Dog poop and personal achievement
Dog poop and personal achievement? Oh, they’re related, ye of little faith. Check it out…
So, I had this dog once. A big dog. Who took commensurately big dukers all over my back yard. During the warmer months I’d pick it up on the regular, but during the winter months I’d let it go (because frozen), then, in the spring, I’d pay this service to come and clean it ALLLLLLLL up. It wasn’t cheap. But picking up a winter’s worth of large dog doo shouldn’t be.
One year, as winter was approaching, I thought, “Lynda, you can get this job done in real-time, a little every day, no matter how cold or snowy or early you have to stand out there, you can do it.”
I bought myself a long-handled pooper scooper, a dedicated garbage receptacle, and I taught my old dog a new trick. I started by using his leash and having him follow me to a side of the house where no one ever ventured, and I hung out with him while he did his business, then went mental with praise after he was finished. In no time, I didn’t need the leash and he would go directly to the “toileting area” of the yard. I would follow, wait, then pick it up RIGHT AWAY and toss it into the receptacle. I was so proud of both of us for working together on, and achieving this goal that I wondered what took me so long, and I thought, “It’s all about the equipment.”
Here’s where I turn the poop logic toward personal achievement. (Watch and learn, friends.)
I was listening to Brené Brown interview James Clear this morning. And after I gathered the pieces of my mind that were completely blown, I realized that what I was doing with my dog is what James calls a “system”. Perhaps you’ve heard of them? I always thought systems were for smart people who knew enough NOT to choose a creative profession. And while my dog poop system had nothing to do with my profession, I realized that any time in my life where I had achieved something, a system was in place.
For instance, I had this podcast once. And there is no way I would have EVER successfully recorded 99 episodes if I didn’t have a system in place. (DREAM UP A TOPIC, RESEARCH THE TOPIC, DO AN OUTLINE, RECORD ON MONDAYS, EDIT ON THURSDAYS, DROP ON FRIDAYS, REPEAT.) I even have a saying, “Treat it like your job or it won’t be.” And while that was a job I didn’t get paid for, it was one of the most fun, meaningful, fulfilling, non-paid jobs I ever had. (And I’m gonna do it again…stay tuned!)
But how do you put a system in place? Or, more importantly, how do you stick to a system? Good questions. Here’s a short list from James that might help you start and stay on track:
1.) Start small. “It’s easy to set a goal. I’m gonna run a marathon. See? That took three seconds.” But engaging in the habits that get you there is the hard part. And whenever you start, you don’t see big results. The first time my podcast partner and I met, ALL we did was record the intro on my phone. It was cringey. Even spitting out those first few words was daunting…and I’m a voice-over actress…all I do is spit out words. But WE had never done it together for THAT purpose. And it sucked. Our first few episodes also sucked. More because I didn’t know how to edit yet. BUT! Over time we learned a lot, and that little podcast-that-could, was pretty damn good if you ask me, and the 20 kind strangers who reviewed it….plus one B, but all goals come with a B. She’s part of the system. The important part is, YOU HAVE A SYSTEM! (Split jump.)
2.) Consistency over intensity. Take the marathon, for example. “Intensity is the marathon. Consistency is running every day.”
3.) Habits compound over time. “Choosing the salad over the burger today won’t make much difference, but after a few years it will.”
4.) There’s no finish line. (Don’t despair. This is actually really great.) In MOST cases, habits…if they’re good habits… will be part of the system for a lifetime. And “finishing” implies you drop the good habit. It could be argued that if the habit was put in place to complete a project, and the project is complete, you can drop the habit, but as James says, (and I’m gonna make this the next item on the list because it needs to be bold…)
5.) Every action you take is a vote for the kind of person you wish to become. Let’s go back to the salad/burger habit. James uses the example of a woman who would ask herself, “What would a healthy person choose?” And she developed habits, choice-by-choice that would eventually have her become a healthy person…forever.
And this is where I’ll land the personal achievement plane, which takes small steps, consistently, to develop habits, for which there is no finish line because we are (hopefully) always becoming.
Or, as James summarizes. (Get this tattooed on your face.)
WE DON’T RISE TO THE LEVEL OF OUR GOALS; WE FALL TO THE LEVEL OF OUR SYSTEMS.
No shit, dog.
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