This piece was originally posted at The Mission.
There’s an old Woody Allen quotation that “80% of success is just showing up.”
This quotation is used to motivate people to get started on what they want to achieve and has even helped me when thinking about the significance of competition (turns out, most of your potential competitors won’t even show up, least of all actually do the work to compete with you).
But it’s easy to lose the details of what this really looks like when captured with just a pithy quotation.
80% of success is showing up. Every. Day.
Moving from Fuzzy Aspiration to Goal
Most people have fuzzy aspirations. If you ask them what they want to have in life, they might tell you “more money,” or “a happy family,” or “a nice job and a good car.” They may get a little more granular, like saying how many kids they want or how much money they want to earn, but these aspirations rarely move into being “goals.” Goals, unlike fuzzy aspirations, actually have a path of things that must happen in order for the goal to happen.
The process of going from fuzzy aspirations to goals is something worth paying attention to in itself. Actually showing up on the set to get something done requires that you ask yourself, what is it that I want to get done?
Want to “earn more money”? Go panhandle. You’ll make something that day.
Want to “lose some weight”? Go for a run and go to the bathroom.
But want to set up a system to regularly make 2x what you make now in a month?
Want to shed 20 pounds by the summer and gain strength and vitality?
Those might require you to sit down and do some systematized work.
Moving from Goal to Habit
Simply showing up isn’t enough. The Woody Allen quotation leaves out thatyou have to show up every single day. Showing up once in the pursuit of your goals will put you ahead of most people who operate by fuzzy aspirations but will put you behind everybody who actually achieved something.
Once you get clear on your goal and what you have to do to hit that goal, show up every day. Start developing a habit.
If you want to get stronger, build a system for going to the gym. You can’t just go to the gym once. You need to actually set systems in place to guarantee that you will start showing up every day.
Maybe you don’t have to physically show up every day, but you have to psychologically show up. You have to start building the blocks to the house that will be the better you.
When you’ve moved from goal to habit, you’ve exceeded 80% of your potential competition.
Different people operate by different dispositions. If you are a highlyconscientious person, your habits should set you up to feel productive and like you are accomplishing a lot. If you are a highly open person, your habits should make you feel creative and like you are expressing your true self. Set your habits to your personality and play to those strengths which make you the most effective you.
Moving from Habit to Efficacy
The goal of habits is twofold.
First, habits allow you to chip away at larger goals and develop the mental and physical conditioning required to take your functioning to a higher level.
Second, and more subtly, habits which successfully play to your productive strength increase your sense of self-efficacy.
Self-efficacy is the ability to see yourself as capable of accomplishing things in the world. Like a muscle, it is developed through taking on increasingly heavy loads under control.
If you were to try to immediately squat 3x your bodyweight without ever doing a squat before, you would give up from frustration and quit and never return to the gym.
If you were to try to immediately go for your end-goal without doing smaller, related tasks and developing the habits related to the bigger goal first, you would give up from frustration and quit.
Develop your self-efficacy by successfully and regularly executing upon habits and achieving smaller — but increasingly larger — goals.
Show up every day and showing up becomes easier.