Do you have a goal that feels impossible? Something you want to get started but aren’t sure it’s achievable? Or maybe it is really daunting and you’re having trouble following through?
Whether it is a big, lofty goal, or something smaller, we all could use some help finding ways to stay motivated and put in the work to make those goals reality. In the next few paragraphs I’m going to tell you a personal story that I think explains the over-arching idea of “constant work” (which can be easier than it sounds) and then share one trick that has really helped me.
For me, the big, impossible goal has been having good balance. If I’m going to be honest, I would like to be able to walk across slacklines with calmness and ease, but simply standing on one foot for more than a few seconds or doing a single-leg squat would be a HUGE achievement for me. You see, when I was 7 I was diagnosed with a benign brain-tumour. The tumour was right at the part where my spine attaches to my brain – the part that controls things like motor function.
In the hospital room, after the tumor was successfully removed and I was out of a wheelchair, Doctors would watch me try to walk in a straight line across the room. I couldn’t do it. I would wobble and fall off course. It was upsetting and embarrassing. When I was out of the hospital I would practice this by walking on the edges of curbs or along the lines painted on the roads. I still do this and think about how I felt in that hospital so many years ago.
People told me, “you will always have poor balance,” or, “you’ve always been uncoordinated.” I’ve never believed that just because I’ve been one thing for most of my life doesn’t mean I can’t change. After the tumor I couldn’t throw a baseball to a target. Then, in my 20s I could. Despite being slow and uncoordinated, I ran cross-country in elementary school, played basketball and skateboarded. Later I played rugby in high school. Slowly things started getting better, but my balance was always terrible and still kind of is. I still will loose my balance while standing still or going down stairs. But slowly that is changing.
I’ve increased my focus on improving my balance. I now try to balance on one foot when brushing my teeth and grinding coffee. I’m slacklining and doing yoga as well. And last week I made an amazing leap forward. Standing in the kitchen, I stood on one foot and began to grind coffee without teetering. I smiled and said, “I’ve never been able to do this before…in my entire life.” I’m also able to do single-leg squats, or pistols – another thing that I’ve been working on for about 3 years.
My point is, if you keep working at something you will improve. It may be slow and the results may seem almost unnoticeable, but tiny achievements add up.
The GM for the British Cycling Team Dave Brailsford calls this the “aggregation of marginal gains.” The concept it simple, if you make a 1% improvement everyday the results will improve exponentially. He used this technique to bring Great Britain’s first Tour de France win in 2012. James Clear, a studier and writer on “habits”, has made this great graph that highlights what just 1% a day can do:
In applying this thinking to my everyday life I’ve learned to stay focused and trust that the work will pay-off. Before I may have been frustrated that I wasn’t really seeing results after a week, month, or year of work. (Maybe you can relate?) Now, I tell myself, “Put in the 1%… Every. Day. Put in the 1%.” And I’m seeing it work in ways people told me were impossible.
What goals are you working on? Do you have any tips for making the impossible possible? Let us know below. Get article of motivation, workout tips, and exciting videos in your inbox every Monday – subscribe to our newsletter!
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