You’re already a huge success.
Recently, I reminded a friend of this. Last year she grew her business 40% to $1.4 million.
Yet, she said, “Well, we’re not at our ‘COVID numbers’.”
“What do you mean?”, I asked.
Her business sold $3 million in 12 months during the peak of the pandemic. That’s how she measured her success.
Her products were perfect for kids stuck at home. It’s no wonder her business boomed during the pandemic. (I know a guy whose bidet business jumped ten times from February 2020 to April 2020 when people started hoarding toilet paper.)
My friend measured success by an unrealistic ideal. Instead, she’d be better off measuring how far she’d come. She’d be happier and more successful.
Appreciate Your Current Success, It Won’t Kill Your Motivation
I’m the worst offender. No matter how much I accomplish, I focus on how far I have to go.
Business coach, Dan Sullivan, calls this the “gap”. We feel inadequate because we focus on the spread between our ideal and where we’re at today. Instead, it’s better to look at how much progress we’ve made from where we started. We’re likely to feel happier, more motivated, and more positive, all of which are going to help us achieve even more in the future.
I used to think if I focused too much on my successes I’d become complacent. “Why achieve more if I’m already satisfied?” So, I obsessed over what I wanted to accomplish. Every day I felt stressed and inadequate.
Then, once I achieved a goal, I’d be after the next. What was once my goal became not good enough.
Now, I believe you can feel satisfied and be highly motivated. Let’s start with the simplest practice to appreciate what you have today so you can create greater future success.
Enjoy What You Have Now
One way to measure the “gain” in your life is to practice gratitude. You remind yourself of what’s good in your life. Research shows practicing gratitude enhances self-esteem, a trait beneficial in almost every area of life.
When we appreciate what we have today, we are happier and more confident. We are then more likely to take action toward our goals.
To begin looking at how far you’ve come, start with a basic appreciation for what’s good in your life today. Then, adopt a simple shift in how you perceive your progress toward your main goal.
The “Jar Half Full” Practice
First, choose a goal or outcome you want for the future. What’s the main thing you’re working on right now? What’s the outcome you most want for that area of your life?
Second, instead of constantly measuring where you’re at today versus how far you still have to go, measure how far you’ve come.
For example, if you want to build a $5 million business, it’s natural to focus on how far you still have to go. If you’re at zero, you think, “well, still $5 million more in sales to go…” That’s discouraging and demotivating. The hardest part of moving forward is often getting started.
However, even though your business isn’t launched yet, you’re not really starting from zero. You’ve likely acquired useful skills and resources. For example, you likely have a personal Facebook following, even if it’s only friends and family. That resource can get you early, critical feedback and reviews for your new business. Think about every skill, resource, and past experience you’ve accumulated. Even if your sales start from zero, the seeds of your business’s success were planted many years ago.
To better see your progress, create a visual indicator.
Last year, we launched a new training product to help people grow sales on Shopify. My goal was 200 sales.
I drew a long rectangular box on a blank sheet of printer paper. At the left, I wrote 0. On the right, I wrote 200. Then, I created tick marks representing every 10 sales until I got to the 200 total.
Each day, I’d fill in part of the rectangle based on current sales. At 10 sales, the box was 10% full. At 20 sales, the box was 20% full. And so forth.
This simple visual tool kept me focused on my goal. Seeing how far I’d come each day motivated me to keep spreading the word. Eventually, we blew through the sales goal.
Focus on the Process, Not the Outcome, to Achieve Your Goal
Imagine you’re playing in a competitive basketball game. The only way you know if you’re winning is to look at the scoreboard. Great. It makes sense to stare at the scoreboard for the entire game until your score is higher since that’s what you want, right?
That would be insane.
Yet, that’s what most of us do when we pursue a goal.
You decide you want to lose weight. Each time you weigh yourself, you get discouraged because you haven’t lost the 15 pounds you want to lose. Even worse, you look at others who do have the body you want and get even more discouraged that you’re not there yet.
I’m guilty of the same habit. Recently, I kept getting frustrated and discouraged that I wasn’t as good at jiu jitsu as some of the other people in my school. I thought they were more athletic, aggressive, or talented. It took a while, but I finally got honest with myself: they trained way more! I’d taken almost a year off a few months back. I trained three times per week while some of them trained seven or more. It made sense they were better.
Fixating on our desired outcome doesn’t create change. We need to put all our focus into the daily work required to improve.
John Wooden, one of the most successful college basketball coaches in history, wrote his goal for the team’s performance before each season. Then, he sealed the paper in an envelope and put it away in his desk. He didn’t open it again until the season was over.
What did Wooden focus on instead? He put his attention on the daily work required to produce the results he wanted. He meticulously planned out every practice. Wooden ran his practices with almost zero downtime. He even famously taught his players the “skill” of putting on their socks properly so as to prevent blisters. Working the process is far more important than obsessing over the outcome.
Appreciate what you’ve accomplished so far. You won’t become complacent, lazy, or unmotivated. Instead, you’ll feel happier. You’ll be more positive and more motivated to do what it takes to improve your life even more.
Here are two steps to appreciate how far you’ve come:
- Express gratitude for what’s good in your life today. Write down three things you’re grateful for.
- Think of a goal you want to accomplish. Then, think of what progress you’ve made, resources you’ve acquired, or skills you’ve built toward that goal. You’re never starting from zero.
We naturally fixate on the outcome we want. However, it’s counterproductive. Constantly comparing our current state to our ideal makes us feel miserable. To create what we want, it’s more effective to focus on the process, the daily work, necessary to move forward.
When we look at how far we’ve come, we get only upside with no downside. We can feel better now and achieve more in the future.
You’ve accomplished a lot. Recognize your progress today so you can achieve even more in the future.