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Don’t Break the Chain: The Key to Success

Secret of Success: Momentum

A container ship going full speed ahead takes 15 minutes and almost 2 miles to come to a stop. Why is that? The answer is in Newton’s famous first law: an object in motion wants to stay in motion, and an object at rest wants to stay at rest. In other words, momentum. People are the same way.

You, like me, probably have goals you want to work towards to make your life more successful and balanced. But maybe you just can’t seem to get the momentum going, so you’re always at a standstill and never seem to get any closer to those goals.

Well, to build momentum, we need consistency. Making small, consistent efforts and taking small, consistent steps towards our goals will always outweigh short-lived bursts of inspiration followed by dramatic and unsustainable changes that set you up for burnout and failure. (Sound familiar? I know it does to me.)

So how do we build this consistency towards our own goals? Legendary comedian Jerry Seinfeld gives us an idea. A fellow comedian once asked him if he had any tips for a young comic, and Seinfeld answered that the key is to write jokes every day. He said to get a calendar and, for each day you meet your writing goal, mark a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain,” he said. “Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

How to get Momentum: Don’t Break the Chain

So take a page out of Jerry’s book. Set yourself up for success by setting a small and achievable daily goal. Ask yourself the question that Gary Keller and Jay Papasan talk about in their book The One Thing: “What’s the one thing I can do such that, by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary”? Once you have your answer, make that your daily task. Break out the calendar, and get started on your only job—to not break the chain.

Let’s say your goal is physical fitness; your daily task could be to do 5 sit-ups. Rain or shine, you do 5 sit-ups every day, and every day it gets just a little bit easier. And some days, once you’ve already started, you might find that you actually have more than 5 sit-ups in you today and keep going, which is great. But on the days where our inner whiner speaks up and we don’t feel like doing anything, we can still get in those 5 sit-ups so that we don’t break the chain.

If The Chain concept teaches us anything, it’s that perfect is the enemy of good. To go back to our ship metaphor, one of my favorite sayings is “The rudder on a ship is useless unless the ship is moving.” Which is to say, “good enough” every day beats “perfect” for a week. Even if you’re doing everything wrong, because you can always course-correct towards success. All you have to do… is get moving.

Find out more…

Don't Break The Chain podcast episode

Check out the Podcast episode on YouTube for more info!

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