Fallacy of linearity
Obviously, I am a big fan of goals, and I think they are essential for growth and reaching your potential. But sometimes we see people so focused on the goal itself that they neglect the process or system needed to achieve a goal. Just setting a goal is not enough. Without action, that goal is just a daydream that will stay that way. We all have the best intentions when we start out on a new goal path, but all too often we end up back where we started. We kick ourselves for being weak and say we failed. In the book, Atomic Habits by James Clear postulates that you are not the problem it is the system you are using. In my last blog, I discussed how small changes pay off with big dividends. Today I want to talk more about what that looks like in the process of creating those good habits that will carry you to your goals.
People often start out full of hype and grand ideas of the life they will have due to some new activity they are participating in, running, eating vegetarian, lifting weights, etc. You all know what I am talking about. The friend that decides they are going to drop 30 lbs. this month via a new trendy diet they found. They create Pinterest boards full of recipes, follow influencers on Instagram for inspiration, and go through their kitchen purging all their favorite treats that do not fit into their new diet. In the first week, they drop instant pounds and are so stoked about the changes, but as the days tick on they plateau, and the scale isn’t moving at the pace they expected. Pretty soon they get frustrated and end up breaking their diet because they are depriving themselves of their favorite comfort foods and not seeing the payoff. Before long. they are back where they started and feel completely defeated. This is something that Clear calls The Plateau of Latent Potential. Where your expectations do not match what actually happens in the time you think it should. He introduces something called the Valley of Disappointment. The Valley of Disappointment is the hardest time in the habit-building process. It is the time when expectations are not being met and you feel discouraged by lack of perceived progress.
Stumbling Blocks to getting out of the Valley of Disappointment!
#1 I Just Need My Breakthrough Moment Then Everything Will Fall into Place: The problem with this is that these "breakthrough moments" most often come on the back of previous changes and actions. Changes that build on each other to give you that big breakthrough.
#2 Progress is Linear: A few years back I started attending therapy to work through some difficult events both current and past. I remember sitting there with Dr. D saying how frustrated I was that I let my anxiety creep in and let go of the boundaries I had created. She reminded me that progress is not linear and that you will make mistakes but over time your mistakes are fewer, the time it takes to get back on track is shorter, and the progress happens, but the key to remember is that there will be ups and downs and it is never this perfect linear progression.
#3. I Only Need to Focus on Good Habits: Building new healthy habits are important, but you don’t want all that hard work to be for naught if your bad or self-sabotaging habits are constantly becoming roadblocks to your new habits. It is crucial that you are able to reflect on all the habits in your life and see whether they are helping or hindering your goals and put in work to stop bad habits too.
How to Break Free from the Valley of Disappointment:
#1. Pursue mental shifts and focus on the systems you are putting in place to assist you in meeting your goals. By focusing on the system or process and not solely the results you are able to cultivate those good habits without the anxiety of not making progress as quickly as you thought you would.
#2. Manage expectations; make sure you are being realistic and healthy when you create expectations for growth and change. Remember that progress isn’t linear but is built on exponential growth, that gets stronger with practice! I know it is hard but reign in those unrealistic expectations. Be strategic with your actions and reflections. Take the time to objectively look at where you are, things that need to change, and look for places to make 1% improvements
#3 Remember your 'Why'. In the goal roadmap series, I discussed finding your why. The Vally of Disappointment is exactly why we take the time to find our 'why's'. It is our motivator that brings us through the Valley of Disappointment into the phase where all the hard work is paying off in a tangible way!
#4. Stop comparing! In a world flooded with social media content, it is so easy to begin playing the comparison game. Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy”. Don’t let yourself fall into the comparison trap. Not only will it steal your joy, but often the view you see isn’t the whole picture. You see a snapshot of success; you see someone’s end or middle of a journey where you are just starting out. Social media is great, but it also rarely shows the whole picture and is full of editing.
"You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress, simultaneously" ~ Sophia Bush