As I wrote in my “fat pants” post a few weeks ago, I am deep into the project of trying to lose the last 10 lbs of baby weight. At least it is no longer the last 15 lbs of baby weight. I am making progress. But it is slow progress. The thing about losing 0.5-1 lb per week is that the scale can refuse to budge for days. And if it budges, it can go up, since a person’s weight can fluctuate within a few pound range based on time of day, how much water you’ve just drank, etc. It is frustrating to watch what you eat faithfully for days in an environment of constant temptation, only to have the scale register a 1 lb gain.
But after two months of this, of weighing myself daily and recording the numbers, I can see that the numbers that appeared frequently six weeks ago no longer appear. Numbers on the bottom of the range where I was, say, three weeks ago, start appearing more frequently, and then once a week or so I see a new low. Looking at the numbers, I see that I have definitely lost 6 lbs in 2 months, which gives me a spark of motivation to keep going. Most likely, in another 2 months I’ll be down another 6 lbs, which means that in 3-4 months, I’ll be back where I wish to be. Do I wish it could have happened over night? Of course. But big goals seldom do.
I’ve been thinking of this in the context, also, of a number that many of us hope will go a different direction than our weight: our net worth. As with weight, the temptation is always there to bring home shiny baubles and spend mindlessly. You can be diligent about not spending mindlessly for months, invest that cash, and still see your net worth go down because the market has. This is just as frustrating as passing up the pecan pie and seeing your weight go up. But, as the years stretch on, you start to see that the numbers that once occurred only at market peaks are now way in the rear view mirror. In good times, you reach new highs. In bad, the lows are no where near where they were.
The question with all these big goals is how to keep your motivation up when it may flag in the middle. I am a fan of graphs precisely because they make long term progress apparent. Some people also swear by external rewards until the intrinsic rewards take over. How do you keep your motivation up as you make slow progress toward big goals?