If you haven’t read Atomic Habits by James Clear–go buy it now. It’s $15 that will change your life. He coined this term, and that’s his graph above!
When we start out with a goal, we expect to make consistent, perfect progress towards our goal. We think about losing 40 pounds, and then we decide we want to do that in 10 weeks, and say “ok, 4 pounds per week, here I come!” The issue is–that’s not how progress works. Our habits, our lives, and our bodies all have inertia. It takes time for progress to start–time that we spend fretting because it’s not all going according to plan. Clear calls this “The Valley of Disappointment” and it’s such an apropos term for where many of us are right now during quarantine. The important thing to remember is–if you can persevere through that time, progress can then exceed your expectations, as habits snowball, behaviors change, and momentum builds.
So what gets you through that dark valley? One of our core values here at FRCF: Growth Mindset. Growth Mindset boils down to the idea that all of our abilities and beliefs are fungible–we can change them by dint of perseverance and grit. This is the idea that you may be a bad runner today–but by choosing to work on the things that we are bad at, we don’t have to be a bad runner tomorrow. It’s the concept of: I’m not good at that yet.
When we combine the idea of the Valley of Disappointment with growth mindset, we get a road map for making it out of the Valley–and indeed, lessening the negativity and devastating impact that it can have on our mindset and progress. Growth mindset really means believing that the valley is a necessary part of progress, that it’s the learning time in which we are building our abilities and beliefs in order to achieve our desired outcomes. It goes from the Valley of Disappointment to the Canyon of Awesome Training Montage. Anyone who’s ever watched a Rocky movie knows you don’t get to the top of the mountain (or Philly steps) without an awesome training montage.
When we shift our mindset from “that’s not happening fast enough” to “I’m building myself into the type of person who does the things I want to do” we literally become a different, better version of ourselves. If you’re stuck in the Valley right now–keep going. It’s the crucible that’s going to forge you into a better person.
Take Action Now: Set a timer for 15 minutes. Pick your biggest goal, and then write down all of the things that are going to pop up and delay your progress. Then, write down the habits you need to build to overcome those delays. Now you have a roadmap that’s more in line with reality for your goals.