FOCUS CHECK-IN AND “M.E.A.’s”
TL;DR - If you haven’t created a focus / Summit / Action for yourself yet, or want to refresh it, here’s how you can set yourself up to win and enjoy the whole process. You can add it into your program settings if you haven’t already.
DON’T TAKE THIS IMAGE AS A CONSTANT RULE:
BUT DON’T NEGLECT FOR LONG EITHER.
Sometimes you need to spread your focus around to rediscover what you love. Sometimes you need to give zero F’s about where your focus is so that you can rest up and create space for discovery phase.
But when you do get some kind of clarity around almost anything you love. Especially something you want to get better at, or a little mission you’ve been dying to pull off - this diagram shows how powerful focusing our limited time and energy is - not only because of progress, not only because of “improvement” but also.. because it is the only real way to prove to ourselves what we’re capable of.
If we never rally our energy in the direction of something we care a lot about, we will never know..
But our brain will find a way to rationalize and tell us that “it wasn’t for us anyway”… bullshit. If you love something, focus on it, grow it, play with it.
This doesn’t have to be too serious at all - focus isn’t just about seriousness. It’s about being true to ourselves by flexing our will in the directions we want to go.
Day 13 of DED in May is here, how you feeling?
What called you to start this ..like why? We noticed some of you filled in your summit/focus/action, some left it TBD, but there is still an answer to the question—why am I getting up this month?
Maybe your Why is concrete—to read, to work out, to work on a project. Maybe it’s to develop a rock solid morning routine. Or maybe it’s a bit more open, creating time to slow down, and explore what you want.
No matter why you are here - how is it going? Do you still want that reason, that goal/intention?
If you are struggling with any goals this month, keep reading….
Today, we're bringing back one of our favorite goal topics -- MEAs.
It's one of the simplest and most powerful strategies we have seen to help prepare for failure and build in some tools for the days ahead. Guaranteed, some mornings you won't feel like you are smashing your Summit goals, or even making any progress at all. MEAs will help.
If you’re like most people, you have had plenty of goals, and some of which you might have even stuck with. this month
We hate to start this off on a downer not, but realistically though, the odds are against you.
How do we know that?
Because they are against all of us. 90% of goals that get set not only fail, but fail within a month.
Sobering, isn't it?
We make well-intentioned goals, with the false belief that we just lack commitment and motivation; that all we need is a good kick in the ass to get us going. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth (so please, stop being so hard on yourself).
There are much better ways to achieve your potential, with a lot less minimal headache and that's a huge reason why we created this program.
First things first – understand that the key to success at pretty much anything you do comes down to creating productive habits around them.
A habit is defined as a behaviour that happens almost involuntarily. A “productive habit” then can be defined as as behaviour that gets you what you want in life automatically, without you really trying.
Sounds amazing, right?
Unfortunately productive habits don’t just appear out of thin air. They are created by putting together a chain of behaviours – almost like a string of pearls. These individual behaviours, over time, change our daily actions and in turn, our lives. Productive habits move us to our full potential, morph us into the people we want to become, and ultimately give us the life we want.
To get them, we got three steps you got to think about.
Step 1: Stop Focusing On Your Goals
Wait, what? You're really confused right now, aren’t you?
That's because everything you've probably learned about getting what you want in life has centred around the importance of setting goals. You’ve probably heard that you should always start with the ends goals first. Hell, we started the program off with building out your goals (aka your SUMMIT).
But contrary to that popular belief, for the majority of Damn Early Days, we'll be focusing away from goals.
No, we're not saying that having goals is useless. What we're saying is that JUST having goals is useless.
Goals are helpful when you're trying to get somewhere very specific or are competing. They are great mile markers that make sure we are pointed in the right direction, but ultimately, what we really want is the right kind of habits and actions that get us where we want to go.
See if any of these goals ring a bell:
“I’m going to lose 20 pounds by summer.”
“I’m going to run a marathon.”
“I’m not eating carbs for a month.”
"I want to write more consistently"
"I want to do 30 days of yoga"
Most of these kinds of goals don't make people's lives better in the long run. Sure, we achieve them and for a moment they make us feel good, but they aren't the kinds of things that optimize for what's really important – namely living an enjoyable life and doing so for a long period of time.
Behavioural psychologist, Nir Eyal calls these kinds of goals “BUT Goals” because they are Big, Un-fun, and Time-boxed.
They add misery to your life and give you reasons to quit once you've achieved them. Remember, we're biologically programmed to avoid things that cause them pain, so if your goals are not enjoyable, you’ll quit.
Therefore, when creating productive habits, remember: hard work doesn’t work, so don't base what you're doing around it.
We recommend forgetting the end destination and transforming your SUMMITs (aka your goals) into a journey. To be effective, it must be enjoyable, endless and relatively easy. Few of us have the willpower to grind it out year after year after year, nor should we want to.
