Get Used to Winning: The Art of Setting Underachieving Goals

One of the best lessons I got from the book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki was this:

Set goals that are so easy to achieve, it takes no effort at all.

Though “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” is a book primarily about money, Kiyosaki was referring to exercising — you know, the Going-to-the-Gym kind — when he talked about that.  Don’t set some ambitious goals.  Just set your sight on something that’s so easy, so effortless, that it’s really impossible for you to not achieve it.

That’s how you can build up the Habit of Winning.

The Burden of Ambitious Goals

I am an ambitious person and thus I used to set ambitious goals.  Sometimes I achieved them, other times I failed.  It was always a strain, a stretch to meet the high standards I set for myself.

Sure, it’s great when I set and then accomplish my ambitious goal.  But the times when I failed — I’d beat myself up about it.  I felt like a failure, I’d punish myself and made myself know that I lost.

What a stressful way to live, that was.  And it was all self-inflicted wounds.

Tiny Battles Are Easier to Win

Kiyosaki’s example was about exercising.  Say, you set yourself a goal about jogging 5 miles everyday.  Well — I don’t know how long it takes you to jog 5 miles, especially when you have never routinely run before.  1 hour?  More?  Carving out that time everyday — that’s a commitment.

More power to you, if you can do it, for sure.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it — for some of us, we absolutely must face the stress and fear of failure to get our butt up and do something.

But for others, why don’t we set more humble goals?  How about one that is so easy to achieve, it takes no effort at all?

Like putting your running shoes on?

So you set your goal, to changing and putting your running shoes on.  Everyday.  How easy is that?  If you did nothing else, you still accomplished your goal.  You are a winner.  You can check off that item for the day.

Though, it’s a shame to change and put shoes on for nothing.  Sure, you can allow yourself to take a walk around the block.  But no need to get more ambitious.  In fact, my suggestion is not to do much more at the beginning.  The important thing is to win more often.

After a week of putting shoes on and changing, perhaps you can go for a leisurely jog around the neighborhood.  But don’t set your goal higher — if you just do the first part, you still win.  You can always settle back down to just a walk around the block, or even less, if you have to.  As long as you change and put shoes on, you are not failing.

Can you do that?

Over the past couple of years, I used this very approach to set great routines into my life.  I went from never exercising to now exercising the majority of weekdays.  I get up at 5am most mornings.  I practice my guitar most workdays.

I say “most” because I never set a goal to do these things every anything.  My actual goal, the ones I write down, is to do it once or twice a week.  And my goals are not to practice my guitar for 2 hours.  If I pick it up and do exercises for 15 minutes, that’s good enough.  Actually, the first goal I set was just to pick up the guitar.  How easy is that?

Even on those weeks with low batting average, I’m still winning.  I have  no problem picking it back up the next week.  There’s an unlapsing continuity.

The Habit of Winning Builds

I’m sure all of us feel positive about crossing off an item from our to-do list.  Sometimes we write items down, the ones we just did, just so we can experience the joy of crossing them off.

Even the tiniest of these victories, they add up to your confidence and momentum.  It gets you going.  Now you have a bit more energy, a bit more desire to go check something else off.   Simply put, the Habit of Winning builds. It builds and enables you to accomplish goals that seemed unimaginable before.  But, again, don’t get too ambitious, too fast — always focus on easily winnable battles.  Set your goals low.  Just inches above the ground, just a single action away from inaction.  Once the Habit of Winning is squarely set, you can move your aim a little higher — after all, a bigger win does yield more boost — but keep your eye still set at easily attainable level.

If your goal is to run, just put on the shoes.  If your goal is to save, just put away a quarter, or a dollar, a day.  Allow yourself to do more, if you can, but don’t raise your goal easily.

Now I know why it’s better to practice my guitar 15 minutes 6 days a week, than to put in a single 90-minute session but not practice the rest of the days.  The former counts as six wins.  The latter is one.

Winning is fun, my friends.  I feel so much more comfortable in my own skin, now that I win constantly and don’t live with the fear of failure as much.  Oh, I still slip up, even the tiniest of my goals.  But my batting average is so high, I can’t help but keep up.

So, my tip for becoming an overachiever is to be an underachiever.  Set underachieving goals, so that you can get in the Habit of Winning.

And you, too, can be a winner!  🙂

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