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Tangible Reinforcement

by | Jan 19, 2017 | Goals

Confession time. I’m a resolutions addict.

It all started in Murrieta, California. My mom had just achieved three gigantic milestones. After birthing me at 17, not finishing high school and surviving life in SoCal solo and welfare-free for many years, she hustled her way into a real estate job, got her license and started selling. She hit her stride in the early 90’s, bought a small house butting up against the I-15, got married, then got pregnant with my little brother, and went to back to school to be a work from home medical transcriptionist.

My 12-year old mind didn’t / couldn’t fathom the impact of those achievements.

Buying a house as a working single mother. HARD.
Finding a husband in the Temecula Valley in her 30’s. HARD.
Working from home in the early 90’s. HARD.
Surviving the road there. MIRACULOUS.

So I was spending my first summer with my very pregnant mom. I was sketching out my first business idea: a ‘walking distance’ car wash service. She watched for hours as I sketched out a ridiculous looking cart that I was sure I’d need to carry the hose, buckets, brushes, sprays, paper towels and a lockbox for all the money I would make.

After showing it to her, she said nothing. Instead she walked over to her desk with a gigantic orange toned monitor sporting an early version of Word Perfect, and pulled out a steno pad. Over the next few minutes she gave me a crash course in what is now a daily sacrament – making a to-do list.

“Use just one side of the paper … double space to allow for notes …. cross things off only after they’re totally done … copy the undone tasks to a new piece of paper at the end of the day … and crumple up that old list. Feels good, doesn’t it?”

My to-do lists no longer live on paper, since my home office boasts some serious automation required to maintain my sanity running Small Biz Triage. But my resolutions still live on yellow legal pads graffitied with .7mm gel pen notes and diagrams.

The future-wife, known to the world as Valerie, always gives me a funny little glance whenever I’m crossing, clustering and cleaning up the list of goals. When I hit flow state, the space next to the bed is littered with crumpled up pieces of paper.

Does this mean, I’ve become a pro at achieving these resolutions? Hell no. It’s the process itself that I’ve become obsessed with. During some depressed chapters of my life, I even made shitty lists of favorite movies, or a Ninja Warrior workout I know I would never do, just so I could cross out the movies I’d seen (all of them of course) and scribble out stuff I deemed an awful idea (salmon ladder pull-ups – seriously?). I would then crumple them up, take the elevator down to the recycling bin, and toss ’em.

Now here’s the lesson buried in my rambling: a digital checkbox or strikethrough option on my screen will never scratch that oh-so-human of itches … physically destroying that item/task/goal/idea/map. There are very necessary chores in life standing between you and that next big win. And hat tip to mom for teaching me that it’s easier to power through those if we can give the process some tangible reinforcement.

Not only do I get the warm fuzzy from knocking out a task, but I get to cross that shit off my big ass list AND crumple up that piece of paper and put it behind me. Gives me the chills just thinking about it.

PHOTO CREDIT: FreeImages.com/aaron beall

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