What drives behaviour? Why is personal change so hard? When you are in a leadership position and you spend some time considering why it's so hard to change and mold other people's behaviour -- consider for a second how hard it is to change your own. The more I think about this type of thing the more clear it becomes that it is not "set better goals" or "work harder," the keys are in the inputs which drive better outputs. The keys are in the preparation and the last step before your present one.
A virtuous circle is defined as, "a chain of events in which one desirable occurrence leads to another which further promotes the first occurrence and so on resulting in a continuous process of improvement." If this isn't what we should be striving for I don't know what is. It includes elements of compounding, think Jim Collins' Flywheel philosophy, multiplier effects, and snowballs into bigger and better outcomes. Contrast this with a vicious circle, described as, "a chain of events in which the response to one difficulty creates a new problem that aggravates the original difficulty." Stark contrast, both with the ability to take you up or down with equal speed - maybe.....I would argue a vicious circle can be faster as success is gained through time, perseverance and grinding. There is no reality-based notion of an overnight success, and as the Stoic philosopher Epictetus puts it, “No great thing is created suddenly.”
Examples are needed to hash some of this out and all is context dependent but readers could apply the framework to their scenario and follow examples through both virtuous and vicious circles. On a personal level going through one's day we could easily get to both sides of this coin.
Poor sleep, leads to tired and moody, leads to putting off a workout, leads to feeling bad about yourself for putting off the workout, leads to eating with little discipline and a touch of self-sabotage, leads to poor communication with your partner, leads to self-loathing - leads to worse sleep and so on and so forth. My argument of circles and feedback loops is that if you had of taken the first input, sleep, and got that down it would have given you a much better chance of improving every next step and ultimately your whole day (which obviously can multiply into your whole life).
Taking the positive side - You get your 8hrs sleep, you wake up feeling better, workout before you eat, go straight to the shower, you are way more inclined to commit to that cold shower, you feel 2 or 3 levels of accomplishment and it's still morning. If you slept, and worked out, you are far more likely to commit to eating something healthy, your mood, energy, and focus are all better, your communication is better, your creativity and professional output is much better, you have no self-sabotage going on and are motivated to keep it going the next day. This is not from better goals, this as James Clear, author of Atomic Habits would say is from optimizing the system. Set yourself up to succeed so that you can succeed, the key there is you are setting the table, the preparation and commitment to each step is there. The tricky part is in the planning phase, you have to have a will and a desire to PLAN to move yourself (or your employees, team, family, etc) forward. Discipline = Freedom, as former Navy Seal and always badass Jocko Willink famously says.
The good news in thinking in terms of the virtuous circle is that the force of will can take you back onto the path even if other elements weren't ideal. If you got 5 hours of sleep, you can force yourself to workout and eat healthy and help improve the rest of your day. However, is that sustainable? Again, the key is to play the long-game. Success, self-improvement, professional growth, takes time. The people that stay consistent, WIN. Period.
I will close with again stating the definition of a virtuous circle. When I read this I find it exciting, motivating, and a great underlying foundation in getting yourself on the path!
A virtuous circle is,
"a chain of events in which one desirable occurrence leads to another which further promotes the first occurrence and so on resulting in a continuous process of improvement."
----sounds pretty good to me!!
Coach Matt - Father, Coach, Life Long Learner, Basketball Addict