Years ago, I learned a Korean proverb: “Dragon’s head snake’s tail.” I think of it often as I meet people who talk about having a sudden burst of motivation to do something great.
“I’m going to finally start that business I’ve been dreaming of!”
“I’m going to sign up for a marathon!”
Although I try to always extend enthusiastic encouragement, I must admit that sometimes I have a healthy dose of skepticism, especially if the friend has a track record of big talk followed with little action.
That is where the proverb comes in; “Dragon’s head snake’s tail” points out our tendency to plan big (the dragon’s head) only to have those grand plans dwindle away to become forgotten promises (the snake’s tail).
If you have been guilty of this cycle (think New Year’s resolutions), you might be caught in what we call the Willpower Trap. This is where we hold the incorrect assumption that the only reason (among many possible reasons) we fail to make good choices is our lack of willpower.
One of the unfortunate effects of the Willpower Trap is that we can become so discouraged with our lack of success that we stop trying or develop a troubling lack of self confidence about our ability to make changes.
Any reader of our book, Change Anything, the New Science of Personal Success, knows that willpower alone isn’t going to propel us to success. In fact, there are multiple sources of influence that impact our day to day behaviors.
We have learned that the most effective changers focus on creating bite size goals in tackling their larger goal. This is a way to keep the same enthusiasm of the Dragon’s Head, e.g. “I’m going to run a full marathon!” but tackle it with a tangible goal you can achieve in just a few days, e.g. “I’m going to be able to run 3 miles without stopping by next week.”
Renowned sociologist, Albert Bandura, has long taught that these short term goals (he calls them “proximal goals”) lead to higher levels of sustained motivation than do long-term goals. And that is the key, in order to keep that burning desire that fuels the bravado of the Dragon’s Head, you will find that you need frequent, smaller wins to keep you motivated, encouraged, and believing you can succeed.
Some proximal goal ideas for weight loss:
- Lose 1lb this week
- Go 5 days in a row without sugary foods
- Eat a salad every day this week
- Exercise for 30 minutes at least 3 times this week
What are some other ideas? Please share below!
Vince is a digital media industry executive/entrepreneur and the founder of several successful companies. He is the founder and CEO of Change Anything. Follow him on Twitter: @VinceHan