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One Thing at a Time

“If you chase two rabbits then you will lose them both” – Native American Saying 

            We all want to be supermen and accomplish multiple goals at one time, however, this is almost always a bad idea. When working on a specific area of change it is best to focus on a single area first and then work on accomplishing the next one after that. The reason for doing it this way is because when we try to take on more than one objective we start to spread ourselves thin. It’s already hard enough to concentrate on one goal so every time we add another goal simultaneously, we wind up dividing our time and attention making it that much harder. Additionally, we are then much more likely to become overwhelmed as a result of having to accomplish so many things on our plate.

Imagine if you were trying become healthier and you said, alright today’s the day when I completely turn my life around and dedicate myself to perfect health! Seems like a noble goal until you chart out exactly what that entails. Let’s say you need to cut back on drinking, stop smoking, exercise regularly, reduce your sugar intake, practice yoga, and eat less calories. Again, all good things but let’s consider day one. You first wake up and have half your normal calories so you’re hungry, then you go through a whole day of work without a cigarette so you’re irritable, then you exercise vigorously so you’re tired and then after all that you can’t even have a drink to relax so you’re really pissed. How long do you think you would be able to keep that up? Hint: not very long. Furthermore, this is a major reason why people wind up feeling “stuck.” It’s because they spend an enormous amount of time working very hard at a million different things and despite their best effort, they feel like they’re not moving anywhere.

Rest assure though, there is still hope! If you take it one thing at a time and pick one to start with you’ll have a much better shot of actually going somewhere. In this case, you can pick whichever one you think would feel the most meaningful to you but I would normally recommend exercise in this case because it’s considered a “landmark habit.” In the book, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, he discusses the concept of a landmark habit as one that causes a number of other habits to follow suit more easily after completing the first one. He doesn’t say exactly why it happens to be this way, but just that studies consistently show it to be the case. If I had to venture a guess, I would say that it’s because exercising helps you think clearer and it actually decreases some of your cravings for your different vices. Think about it: do you really want to rip shots of vodka and chain smoke after a great workout? Doubtful. Or at least I should hope not!  In any event, by doing one thing at a time your chances of setting a goal and actually completing it are greatly increased. And the best part is that once you complete your first objective you will have tons of momentum to get going with your next one!

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