Real Progress Is Slow and Boring, and That’s Okay

If you go to the gym for a workout and look in the mirror afterward, you won’t see any results. If you go to the gym the next day and look in the mirror, you still won’t see any results.

Despite your hard work and sacrifice, there’s no visible progress. Therefore, the strategy must be defective, right?

Image from our good friend Carl Richards of The Behavior Gap

In hindsight, someone who has lost weight or completed a marathon knows this logic is laughable. Physical fitness is the byproduct of slow, incremental progress, not large sweeping changes. And yet, we still have 7-day crash diets, magic pills that “burn fat,” and infomercials about toning your abs in your sleep.

Compare these with consistently exercising five days per week, skipping dessert, and getting eight hours of sleep every day. The latter always outperforms the former.

So why do people fall for the shortcuts?

The human brain is wired to enjoy instant gratification; we struggle at rewiring ourselves to embrace durable new habits. Talking about overnight transformation is sexy. Talking about the quiet power of incremental change is not. This applies to weight loss, learning a language, and of course, building wealth.

A Google search for “make money fast” yields more than 1.5 billion results. The cognitive dissonance here is stunning: It’s crystal-clear that financial freedom correlates with systematic contributions to one’s investment portfolio or retirement account, just as systematic workouts correlate with fitness. Think of the ongoing contributions like an extra monthly car or mortgage payment. Over the long run, it becomes a habit.

Unless actions become habits, tangible results remain a pipe dream.

Imagine asking a wealthy person to define the day he or she gained financial freedom. That’s like asking an Olympic gold medalist to define the day he or she got in shape. It’s a silly question.

Obviously that person is financially free, but we have to take a step back to observe the slow, boring progress that was made over months, years, decades — change so slow they hardly even noticed it happened.

Hill Investment Group