The other morning one of my office mates called to ask a favour. She was scheduled to meet a client in our office and, as is her frequent custom, she was running some 20 minutes late. Would I please open the door, welcome her client into the office and set her up with coffee?
Even though we are inside an office building, the door to our offices is always locked and visitors are required to ring the doorbell in order to gain entry. So, a few minutes later, when the doorbell rang I opened the door and began apologizing for my office mate’s tardiness.
The slim, attractive lady standing there looked at me whimsically, smiled and said, “I don’t really know what you’re talking about, Rael, I just dropped by to say hi to you.”
It was only then, as I stared at her face, that there was a faint glimmer of recognition. And it was not until she mentioned her name that I remembered she was.
Her name is Sarah and we had only met once before. She had called several years ago to ask if she could drop by the office and chat for a while.
When we met she explained that she had recently purchased and read a copy of my book, Life Sinks or Soars, the Choice is Yours, and had wanted to talk with me.
I remember Sarah as being enormously overweight. She had tearfully outlined to me the multi-year struggle she was living through in her attempts to shed approximately 145 unwanted pounds.
She had told me her goal of losing that weight had been the focal point of her attention for as long as she could remember.
She went on to say she was frustrated and depressed at her own consistent failure to do so and her daily activities were filled thoughts and feelings of self-loathing and disgust.
We had spent several hours talking about the challenges of using 145 pounds.
I remember her agreeing that setting a goal to lose that much weight is an enormously daunting task. She said a goal of such magnitude is almost overwhelming partly because of its enormity and partly because the attainment of the goal is so far in the future that it is next-to-impossible to stay focused on it.
She had “tried everything” and everything worked for a short while but she did not seem able to attach herself to any type of sustainable regimen, She had failed in her quest so many times she was becoming more and more convinced that weight loss of that magnitude for her was not elusive, it was impossible.
All of us who have ever set out to achieve lofty goals know that we seldom reach those goals all at once. We typically get there a little bit at a time. Results usually comes in small measurable increments and so Sarah and I had talked at length about setting aside the goal of 145 pounds which was so huge and so formidable. Instead, we talked about setting small goals, to be accomplished in short time frames that were measurable, achievable and repeatable.
This made sense to her. She had no idea how to lose 145 pounds; – never having done so – she had vast experience in losing one pound.
She agreed to change her paradigm of thought around weight loss and to set just one goal for herself that day; to lose one pound within one week.
She acknowledged that by achieving that goal she would have learned how to lose 1 pound and by repeating all the behaviors that had gone into losing 1 pound she could lose a second pound in the second week and a third pound in the third week and so on.
That seemed far more viable to her as a week is not too far in the future and it is far easier to stay disciplined and focused for a short period of time than it is for an indeterminate period of time.
Sarah does not live here in Calgary. She was visiting family and was leaving the next day to go home to Montreal. Her parting words to me had been to say that her only goal was to lose 1 pound in one week.
I have neither seen nor heard from Sarah since that day and I did not recognize her when I opened the door because she had gone home and had lost 1 pound and then another pound the second week and then another pound the third week and continued this practice week after week after week, sometimes losing two or three pounds in a week, sometimes slightly less.
She measured her results each week by weighing in, and was able to make minor adjustments which she could then measure the following week.
She never stopped focussing beyond one short week at a time and lost a total of 165 pounds.
She explained it had always been so hard to say no to that slice of cheesecake when her goal had been so far in he future – “one tiny piece won’t make a difference” – and so easy when she knew she would be stepping on a scale on Friday.
And every Friday she celebrated her victory by rewarding herself with her favourite drink – a (small) sugary cappuccino.
Sarah has learned a valuable lesson that would benefit all of us. Most results come to us in small increments and our behaviours that produced these small results are repeatable.
It seems to me stands that if we do something that produces a small result for us once – and we are pleased with that result – by repeating that behavior we should produce the same result again.
Sarah is living proof of all of that. She looks stunning and vibrates with passionate, excited energy.
More importantly Sarah has fallen in love with Sarah. She has found joy in life with her new knowledge that anything is possible if approached in a sensible measureable way.
And she now applies this method to her projects at work. Small goals: short time frames, measure, adjust, continue.
Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?
Till we read again.
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