Tag Archives | set goals

What is Your Average Speed in Your Life, Your Health, and Your Work?

One of the biggest insights I’ve gained on success and personal development in recent years is the disproportionate impact of habits over goals in improving performance. In fact, I blogged on this very topic at the beginning of 2017, based on my own research and personal experience.

That’s why, for this week’s post, I’m excited to share a recent article by author and speaker James Clear that presents a powerful strategy to propel your personal and professional growth by refining your habits.


What is Your “Average Speed” in Your Life, Your Health, and Your Work?

I have a friend named Nathan Barry who recently finished writing three books in just 9 months.

How did he do it?

By following a simple strategy. He wrote 1,000 words per day. (That’s about 2 to 3 pages.) And he did it every day for 253 straight days.

Now, compare that strategy to the classic image of a writer hiding out in a cabin for weeks and writing like a madman to finish their book.

The maniac in the cabin has a high “maximum speed” — maybe 20 or even 30 pages per day. But after a few weeks at that unsustainable pace, either the book is finished or the author is.

By comparison, Nathan’s maximum speed never reached the peak levels of the crazy writer in the cabin. However, over the course of a year or two his average speed was much higher.

This lesson extends far beyond writing.

For example, anyone can feel a burst of inspiration, head to the gym, and push themselves for a single workout. That’s maximum speed. We waste a lot of time obsessing over it. How hard was your workout? How motivated are you? How fast are you pushing it?

But what if you were to average all of your days in the last month? How many of those days included a workout? How about the last three months? Or the last year? What has your average speed been?

Look at it this way and you might realize, for example, that you were sick for a week and there were a couple times when you skipped the gym after a long day of work and you were on the road for two weeks as well. Suddenly, you realize that your maximum speed might be high every now and then, but your average speed is much lower than you think.

From what I can tell, this principle holds true for your work habits, your eating habits, your relationship habits, and virtually every other area of your life.

The Surprising Thing About Average Speed
Here’s the surprising thing about average speed: It doesn’t take very long for average speed to produce incredible results.

So often we waste our time and energy thinking that we need a monumental effort to achieve anything significant. We tell ourselves that we need to get amped up on motivation and desire. We think that we need to work harder than everyone else.

But when you look at people who are really making progress, you see something different. Nathan wrote 1,000 words per day, every day. And nine months later? Three books are finished. At no point did he necessarily work harder than everyone else. There’s nothing sexy or shocking about writing 2 or 3 pages per day. Nathan was simply more consistent than everyone else and, as a result, his average speed for those 253 days was much higher than most people.

Of course, the natural question that follows from all of this is, “How do I increase my average speed?”

Let’s talk about that now.

Habit Graduation: How to Increase Your Average Speed
Recently, I was told about the idea of “habit graduation.” That is, graduating from your current habit to one level higher. Basically, habit graduation is about increasing your average speed.

Here are some examples…

  • If your average speed is eating three healthy meals per week, can you “graduate” that to one healthy meal per day?
  • If your average speed is exercising twice per month, can you “graduate” that to once per week?
  • If your job is crazy and you only talk to your old friends on the phone once every three months, can you schedule those calls into your calendar and “graduate” that habit to once per month?

You get the idea. Habit graduation is about considering your goals and your current average speed, and thinking about how you can increase your output by just a little bit on a consistent basis.

I’ve thought about how I might apply this myself.

For the last eight months, I’ve published a new article every Monday and every Thursday without fail. Now, I’m considering “graduating” that habit to the next level.

For example, I could follow Nathan’s strategy and write 1,000 words per day. Presumably, this would allow me to continue writing two articles each week while also working on other useful things — like a book of my own.

Where to Go From Here
We all have an average speed when it comes to our habits. And if we’re being honest with ourselves, that average speed might be much slower than we’d like.

The truth is, anyone can get motivated and push themselves for one day, but very few people maintain a consistent effort every week without fail.

The important thing isn’t to judge yourself or feel guilty about having a lower average speed than you would like. The important thing is to be aware of what’s actually going on, realize that it’s within your control, and then embrace the fact that a small, but consistent change in your daily habits can lead to a remarkable increase in your average speed.

