Show Up

If I had to choose one motto to live by for the rest of my life, it’d be this.

Just show up.

Showing up is underrated, underestimated, and underutilized. The alternative to “just show up” that most people choose is to set short- and long-term goals.

Should I aim to run for 30 minutes? Should I work out today, and if so, will I work out legs? Should I pull all of the weeds in the garden? Should I aim for 15 cold calls today?

Our incessant need to aim for clean, whole amounts of progress holds us back more than it helps us. There is a place for goals in life—it helps to have targets to aim for—but when it comes to daily activities that we face resistance against, goals are counterproductive.

Why You Should Reject Short-Term Goals

All of the success I’ve experienced in my life has come from showing up. All of my failures have come from letting myself get overwhelmed into paralysis. 

How can we make showing up an easier practice to follow? Reject short-term goals. 

Setting a short-term goal is hidden way of caring about results. A short-term goal is a desired result in itself. If you aim to work for a certain amount of time, that is the result you want. I’ve talked before about the folly of result-seeking. Results are rarely guaranteed, and even when they are, they come from a preceding process. Therefore, it’s always better to focus on the process.

I know that Mini Habits looks like a goal-setting strategy, but it’s really more of a “show up every day” strategy. When your short-term goal is something like reading two pages in a book, you aren’t really aiming for the result of two pages read as much as you’re using it as a starting point and minimum marker for success. Mini habits have been so successful for so many people because they bridge the gap between the way we typically think about life (goals) and something far superior (just show up). Here’s why showing up is better than setting goals.

The Power of Showing Up

No analysis paralysis: There is no simpler or easier aim than to be present somewhere doing something. There are no considerations about your performance or results. You’re just making the choice to be somewhere doing something. It’s very freeing! Writers can open the word processor, place their fingers on the keyboard, and see what happens. Fitness hopefuls can go to the gym and see what happens. There’s no wrestling about how much to do or several other factors we consider when setting goals. There’s ONE variable—will you show up or not?

No willpower depletion: When you try to accomplish an average to large goal, you will look ahead to the total amount of work you need to do to accomplish it. This leads to resistance and willpower depletion. When you decide to show up without any strings attached, there’s no anticipation of all the work you have to do, because you didn’t give yourself a hard requirement. 

Little to no resistance: We resist the behaviors that are outside of our normal routines. This is unfortunate, because it means we naturally resist growing, because to grow is to become someone better than you are now. That resistance fades considerably when you decide to show up and do something, because it doesn’t feel like a big commitment to your subconscious (the source of resistance). 

Momentum: What’s the point of all of this if you show up and do nothing? Momentum is the factor that few consider, even though we’ve all experienced it. In many cases, it’s more difficult to switch activities than to continue doing the one you’re doing, even if that activity is challenging. At times I’ve wanted to play video games but couldn’t pull myself away from writing because I got engaged with the material. This is obviously possible while playing video games, too, but everyone knows that. We don’t think much about the possibility of getting hooked on productive or healthy activities. You’re most likely to do next what you’re doing now.

Consistency: If all you have to do is show up, what’s going to stop you? It won’t be lack of motivation, overwhelm, or uncertainty about results. Your excuses will melt. With such low resistance, you’ll be able to show up every day, and your success on those areas will compound.

I’ve been working out almost every day, and today I had decided to rest. But I know I don’t really need to right now and I just ruined my excuses, so I’m off to the gym. I don’t know what I’ll do, but I will show up, and that always seems to work out well. (Update: I wasn’t motivated to exercise. I felt lethargic. But once I arrived and got started, momentum carried me to a great 30-minute workout. This technique is gold! Try it and remember how well it works the next time you face resistance.)

Will you show up today?

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