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Stop feeling that you need to start fast

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Stop feeling that you need to start fast

Scott Miker

Whenever we set a goal, there is a surge of excitement and motivation around that goal.  We can visualize the accomplishment of the goal.

This might provide a spark of motivation and hope but it also tends to gloss over the path to success.  It minimizes the difficult work ahead.

Because of this many people want to start fast.  They don’t want to take their time and go slow at the beginning, they want to take full advantage of that spark of motivation and use it to propel them towards the finish line.

But in life, most goals are more similar to marathons than sprints.  The initial motivation quickly wears away once you hit a few obstacles or once the work necessary to succeed starts to set in.

One problem is that you aren’t really changing any habits when you start too quickly.  Start quickly on a new exercise program and within a few weeks you will likely find yourself back to your old habits.  Start quickly with a new budget and you might find that all that initial sacrifice meant nothing after your old habits returned to sabotage your effort.

Another problem is that you are sacrificing accuracy for speed.  At work we have a few roles that are very complex.  They rely on a fairly easy process, but within the process lies numerous changes and considerations making it much more complex than people think.

All of this complexity leads the new person learning the role to make mistakes.  The fact that the process seems easy initially causes them to go too fast.  It is understandable because they see a pile of stuff they have to process and want to get it done as quickly as possible in order to make a good impression on their new coworkers.  

We have learned that we have to keep emphasizing that accuracy is much more important than speed.  Going too quickly and making mistakes means that significant time will go into correcting the problem later.  But we have to keep reminding them to go slowly and double and triple check their work, even if that means the pace slows to a crawl.

The reality is that this is against human nature.  We want things now and we don’t have patience to wait for them.  So we do everything we can to speed up, instead of slow down.

But the old saying, “slow and steady wins the race” is true here.  If we want to achieve long-term goals, we have to fight the urge to start to quickly.

Shift instead to building the right habits.  If we work hard and use the motivation we feel to drive us towards making positive habit changes, we can find that those will outlast our motivation.  Our new positive habits and routines will continue longer than we would if we just tried to use sheer effort to push us towards success. 

The next time you have a long-term goal that you are excited to start, take a moment to think about the systems and habits around that goal.  Determine how you can focus more on changing those habits not on how much motivation you have and how you intend to plow your way through.  All that effort could be wasted if you don’t address those powerful habits driving your behavior.