Why habits are more important than goals

Jan 16, 2021

There is a pervasive idea that setting & writing down your goals will set you on the path to achieve your best life.

The self help movement has perpetuated the idea that if you manifest hard enough, anything is possible.

That by writing our goals down (and even better, making them SMART) we will achieve everything we want in life.

How many new year resolutions have you made, only to forget them by the end of January? Human beings are pretty good at over promising & under delivering. We also have a weird concept of time. Most things take far longer to achieve than we think. Big goals need time to come to fruition. Time & consistent effort.

When we focus on the goal, rather than the habitual actions we need to take toward making the goal a reality, it’s not surprising we struggle to achieve them.

All goals need first steps. One small step you will make today that will point you in the direction you want to go. In other words, ACTION.

The smaller & more specific (there’s that SMART again) you can make your goal, the more chance you have of achieving it.

For example, a goal such as “I want to lose 5kg” means nothing and only makes you feel a vague sense of guilt if you don’t set specific actions with it. These might include things like “I’ll set my alarm 30 minutes earlier and go to the gym before work.” “I won’t drink alcohol during the week.” “I’ll make my lunch every day so I won’t be tempted to grab fast food at 2pm when I’m hangry.” You get the picture.

When you have a big goal, start by setting one action you can take immediately. When that action becomes a habit you move onto the next action. One step at a time. Make those steps as simple to achieve as possible. Commit to them. Record your progress. Tell other people what you’re doing, that way you have support & accountability. Small, daily habits are the key.

And a final word on SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound). I’ve always found this a bit yawn worthy. Simply setting a SMART goal has never been enough for me to see a goal through, even with daily habits.

Your goal should also excite you & there should be a reward for having achieved it. Get clear on what that is. It will help you stay the course when the going gets tough. Achieving our goals might not be easy, but it should definitely be rewarding.

Goal setting is about taking control of your life. Positive change happens when you take action & responsibility for yourself.

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