Ok, so imagine you’re a toddler again. You thought you could do anything. Crossing the road wouldn’t have been an issue for you. You might have got squashed in a matter of seconds, redecorating 20 metres of tarmac, but you’d have done it anyway. There was no fear, but no education either. Before long though, your parents taught you to be scared of crossing the road to prevent the blatantly obvious.
The next step to learning was watching and analysing what was going on before ever having to take the risk yourself.
Then came the formula. When I was at school I think they called it the green cross code. We were taught where to stand, where to look, what to look out for and what order to do it all in, along with some other little tips to stop us becoming pitiful pancakes.
Around this time, still just a tot, you nervously brave the roads alone. You start small, still with a little bit of guidance initially and work up towards bigger, busier more intimidating ones until you can safely manage them all alone.
At first, the process was running the formula through your head as you approach. Stop. Recite the formula to yourself and consciously follow it. You’d be worried along the way and probably over cautious, but the formula would see you through safely. The whole process would have taken a hell of a lot longer and a hell of a lot more effort than it does now though.
Then all you did was continue to cross roads until the habit was formed and now you pretty much do it on autopilot unless the road is particularly busy. Even when it is, it takes no effort really to find the right, safest place to cross and get it done.
Now you automatically analyse the situation on approach. You see if traffic is coming, you even judge where it’ll be by the time you reach the kerb if you continue to walk at the same speed. Most of us then, if possible, adjust our walking speed accordingly on approach so that by the time we approach the road we don’t even have to stop at all. And most of this is without consciously thinking at all. Getting to the other side successfully and safely is… erm… childsplay?
Pull the metaphor apart and see the similarities. Then make a decision…
Am I going to want to cross any big roads in my lifetime?
If so, get practicing on the little ones now.
Summary: Either use experts to show you a formula you can use for developing a habit of setting and achieving goals outside your comfort zone, or use different tried and tested strategies and combine them to make your own formula. Once you have the formula, use it on ever increasing projects until the habit is secured and is yours to keep and exploit. Before long it all becomes second nature. It’s a small price to pay in the short term for such decent, permanent gains.