Are you 'planting a seed' or 'pulling the switch'?

Achieving goals is mostly about the constant battle between the 'here and now' and the 'long term'. Are you 'pulling the swtich' or 'planting the seed'?

Post from my weekly email (you can join the list for regular updates below).

Firstly, I'd like to wish you a (very belated) New Year.  

It's that time of the year to take stock of where you are and where you want to go.  You've had the almighty Christmas blow out and are ready to leave that well behind you.  It's on in the last couple of days that I've stopped feeling like a pickle anyway.  Maybe you faired better?

I've felt like Pickle Rick.

Today's email may help you if you've taken some time in the last week to set some New Years Resolutions.  If you have, hopefully, your goals are exciting and relevant to you.

There is often a battle between the satisfying here and now and your long term goals.  You are either trying to satisfy a short term pain, itch or craving that is against your goal or to hold off so that you can achieve your bigger and more rewarding goals.

I talk about this alot; instant gratification vs. delayed gratification.  One causes you short term joy and long term pain (IG), and the other causes short term discomfort and long term joy.

I was listening to a podcast this week on the monotonous bus journey into the training studio that had a great analogy for the above: flicking the switch or planting a seed.

Flicking the Switch

This is your instant gratification.  You flick a switch to give you instant power, energy or light.  It's easy to do and it gives you what you want, when you want.  We often flick the switch when we have an undesirable feeling; low mood, fatigue, stress or anxiety for example.

Planting a Seed

On the other hand, you can plant a seed.  Do you remember that science experiment you did in school?  The one where you plant a seed in a jar and watch it grow slowly?  This is your delayed gratification/long term goals.  You have to care for and nourish the seed for a long time before it becomes a flower.

Here is an example of a common trigger:

Trigger: You are tired after a long day at work.

Pulling the Switch: You binge-watch the latest series of Netflix and have a late night.

Planting a Seed: you go for a walk in the fresh air and watch an episode or two instead.

Plant a seed that you can cultivate

The key is to plant a seed that you have the skill and confidence to cultivate.  And choose a flower (goal) that motivates you to keep caring for that goal.  If you choose something too difficult, the chances are your confidence in your ability to look after that seed (habits) will drop and you will not see it through to the end.

If the flower (your goal) you want to grow is not beautiful enough in your eyes then you will not have the desire or motivation to keep on going when those instant gratification triggers arise.

In short, if the habits you choose are not actionable enough and your goal not important enough, then the here and now will win out more often than not.  You will flick the switch and slow or derail your long term progress.

To overcome this:

  1. Choose a goal that is exciting, relevant to you and achievable.  If it isn't any of those three, go back to the drawing board.
  2. Make a list of the habits (seeds) that will help you achieve that goal.
  3. Work on one habit at a time.  Focus on that one seed.  Once you're confident that you can look after that seed, move onto the next one.
  4. Revisit your goals regularly.  This will plant a seed in your subconscious and you may start to do the things you need to do rather than want to do.

Today's thought: can you take a step back and see the triggers in your life that cause you to flick the switch?  Can you see which habits may actually make those triggers disappear or lessen in intensity?


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