The above letter is from my track coach in 2009; after not missing a single practice or workout all year, I was still getting outperformed by many of my peers. I had forgotten I had this letter but stumbled upon it when I was visiting my parents recently. I was impressed by the timeless wisdom found in that letter: “Execution is the result of simple connections on a progressive basis. Rome was not built in a day. It took time. Continue to focus on effort and consistency.”
Ingrained in my worldview is the idea that change often moves like the hour hand, and that the most beautiful things take consistent persistent effort over time. Also, a part of my worldview is that much like Rome wasn’t built in one day, it also didn’t fall in one day. It was a slow process probably made up of seemingly inconsequential decisions over time that added up to big decisions.
To align with these ideals I have added a tracking system to my journaling practice to align with my goal setting system & scorecard. The tracking system is low friction and very analog, but the consequences yield results. Here is how it works: as I mentioned in my goal-setting system I now keep a scorecard where I can tally progress towards goals that require tracking (for example 36 Jiu-Jitsu practices attended this quarter, or attend 4 toastmasters meetings and give 2 speeches); now within my journal if there are daily habits that I am working towards I add simple checkboxes in the margins of my journal like so:
It is up to you what you want to track on a daily basis, but the psychological effect of seeing something like this on a daily basis forces you to take these areas seriously that you have committed to. For me, this tracking system shows that I take the following core areas seriously: fitness (exercise, BJJ), cognitive abilities & concentration (reading, meditation), my craft as a knowledge worker (uninterrupted deep work, deliberate practice of a skill I’m working on), and citizenship (good deed).
Or you could take the Ben Franklin approach and focus on a specific area per week. The important thing is that we have a daily practice so we can build our Rome and keep it thriving- because it is the little things, the unmitigated daily discipline, that makes the big difference.
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