Defining Success as Less

Back in 2020, I maintained a 100-day workout streak. Each day I would find time to ensure that I don’t break the chain. My fitness improved and I felt great. 

Then life happened, had other responsibilities to take care of and as a result, I took a long break from exercising. Consequently, I put on weight, felt lazy and developed revulsion to the idea of working out. 

I wanted to break out of it but just found it so hard to restart. 

Whenever the thought of working out crossed my mind, the idea of being my old fit self where I could run 5k under 30 min felt too daunting, too overwhelming. And I used to give up. Again and again. 

This used to be a recurring pattern with my other habits like reading and writing too. The longer the break, the harder it became to restart. 

Then something changed: I changed my definition of what a successful day looked like. 

I redefined success as less. 

On days I didn’t feel like running, I defined success as walking for 10 minutes. 

On days I didn’t feel like reading, I defined success as reading 10 pages. 

On days I didn’t feel like writing, I defined success as writing 10 sentences. 

This shift in my thinking toward doing hard things helped me restart. 

The best part was when I walked for that 10 min, read those 10 pages, wrote those 10 sentences, I usually kept going for some more time. Even if I didn’t, I was fine with it. I felt content knowing that the day has been a success. 

I realised why the idea works. 

When you are in a slump, two horrible things happen. One, you don’t do the work you should be doing. And two, you are overcome with guilt that you have wasted yet another day. Guilt turns into self-criticism. Criticism turns into self-pity. Self-pity turns into sadness and then into despondency.  

By defining success as an easily doable task, you make it easy for you to restart. You don’t spend your time finding fault with yourself and wallowing in self-pity, but feel good because you have taken steps towards your goal. That feeling of fulfilment is powerful. It’s the fuel you fill for doing the task the next day.

When you are feeling overwhelmed and find yourself unable to do something you ought to do, define success as less. 

Never forget that achieving big goals begin with small, incremental steps.