Who has not had a mikka bouzu experience sometime in their life?
In Japanese, there is an expression "mikka bouzu", which means "three-day monk". It is used to describe people who start things with big promises and great enthusiasm, but never see them through to the end.
I know I have often started something in this way only to give up. I also know from my own success in fitness training and nutrition that it's possible to get past the third day, even for someone with terrible willpower like me.
The saddest part is that anyone, and I really mean anyone, can significantly improve their game just by turning up.
It's a hard journey but those who stick with it will always improve given enough time and effort. So how do we keep ourselves from giving in?
If we put anything down to sheer willpower more often than not we will fail.
Willpower requires thought and the more we have to think about something the less chance we have of doing it. That's why distractions are so welcoming. Surfing the net or watching TV is so much easier than doing stuff that takes energy and brain power.
Let me give you an example. You want to get fit so you join a gym. You go a couple of times then you feel tired one day. Suddenly the sofa is more attractive and you take the day off. A day becomes a week. You start feeling guilty and the more guilt you feel the harder it is to force yourself to go. Besides, you figure, you don't know what program to use and your diet needs looking at anyway. The whole thing requires too much thinking so you block it out and your good intentions are blown.
The key is to do all your thinking in advance.
Then all you have to do is tick off the brainless tasks and get on with succeeding without realising it.
Stop thinking, start doing
Productivity guru David Allen often jokes that he only actually thinks once a week. The rest of the time he is just doing the things he has thought about. How would this work for the club cricketer looking to avoid the curse of mikka bouzu?
Try this process:
- Work out where the end is before you start. Many people start something before they really know what it is they want. You might have a vague idea like get fit, lose weight or get more runs but what will success actually look like? Write it down. You can be as detailed as you want but you want to be as clear as possible. How will you feel? What will it look like? Who else will benefit?
- Work out ways to get there. Once you know the destination, you need to start planning the journey. What factors are in your control that will get you there? Write them down too.
- Work out the actions you need to get started. Now we start getting to the practical level. Here you start to see the next step to take. It might be making a phone call or setting up a meeting but is has to be a physical action you can complete.
- Review every week. Review both the plan and the actions once a week or more to make sure you are doing them and still heading down the road. If you are finding it hard to keep up it's a sign you need to recalibrate.
So let's go back to our gym example. You want to get fit to improve both your cricket and have a better body. Success might be able to lift a certain weight or have a certain level of bodyfat. You know you will need a gym that is on the way home from work and can provide you with a program for your needs. You join aiming to go every Monday, Wednesday and Friday after work. You put a reminder to yourself to pack your gym bag and one to go to the gym. When you get to the gym you make sure you can just pick up your program and get started. On Sunday night you check your success. Did you go to the gym 3 times, if not why not? Is your bodyfat dropping or squat increasing? What do you need to change to keep meeting your goals? Do you need to recalibrate your plan to fit in with a change in your needs?
Mikka Bouzu no more
People give up because they don't think their goals through to actual practical actions.
In the example above you are blindly following an instruction. Tuesday night: pack bag. Wednesday night: Drive to gym. It's easy and a quick success.
If it becomes difficult you can review and change.
Because you only do this once a week you can forget about the guilt and just get on with the stuff you really want to do.
You can read more about how to do this by buying Getting Things Done by David Allen.
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