In your health, your work, and your life, it doesn’t require a massive effort to achieve incredible results — just a consistent one.

It’s time to graduate to the next level. What’s your average speed?

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Whatever the Project Is, Start Today

It’s almost time for us to welcome the new year of 2018! One of the many things I love about the Christmas and New Year holiday season is reflecting and planning: Looking back on the key themes and accomplishments of the year gone by while setting ambitious goals for the coming year. Here’s a question for you:

If the last year of your life were a movie, what would be the genre?

What I like about this question is it acknowledges a subtle truth: Your life is not a series of isolated events; instead, your life is connected to a bigger story.

Jim Rohn is one of the most influential business philosophers and personal development authors of our time. His article, 13 Ways to Improve Your Life, continues to inspire me and this year, as the SwingShift and the Stars season officially comes to a close on December 31st, #8 really stood out to me:

8. Invest your profits.
Here’s one of the philosophies that my mentor, Earl Shoaff, gave me: Profits are better than wages. Wages make you a living, profits make you a fortune. Could we start earning profits while we make a living? The answer is yes.

As Jim mentions below, “faith without action serves no useful purpose” — and Love INC is an organization that truly embodies this famous saying. They serve as a cooperative effort between churches and community agencies to provide effective help for our neighbors in need. Love INC is doing work that no other organization is doing–and they need our help. Your donation becomes part of Love INC’s story, and therefore part of your neighbor’s story–your action will make a big impact! And giving back in this way becomes part of your story now and in the years to come. Before the SwingShift donation deadline of December 31st passes, I’d like to humbly make one final request for you to join me in supporting Love INC. (And it’s your last chance to make that tax-deductible donation for the year!)

I’m a big advocate of laying the groundwork for setting clear, compelling goals with actionable steps and New Years resolutions are no exception. It’s a wonderful time to create goals that will inspire, motivate, and positively change you all year long.

But why do so many of us wait until New Year’s Eve to create these goals and start making change?

Why not now?

For my final blog post of 2017, I’d like to share Jim Rohn’s inspiring article, Whatever The Project Is, Start Today. 

Prove to yourself that the waiting is over and the hoping is past—that faith and action have now taken charge.


Whatever the project is, start today.

Knowledge fueled by emotion equals action. Action is the ingredient that ensures results. Only action can cause reaction—and only positive action can cause positive reaction.

All of that said, there are still so many people who are really sold on affirmations. There is a famous saying that “faith without action serves no useful purpose”—and how true that is! Now, there is nothing bad about affirmations when they are used as a tool to create action. Repeated to reinforce a disciplined plan, affirmations can help create wonderful results.

But there is also a very thin line between faith and folly. You see, affirmations without action can be the beginnings of self-delusion. And for your well-being, there is little worse than self-delusion.

The man who dreams of wealth and yet walks daily toward certain financial disaster and the woman who wishes for happiness and yet thinks thoughts and commits acts that lead her toward certain despair are both victims of the false hope—which affirmations without action can manufacture. Why? Because words soothe and, like a narcotic, they lull us into a state of complacency. Remember this: To make progress, you must actually get started!

The key is to take a step today. Whatever the project is, start today. Start clearing out a drawer of your desk… today. Start setting your first goal… today. Start listening to something motivational… today. Start putting money in your new “investment for fortune” account…today. Write a long-overdue letter… today. Anyone can! Even an uninspired person can start reading inspiring books.

Get some momentum going on your new commitment for the good life. See how many activities you can pile on your new commitment to the better life. Go all out! Break away from the downward pull of gravity. Start your thrusters going. Prove to yourself that the waiting is over and the hoping is past—that faith and action have now taken charge.

It’s a new day, a new beginning for your new life. With discipline you will be amazed at how much progress you’ll be able to make. What have you got to lose except the guilt and fear of the past?

Now, I offer you this challenge: See how many things you can start and continue in this—the first day of your new beginning.

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A Complaint-Free World: One Man’s Mission

In one of my recent posts, I explored the life-changing potential of taking personal responsibility for everything that happens in your life.

Recently, I came across a similar story.

