The Power of Non-Zero Days

From r/GetMotivated

I’ve done it.  I’ve extended my Duolingo streak to over 100 consecutive days!  114 and counting as of today.  It wasn’t too long ago I blogged about crossing the 50 day threshold.  As I wrote in that post I inadvertently got a streak going and soon the number kept climbing and I didn’t want to break the streak.   Over the past 100+ days of practicing my Spanish I’ve learned far more about the language than I ever thought was possible.  I was always procrastinating about learning the language and now I’ve got the confidence that comes with progress.

Small Gains and Consistency

I used to think to myself that I didn’t have the time to learn another language or to accomplish all of the other things I wanted to.  I kept procrastinating, using excuses that I was too tired at the end of the day, the time wasn’t right, and on and on.  What finally clicked for me with Duolingo is that the app continues your streak by only completing one lesson.  That one lesson typically takes me about ten minutes to complete.  Instead of trying to fit in an hour or more of time into my day, all I needed to keep the streak going was to simply complete a minimum of one lesson per day.  Ten minutes out of even the busiest schedules is nothing!  I started my streak at the beginning of November last year and kept it going through travelling for Thanksgiving, family visiting during Christmas, New Years, and plenty of nights where I was exhausted from work and/or went to hung out with friends.  In all of these instances I’ve kept the streak going and constantly surprise myself in how much I’ve learned.

Stumbling upon this Duolingo streak has led to a dramatic world-changing view for myself and how I view self-improvement, mastery, and the art of learning anything.  I realized that small incremental improvements every single day can lead to huge improvements in the long run.  I soon started applying this idea to other areas of my life:  I’m now reading many more books than I’ve ever read in my life.  Even at the pace of 10 pages per day, one could complete a 300 page book in a month.  That’s twelve books per year!  Not a huge amount for true bookworms, but much more than I’d assume the average person reads.  Want to read more than that?  Just bump it up to a few more pages per day!

In addition to doing my Spanish every day and reading more, I’ve started consistently working out again and cooking most of my meals at home while trying to avoid eating out.  Even if I only spend thirty minutes lifting weights, it’s still more than I would’ve accomplished than by doing nothing.  By doing these things daily, even in small increments, I’m positioning myself for success in the long run.  [Note:  No, I don’t workout every single day. I take rest days for proper recovery.]

The Non-Zero Day

A few weeks after my streak got started I stumbled upon this Reddit comment in the GetDisciplined subreddit and it articulated some of these early thoughts that were kicking around in my head.  The idea a redditor named Ryans01 spoke of was the power of the Non-Zero Day.  Every day counts, even if you only write a few sentences in that novel you’re trying to write, do ten push-ups, or run one mile… you’re still putting yourself on the path towards success.  The key here is do something everyday towards your goal, no matter how small.  Doing a little something everyday will get you closer to your goals.  It’s much easier than you think.

Need more proof?  Read this awesome Lifehacker article about how comedian Jerry Seinfeld says to form a habit.  He says to get a calendar and mark an “X” on each day you do that one thing you’re wanting to do… like an “X” for each day he wrote a new joke.  Do this every day for several days and you’ll soon have a long enough “X” marks in a row on your calendar that you won’t want to break the chain.

Get Started!

Get started, what are you waiting for?!?!  Remember the key here is: small incremental improvements every day will lead to amazing long-term results!  Here’s that Reddit post again… seriously read that shit!

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