Breakthrough Moments: The Importance of Being Earnest
Inspired by this month’s Moms Making Six Figures Podcast where I sat down with my new friend and incredibly successful entrepreneur, Jayme Perryman. Her relentless pursuit of establishing, and now growing, a successful construction management firm while also balancing motherhood and her passion for her platform as a title holder competing in the Mrs. Idaho America pageant, is not an overnight success story. Instead, Jayme has overcome countless obstacles and trials to achieve success because of her tenacity in staying the course when others would have gone a different direction. What some would have allowed to break them, Jayme allowed to become her breakthrough.
Chances are you’ve heard of, been given, or even poured over the best seller Atomic Habits by James Clear. It’s a best seller for a reason –with over 3 million copies sold and an average rating of 4.5/5 stars— for the first time, Clear brings together various case studies, anecdotes, and research on the “importance of being earnest” and staying the course in your habits in order to experience breakthrough moments. Essentially, your personal and professional success are not the result of your exceptional goal setting, but instead your stick-with-it-ness, in the pursuit of those goals, “breakthrough moments are often the result of many previous actions, which build to the potential required to unleash a major change.” So how do you get to breakthrough without succumbing to the inevitable breakdowns along the way?
Stay the Course, even if You’re Longing for New Scenery
Our lives are rapidly evolving and changing, with advances being made daily, if not hourly throughout the world. And yet this constant state of flux, and our overly accessible access to information is causing our modern workforce and society to feel stretched far too thin, existing as Janes of All Trades, and rarely mastering even one. But the need to commit ourselves to one area of focus at a time is essential if ever want to gain traction in our habits –those daily and even hourly decisions—that determine our ability to achieve our goals.
Athletes understand this approach better than most of us, “so long as the training is based on sound principles, the specific method isn’t nearly as important as an athlete’s patience with it. There are many roads to Rome, but you’ll only get there if you stay on the same route.” The same can be said of Jayme and the significant potholes in her path as she launched her company—she could have easily taken the alternate route and gone back to the financial security offered by her previous position—instead she stayed the course, and in doing so, like so many athletes with staying power, she achieved success.
Ice Cubes and Hot Streaks
Clear explains the significance of continuing the work, even if the results aren’t immediately tangible or recognizable, with an ice cube. While laughably off-beat this analogy is a powerful visual and example of what it takes to achieve a breakthrough—and ultimately a hot streak.
Ice melts only when it hits 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Does that mean the energy required to raise the temperature of ice from 25 to 26 to 27 to 29 to 31 degrees doesn’t matter? Of course not. You may only see the results when you hit 32 degrees, but you never would have seen the ice melt had you not done all the prior work.
In order to make a lasting difference, you have to commit yourself long enough to the daily and hourly courses of action, slowly turning up the temperature in the pursuit of your goal. If you change direction and try something new, constantly chasing a more efficient way, you risk losing all of the progress you’ve made.
Once you’ve broken through despite the many breakdowns along the way, you’re able to experience a hot streak—a phenomenon explained by researchers as “a specific period during which an individual’s performance is substantially better than his or her typical performance.” Perhaps the most compelling commonality between the ice cube example and your next pending hot streak is that both are entirely unpredictable. The only thing ensuring the ice cube melts, or that you experience the euphoria of a hot streak is the strong foundation of consistent, small gains in pursuit of your goal.
Keep Your Eye on the Small Gains > the Big Picture
Our culture has evolved to reflect our changing access to information and technology—experts call our tendency to do something rather than nothing commission bias. This bias combined with our ever-increasing access to the latest and greatest can cause us to constantly chase the shiniest object in the room rather than doing the daily work needed. Our desire to escape the tedium and monotony while fixing our eyes on the “big picture” robs us of the very breakthrough moments we need to understand our efforts are worth it.
Ryan Urban, CEO of Bounce Exchange, a start-up that predicts online shopping behavior, has focused on micro-goals and achieved success on all of his big picture goals as a result. When you focus on the day-to-day and even hour-to-hour, you have more opportunities to celebrate your success. More celebration creates more staying power, and that staying power is vital to accomplishing the bigger picture goals. “It’s kind of like living in the moment,” Urban says. “You always want to feel a sense of accomplishment. People are generally happy to go to work and they’re doing fulfilling things.”
It may be time to consider swapping your goals for habits and systems in pursuit of those goals. We could all use a bit more “staying the course” and a bit less “shiny object syndrome”. Your breakthrough may be just around the corner from your break down according to Clear:
Your outcomes are a lagging measure of your habits. Your net worth is a lagging measure of your financial habits. Your weight is a lagging measure of your eating habits. Your knowledge is a lagging measure of your learning habits. Your energy is a lagging measure of your sleep habits. Your clutter is a lagging measure of your cleaning habits. You get what you repeat.