Achieve The Life You Want: 3 Powerful Productivity Habits From The Slight Edge
You’ve been there. I’ve been there. You wake up one morning, look at your life, and wonder “how did I get here?”
Depending on who you are and the personal dynamics of your life, the answer could be simple (as in I know the exact time and place when things started to take a turn) or complicated (as in I have to evaluate my entire existence and deeply reflect to even begin to make sense of my life right now).
Wherever you are on this spectrum, one thing is sure: if you desire a change, you can make it.
This is the crux of every motivational talk or book you’ll ever read. Yes, you can make a change but the more significant question, at least for me, is how do I make that change?
How do I ensure that my goals and dreams actually happen? How do I go from scared and confused to confident and certain?
I’ve learned quite a few things since the world was forced to slow down, and, in this piece, I’d like to share with you one of the poignant ideas that have come to the fore. And that is The Power Of The Slight Edge or The Compound Effect, or the redeeming concept of ‘sticktoitiveness’ (or whatever you like to call it).
Jeff Olson, in his book The Slight Edge, lays a foundation for the thoughts that began to unravel in my own heart as far as my life is concerned. Why do some people ‘make it’ and others don’t? Why do some reach and even surpass their goals while others barely scratch the surface?
He doesn’t claim to have all the answers, and neither do I, but he does make a case for a compelling yet deceptively simple concept: the simple actions you take every day.
Stay with me.
What does a writer do? Write.
What does a businessman do? Make deals, do business.
What does someone who wants to be healthy do? Eat right, exercise, take care of their body.
You get the point.
The rules are simple: execution is where we struggle. We try it once or twice, then we fail and give up. This cycle of starting something and giving up too early actually reveals that deep down, we have the wrong idea about how these things work. Our philosophy and perspective are probably lacking.
This is a simple concept that’s very easy to miss, so to break it down, I’m sharing three main ideas I got from The Slight Edge and how it has the power to shift your perspective and help you achieve more of what you want.
1. The Failure-Survival-Success Cycle
Think of the last time you were at the end of your rope. You were staring failure in the face, and you knew you had to do something drastic. Failure would be embarrassing, mentally draining, and you needed to avoid it at all costs, so you hatched a plan.
You would do whatever it took to avoid the impending doom. So, you pulled all-nighters, reached out to an old colleague, asked for help, an extension, changed your diet… whatever.
It worked. Soon you began to see a change; there was hope, a light at the end of the tunnel. Things were starting to look great, and you could breathe again. Great!
The natural thing to do would be to continue that upward trajectory. Keep eating right, studying regularly, getting your work done on time, chasing those leads for your business, writing every day to get the manuscript finished… but oh no, you didn’t do that.
You reached the point of survival where things were beginning to look up, and you took the whole process for granted and stopped doing the things that helped you get out of the rut. Unfortunately, success was still quite far away so you plunged down again, headed for failure.
See this whole cycle thing? I feel it. On a cellular level. I’ve been through this cycle so many times, and I keep asking myself why I’m not the raging success I want to be.
Here’s what the author says.
“You already know how to do everything it takes to make you an outrageous success. That’s how you’ve survived up to this point. And if you can survive, then you can succeed. You don’t need to do some brilliant, impossible thing. You don’t need to learn some insanely difficult skills or have some genius-level brainstorm of an innovative idea. All you have to do is keep doing the things that got you this far.”
2. Look beyond what you see
I’ll be the first to admit, this isn’t easy. One of the reasons we don’t stick to things that have worked is that they haven’t worked fast enough (at least for me it is.)
I don’t want to spend two or three years building an audience by writing a daily blog. I want to be a bestseller now, or at least soon. But the reality is that these things take time. Malcolm Gladwell explained this using his 10,000-hour rule. You have to spend that much time learning, practicing, and doing in order to be at the top of your game in any field. Whether you think this number is accurate or not, the truth is it takes a lot of time to attain sustained success.
So it’s understandable that we so easily give up when we run into obstacles or things aren’t happening fast enough. But we need to train our minds to look beyond what we see and focus on what we know to be true.
If you base your choices on the evidence, on what you can see, you’re sunk. You need to base your choices on your philosophy––on what you know, not what you see. You need to have faith in the process, you won’t see it happening at first.
So what is this philosophy, and what do we know to be true? This brings me to the third idea.
3. The power of compounding effort
The idea is simple. According to Darren Hardy, author of The Compound Effect, small smart choices done consistently over time creates a radical difference.
Small, Smart Choices + Consistency + Time = Radical Difference
This is essentially the same concept Jeff Olson outlines in The Slight Edge. Time never fails to run its course; it is what we do with that time that matters.
Simple daily disciplines––little productive actions, repeated consistently over time––add up to the difference between success and failure.
The slight edge is relentless and cuts both ways: simple daily disciplines or simple errors in judgment, repeated consistently over time make you or break you.
My personal story
Many years ago, I had the dream to be a fiction author, publishing bestseller after bestseller. I know, not very original. But it was my dream. So I started a blog at the encouragement of my husband (then fiancé). I tried but was never consistent with the blog. It was here today, gone tomorrow. I wrote my first book but never got any real traction with it, so I pivoted.
When I started to share my work online for the first time, I met many other writers like me, working hard to make their dreams come true. Life went on, and we all did what we knew to do. Some of us kept writing, and some of us didn’t. Some were more committed than others.
This summer, I got a pleasant surprise when I opened up Instagram and saw that one of the writers I met at that time many years ago, was now a New York Times Bestselling author.
I was so happy and ecstatic for her. She had kept at it. Working her day job and writing on the side. She didn’t give up for some time only to start again. She kept making those daily choices, consistently, over the years, and now the difference is clear.
I’m not saying everyone will be a bestseller if they keep writing. Heck, I may never be one even if I spent the rest of my life writing. But we’ll never know unless we try.
So here’s to dreaming and doing the work. To making the right choices every day and seeing the growth and improvement that comes with dedication. To breaking out of the failure-survival-success loop. Here’s to living!