powering forward with your tiny goals is learning to trigger your entire body for action and then celebrating along the way.
For sheer goal achievement celebration and motivational rush, there is probably no better movie scene than when Rocky reaches the top of the Philadelphia Art Museum stairs. In fact, more than 40 years later, dozens of people of all ages can still be seen sprinting up the stairs every day and then doing their best Rocky imitation when they reach the top, dancing with arms overhead in victory. If you recall the details of the movie though, Rocky actually begins his run in the dark streets of South Philly and doesn’t reach the stairs until sunrise. Not many tourists re-enact that entire run! Instead, they just get to the good part – which is the exciting sixty-second run up the stairs, followed by the wild celebration!
Why are people so attracted to re-enacting Rocky’s run up the stairs while skipping the long grueling run that preceded it? While it’s certainly true that South Philly is a long way from the Art Museum, I believe the bigger factor is that running up those stairs is a total tiny workout, with a clear beginning and end, capped with mad celebration. There is no preparation needed, no special clothing – just a clear vision from the bottom of the stairs of dancing at the top and then the tiny burst of action to “just do it”.
Motivational coach Tony Robbins leverages these types of “just do it” experiences to psychologically and physiologically reset people’s performance levels. “I don’t start with the mind. The mind is the weakest part to start with. I start with the body – if I change your biochemistry, if I do it consistently day and night, it becomes your new norm, and in your new norm, sparks happen.”
TED Speaker and social psychologist Amy Cuddy – an expert on understanding body language, has researched how your physical body language can make an immediate and powerful impact on your overall bio-chemistry. Tiny changes in how you simply hold your body, cross your arms (or not) and other such power poses all have direct impact on your physical and psychological state. Not only does your state of mind literally change when you jolt your body with tiny changes, but during experiments outside observers were able to detect who had been holding their body with high energy, and who had been slouching over. So powerful are the results that Cuddy believes these tiny power poses can literally change your entire life. “Don’t fake it till you make it,” Cuddy says. “Fake it till you become it. Do it enough until you actually become it and internalize it.”
As you metaphorically “stand at the bottom of the stairs” and contemplate starting new activities this year, it’s critical to realize just how tiny the difference is between a biochemistry of action and success, and a biochemistry of inertia and defeat. Robbins highlights this tiny difference – “When it seems impossible, when it seems like nothing is going to work, you’re usually just a few millimeters away from making it happen.”
In other words, the magic of Thinking Tiny can unlock Rocky level performance by making just a few simple changes to your posture and your mindset and send you soaring up the Art Museum stairs on a regular basis! We often make the mistake of waiting around for some big dose of motivation, when what we really need is just a tiny but laser-focused change in our posture, or mechanics, or in our follow-through. Don’t wait for motivation to arrive! Lace up those old Chuck Taylors and head out into the empty streets to take a few tiny steps before dawn. You’ll be dancing in celebration before you know it!
1). Sometimes your body needs to get moving before your goals will start moving. Even a tiny shift in how you stand can re-energize everything and send you running up the stairs like Rocky!
2). We naturally tend towards equilibrium and being in a rut. Deliberate practice means constantly stretching your practice routine in new directions. Achieving a string of tiny stretch goals via deliberate practice opens the door to accelerated success.
3). Emotional letdown is a sign that your new habit is actually taking hold. Instead of giving up at that point, vary your routine and once again push your comfort zone!
4). Never confuse tiny habits with tiny trivia. Avoid tiny trivia as much as possible. For the tiny trivia you can’t avoid, take a “Think Action Now” mindset and just get “stuff” done as fast as possible.
5). Tiny trivia, friends, family, and especially your own mind will try to highjack your tiny goal setting efforts. Don’t be surprised! Don’t let these predictable distractions and powerful points of resistance hijack your plans!
6). Your brain and emotions will often put up a life and death struggle against change – even tiny change. Your own mind is a crafty opponent, and will routinely stir up imaginary problems, drama, and other “emergencies” to keep you from actually changing. Recognize, laugh at, and then ignore these various imaginary excuses, and keep on making tiny progress.
7). Keep up a fast tempo for doing your tiny habits and goals. The faster you go, the more effortless things become. Turn your practice time into enjoyable games so that you are actually playing at things rather than “working”.
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