A journey sounds something like this:
“I want to cultivate a love for exercise.”
“I want to learn to enjoy building wealth.”
"I want to consistently find time to work on projects that matter to me"
"I want to create a space where I am free to write daily"
You’ll never complete these journeys and that’s exactly the point.
It is only through consistent practice that you will actually form habits and fulfill your potential. What you do along the journey is less important; you’ll figure that out as you go. The important thing is to keep walking the journey free from the pressure of completing a specific goal.
That not only helps you get it done today, but builds a habit that keeps you doing it 10 years from now.
That brings us to Step 2.
Step 2: Find Your Minimum Enjoyable Action (MEA)
Your "MEA" is your:
An MEA is a behaviour, which is simple, small and just a little enjoyable.
It’s so simple, so small, and just enjoyable enough, that you can see yourself doing it for the rest of your life with relative ease.
For example, let’s say you want to "create a space where I am free to write daily". Instead of putting up goals like "write every day for 2 months" or "write a chapter of my book", start with something much simpler. Something like:
"I am going to write a single sentence, every morning with my coffee."
This simple, small, and slightly satisfying behaviour is all you need to get started. And, you attached it to something enjoyable.
You don't need to make it more complicated than that.
One way to know if you’ve found your MEA is to try the “duh test”. Stand in front of a mirror and ask yourself if you can do your MEA. If you say, “well of course I can, duh?” then you're probably there. You should feel that the behaviour is laughably easy. If so, you’ve found your MEA. If you cringed, hesitated, or doubted, your behaviour is too hard. Time to scale it back.
MEAs help you form tiny habits by ensuring you start your journey with the simplest possible behaviour. Start by doing a tiny behaviour until it becomes a habit, which in turn allows you to add the next, more complicated, and more challenging, behaviour.
Over time, these progressive habits build into life-defining change.
Step 3: Track it
Have you kept track of your routine or goals this month?
Keeping a record of your MEAs is important for two reasons.
First, it reminds you of the new habits you are forming, providing a checklist of things you’re working on.
Second, it gives a critical jolt of positive reinforcement your brain needs to continue the behaviour. Tracking doesn't have to be complicated, nor should it be. You can use apps like 750words.com or journal apps.
But make sure you’re reinforcing yourself for doing the one stupidly simple thing.
As you keep track of your MEAs, these tiny behaviours will turn into habits and with time, you’ll become better at completing them. Once you do, you'll want to challenge yourself with new habits that build upon old ones.
The habits will grow along with your ability to do more.
What happens when I miss my MEA?
Say this to yourself: “Dear Perfection: Stay the f*** out of my business.” and get your energy back.
You will inevitably miss your MEA on some days. Don’t worry, it happens. Failure is built into this system of being human.
If, however, you find that you’re regularly missing your MEA and can’t seem to ever get it done, then you need to reassess if:
your MEA was really minimal enough, or (get absurd with it)
that it was actually enjoyable. (hijack it by attaching it to something you already love)
If your intent was to journal each night before bed, and you find yourself not doing it, make the action simpler to accomplish.
Can you write just one terrible sentence? Take any expectation of grandeur out of it.
Still not doing it regularly? How about simply laying out your pen and notebook every night before bed?
Really simplify the action until it’s something you can do regularly and for the rest of your life. Falling off the wagon is ok, just find the MEA and use it as your safety when the behaviour you’re striving for proves too difficult.
It's your anchor that you will come back to.
As you go through this month, remember that to get the things you want in life, you need to trick yourself into WANTING to do the things you know you NEED to do.
Turning Your Summit Into An MEA
As we move forward with Damn Early Days, we can take our SUMMITs and break them down into MEAs.
Just know that you don't have to stop at your MEA each day.. it’s enough to build self respect for you through consistency, but if it is something you care about, once you’re through the inertia of starting, you probably won’t want to stop.
With that, I got a little challenge and two questions for you--
The challenge: pick a focus for yourself. Something percolating that is an area you know matters to you right now. Make a decision for yourself.
Can you turn it into a SUMMIT that excites you. A summit is just a goal in the area of your focus that gets you pumped to think about. If you haven't read "What's Your Summit", start there.
How can you transform your SUMMIT (a place you want to get to) into a super simple Minimal Enjoyable Action (an action you can do every single day)?
Example – my SUMMIT is to write consistently for Damn Early Days (with a numeric goal of 500 words per day). I'll break this down into an MEA of opening my writing app and writing a single sentence. If I accomplish this every day, it will be successful as I have strengthened my habit of writing (even if it was just a sentence). Truth be told, once I sit down and write a single sentence, I'll almost always write more.
Once you get it done, test it out for a few days and see how it feels. We'll touch back on it later.
Pro Tip #1 – make sure your MEA builds into the larger picture of your focus and SUMMIT for the life you want today.
Pro Tip #2 – listen to this song as you do it. It's all sorts of good.