In 2006, a minister from Kansas City named Will Bowen laid out a simple challenge to people across the nation: Eliminate complaining from their lives for 21 days — the length of time it takes to make something a true habit.

His book, A Complaint Free World: How to Stop Complaining and Start Enjoying the Life You Always Wanted, got him featured on Oprah, The Today Show, Fox News and hundreds of other media outlets nationwide. He makes eight key points — both positive and negative about the impact of complaining.

  1. Complaining is about what you cannot have or get. Get over it.
  2. Avoid chronic complainers — the disease spreads.
  3. Patience is key: It takes 4-8 months to move from unconsciously incompetent to unconsciously competent.
  4. Complaining traps you in a constant state of “something is wrong.”
  5. Complaining is a form of manipulation; it pulls other people down.
  6. Instead of complaining, seek alternative language or be silent.
  7. Silence is mature self-possession.
  8. Commit to what you want and go after it without complaint when you encounter the inevitable obstacles.


Since the book, Bowen’s movement has persuaded more than 10 million people in over 100 countries to wear his purple bracelet symbolizing their commitment to go three straight weeks without uttering a single complaint. One of his many colorful quotes is:

“Complaining is like bad breath: You notice it when it comes out of somebody else’s mouth, but not your own.”

How would you respond to this challenge? Could you do it? Do you think you would have the self awareness, emotional control, sense of optimism and, at times, sheer willpower to eradicate complaining for 21 days? What would it mean to you — and to the quality of your life – -if you did?

Imagine… a complaint-free world! I’d love to get your feedback. You can reply by leaving a comment below.

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Why I No Longer Set Goals

During the last week in December, as I was finalizing my goals for 2015, I read an insightful post by my friend Grant Porteous that referenced nationally known author and peak performance coach, James Clear, who, during a recent interview, shared a story about a friend of his who wanted to improve his writing.

“Instead of holing himself up somewhere for three days trying to complete an entire book manuscript,” Clear explains, “my friend instead committed to write one thousand words a day without fail, which isn’t much for a writer — around two pages. He did this for 259 consecutive days, accumulating enough content for three books, all of which were published within one year, earning him over $300,000.”

His point: Had his friend treated his writing project as a one-time event centered around a specific outcome, he never would have published three books in one year. But by focusing on small wins and slow gains, he accomplished far more than he ever thought possible in such a short time.

Putting Process Over Goals

The Paradox of Big Goals | PJ McClure

Clear’s story underscores his advice to anyone who wants to improve: Instead of focusing on some distant outcome (example: Lose 20 lbs by May 1st), focus instead on the process (run four miles, four times per week).

If you’re a life long goal-setter like me, the idea of relinquishing setting specific, measurable, and time-bound outcomes might seem like heresy. Yet I admit in recent years I have struggled with setting goals that motivated me enough to review them frequently. Often, as the year went on, they gradually lost their relevance and inspiration, like a motivational seminar that pumps you up for a awhile then wears off like a suntan. But when I reflect on my most successful accomplishments in recent years, most were built on creating new sustainable habits — simple, repeatable disciplines that, over time, produced dramatic results in my life.

To be honest, I’m still setting goals (I’ve been doing it for too long to quit!), but I am also committing to changing my approach. Here’s what I’m working on — and how it can work for you.

  • Instead of prioritizing your schedule, schedule your priorities. Don’t focus on how much money you want to earn this week, for example, or how much weight you want to lose. “Lose five pounds,” is not an action you can perform; “Do 200 pushups and 200 sit-ups” is.
  • Commit to developing one to three new habits for the next 30 days and stick to them. Focus on consistency, even if you have to adjust on the fly. If you’ve committed to exercising for one hour a day, for example, but your schedule unexpectedly changes on one of those days, commit to thirty minutes, fifteen minutes, or whatever you can do. The key is to keep your commitment. (That’s why you must limit them — less is more!)
  • Take stock of your results. Track how you feel, what you accomplish, and the impact on those around you. Chances are, you’ll need to make some changes, but give the process enough time to give you honest feedback before you make adjustments.

What about you? Are there one or two habits you can identify that, if you stick with them, will fundamentally impact your future? What are they, and what would it mean to the quality of your life, if you made them a reality?

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