By March, about two-thirds of people will have abandoned their New Year’s resolution. Resolutions are tricky things – they often require an investment of time, money, or social capital; and it’s easy to make them too strict (i.e., “I’ll bike every day this year”) or hard to measure (a resolution to “bike more this year” means different things to everyone involved). Plus, we tend to approach resolutions with an all-or-nothing perspective.
With that said, our mentality is a key component to achieving our goals. Goals, by definition, aren’t guaranteed to work out. We all have different methods for dealing with this uncertainty. Some avoid it. Some of us attempt to plan out every detail to leave nothing to chance. Others watch and wait for a guarantee of success before starting. How can we make it easier to start something new?
What is the minimum action that gets you started?
In programming, there is a concept called a “minimal viable product,” or MVP. Developers build a product with just its core features and nothing more, then send it out to a core subset of consumers. This helps developers determine whether or not there is enough interest to justify fully building a product without putting in the hours to build it first.
When we look to make changes in our lives, there’s a lot to be said for the “minimal viable product”. It can be the difference between gauging an interest in biking by buying a road bike, the clip-in shoes, and state-of-the-art equipment, or buying a “good enough” bike secondhand to take out for a spin a few times a week.
We may want that end product. We have the vision in our heads of biking beautiful roads up and down mountains. But ultimately, we don’t know if that reality is sustainable or even interesting. At the same time, we don’t want to remain locked up in fear that our interests won’t pan out.
The middle point is the MVP. What is the minimum action that gets you started? Once you start, then you can collect data points on what worked, what didn’t work, what you liked, and what was painful. As time progresses, one of two outcomes will emerge. One, you will “fail fast” – at which point you will have lost very little in terms of time and money and learned a few lessons. Two, you’ll continue with the process and figure out what you actually need to invest to help change stick. Maybe you don’t need to upgrade your road bike immediately, but you do need a good visor to keep pesky bugs out of your eyes. You won’t know until you MVP!