For most of us, accomplishing our goals means we set a specific and actionable outcome. We set these kinds of goals for classes we take, the businesses we want to build, for the distances we want to run, even for the weight we want to lose.
To make a goal, we say, “I want to lose 8lbs this month,” or “I want to run a half-marathon by July.” These are what you may have been taught are SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.
I thought I would write this blog post to prompt you to think about this form of goal setting from another perspective. When we place so much of our focus on the outcome (i.e. our goal) we tend to come at it from a place of lack. Right? We want to get somewhere because we aren’t there right now, correct?
When we approach a goal like this, we tend to put so much emphasis on it that we feel that we cannot be happy unless we reach that goal. Outcome-based goals often create the mindset of “I’m not good enough right now.”
When you think this way, you are conditioning yourself to think that happiness and success can’t happen until you get to where you want to be. This is pretty darn far from the truth.
Ths process might work for some, but it usually just creates feelings of procrastination and frustration for most of us because we are focusing so much on what we aren’t as opposed to what we are doing to reach our goal.
Believe it or not, there is actually a much more effective way of getting things done and making progress toward the goals that are most important to us.
I’m talking about habits, aka our systems.
Habits & Systems
Habits and systems are basically the same thing. They are the actions we perform daily without really having to think about them. We all have daily habits that we do without even realizing it: brushing our teeth, getting dressed, drinking coffee, listening to a specific radio station or podcast while driving to work, settling down to watch TV before bed, etc.
Establishing habits are a way to move toward your goal in small, daily increments. When you choose to set up a habit that you focus on today and only today, you are able to take small, sustainable steps towards your end goal without placing absolute emphasis on it, and you are also able to celebrate the little things more easily.
Habits are what make things happen, at a pace that is sustainable for you.
I would venture to ask that if you completely forgot about your outcome-based goals and focused exclusively on your habits, would you still get results?
I would say yes. And science shows that you’d be much more likely to reach, as well as keep, those results!
The Keys to Making Habits Stick
The keys to making habits stick are:
- Pick just one habit. Science shows that if we try to take on more than one habit at a time, our likelihood of success dramatically falls. This is why so many of us try to overhaul our diet, drink more water, get more sleep, and workout 5 days a week all at the same time and then fail miserably after two weeks. It just doesn’t work that way. We need to start with one thing.
- Make sure it is something easy and sustainable for you. If it doesn’t come somewhat easy for you, it won’t stick. It needs to be something you can perform consistently every day (or however often you choose to do it).
- Practice it until you are 90% consistent over the course of 30 days or more. This can take weeks, even months or years to perfect. The “21-day habit” idea is a complete myth because there are so many factors that can affect our ability to establish a good habit: our environment, our relationships, our mindset, our life events and circumstances, and much more.