How 28 Pushups a Day Changed My View of Goal-Setting

Building the skills to set and hit a great goal

Recently, George Hood, a 62-year-old man held himself up in a plank position for a world record 8 hours and 15 minutes.

As most people know, a plank is an exercise where an individual lays down and then proceeds to raise themselves up, until they are resting on their forearms while keeping their legs, back, and chest straight. It doesn’t sound too difficult when you read it, but if you’re bold enough to try it, you’ll find out just how mind-blowing the new world record is.

When 2020 started, I wanted to add an element of physical fitness into my regular daily rhythm. For me, it was pushups. I had read stories of soldiers, athletes, and leaders who have a daily pushup regimen, so I wanted to see what I could do in the span of one year.

Over the last seven months, I’ve made even more progress than I could have ever imagined. I’ve seen the power of small things done consistently over time. I’ve developed a new skill and have seen how the power of small daily wins spread over a large goal can help you accomplish any new skill you set your mind to.

Doing pushups every day has transformed my thoughts of fitness and my physical strength. Here’s the method I used that helped me.

Set a goal

I knew I wanted a challenge, to really master a new skill and craft. However, deciding on a goal is like trying to parallel park on a crowded downtown city street. You need to get it just right.

I started 2020 by writing down that I wanted to do 10,000 pushups throughout the year. That math breaks down to roughly 28 pushups every day for 365 days.

Setting a goal is important for two reasons: it gives you something to aim for and something to track against. It gives direction and an idea of progress.

Every day, my direction compels me to knock out my 28 pushups. I am moving towards a bigger target. That target, in turn, gives me an endpoint to know how I’m doing throughout the year.

My goal allows me to know if I am actually growing in the skill I am pursuing.

Invite accountability

Doing something every day requires discipline and intentionality. Both of these focused can be difficult, even for the paragons of grit and determination.

That’s why accountability is so necessary. For me, I pitched the idea over to my dad and my brother-in-law. I explained the motivation and asked if they wanted to set a 2020 pushup goal as well. My brother-in-law decided to match for 10,000 pushups. My dad went for a goal of 5,000.

Without these two also doing the challenge, I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now. I would have likely given up in February, or as most people know it, the graveyard of annual goals.

Inviting people into your goals isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s actually a sign of how serious you want to achieve your targets. Most people will be hard-pressed to ever master a skill involving a few other people in the process.

Create a system to track

As John Doerr says in his aptly named book, you Measure What Matters. If you have a goal in mind to push you towards learning a new skill, you need to have some way of tracking your progress if you wish to be successful.

For us, I knew we’d need something that was accessible and easy to update. So I created a google sheet and shared it with my family.

I started by tracking the day we were on and showed the percent of the year we were through. Then I had us list our goals. But this wasn’t enough. We really needed something that would track our everyday pushups.

To solve this issue, I created rows that breakdown each day and each month. With this structure, we just needed to go in and insert our total pushups for that day.

With the structure in place, we started making progress toward our goal. We had the tracking tools that were necessary for us to learn this new skill.

Update

If you do a good job with making a goal, inviting accountability, and creating a system to track your progress, you’ll find yourself in a place of either wanting or needing to make updates to your original goal along the way.

Since January, we’ve gone ahead and added a handful of small quirks to our tracking system.

In February, I started tracking the days each person missed. Before, it was easy to miss a day as there was no real consequence. Now, every 0 you add into the sheet adds up.

In March, we added a max day to the month. That’s what the orange column is in the second photo above. We made it so that the last Saturday of every month was a max day — an opportunity to stretch ourselves beyond our normal abilities.

Over the summer, we added another update by thinking through habit stacks. Now that we had a good rhythm of daily pushups, how could we stack this habit to lead to other habits?

Every good goal pursued over time will need to be modified and updated along the way. If you stay flexible and look for opportunities to continue to grow, you’ll be blown away by all that you can accomplish.

Every new skill you learn has a deep range of possibilities. Once you become a student, you begin to see all of the additional roads of growth and development that were hidden from you at the start. As you seek to master any new skill, make sure you keep a flexible attitude and sharp mind to find those additional layers of depth.

Good days create good growth

George Hood, the man who held a plank for the world-record 8 hours and 15 minutes, said in an interview with BBC that he started planking in 2011 and has probably done over 2100 hours of planking in preparation.

Great goals are never accomplished overnight. They are only ever accomplished by a long string of good days, joined together with accountability and intentionality and tracking.

My dad did his 5,000th pushup on June 22nd. My brother-in-law and I are well over 8,500 so will hit our goal of 10,000 in the next month or so.

I’ve learned that with the right goal-setting and goal-tracking methods, you can set out to master any new skill. Onboarding a new skill isn’t impossible, it’s intentional.

I started this year thinking that doing 10,000 pushups was a daunting challenge. What I’ve come to learn is that the most daunting thing about each of us is our potential. It truly is unlimited if only we can learn to leverage it correctly.

Creative Engineer writing working hypotheses. Husband. Dishwasher. I write what I wish I could have read when I was younger. For more visit jakedaghe.com

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