Creating Habits to Reach Goals
Creating habits to reach goals is something that is always on my mind at this time of year. Lately, I have been focusing on how I can become the best version of myself. To do this I focused on creating habits to reach my goals. I have been focusing on forming the right habits and they have been a huge part of my success. Rather it being getting out of debit, becoming healthier, or developing myself professionally . Habit formation has been a big part of the process to attaining my goals. Most of the information I can not recall where I got it from. However, Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg is a great place to start. Below is how I started, created, and maintained my new habits.
Starting new Habits
Before I create my habits there needs to be a reason a.k.a. goal. For me the goals that I have are getting out of credit card debit and getting healthy. These goals were created by assessing where I was and where I wanted to go. Once, I had an idea of where I wanted to go I began researching how to accomplished my goals. My research included:
- Online research
- Talking with friends who have experiences within the goals I wanted to achieve
- seeking experts assistance
Each part of my research its has pros and cons that I plan on writing about later. However, the sum of the parts reveal the road map to reach my goals. One lesson that I have learned is to evaluate everything for yourself. What I mean by this is to ask yourself is the information provided going to best serve your goals. If so then move on to creating your goals.
Creating Habits for the Goals
Creating habits that reach my goals are probably the funnest part of the process. I really enjoy the idea that I am able to push myself and improve in any area of my life. I also enjoy trying something new and finding the most effective way for me. At this point motivation is high, but it won’t last. Part of creating a habit is to get it to last even when your motivation does not. I will cover how to maintain your habit further down.
To create a new habit what I found to work for me is the following.
From your research clearly state your goal. There are a number of posts about using S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound) format to define your goals. What I have found to work is to begin with the end of mind. This is taken from Stephen Coveys, “7 habits of Highly Effective People”. In his book he states, “have a clear vision of where you want to go, and work yourself back to attain that vision.” Also, in Daniel Gold’s TED Talk he talks about how to make decisions for your future self will help make better decisions for your future self. Both Covey and Gold speak about creating a strong vision for yourself. For me, having a strong vision creates motivation and a realistic goal to aim for.
Once, I have my end goal in mind I will think about the process that will get me there. This is where creating a habit for goal happens. I look at creating a habit instead of the goal a road map to where I want to go. I have the vision in my head in what I want to do/become, and the habits I form will get me there. I have heard a number of quotes on this subject but my favorite one is
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” - Aristotle
The process is something that will come from the research I have done. I look for patterns of people who have successful accomplished my desired goal. For example, if I want to be debit free I need to have a budget and build a emergency fund. Or, if I want to be healthy I need to workout and eat right.
Once, you know what your process will be write it down and post it where you will see if everyday. I personally like the bathroom mirror. It is one of the first things I look at the start of everyday and the last thing before I go to bed. I usually write down what my end vision is and the habit(s) I will do to get there. So, for getting out of debit by habit is to use my budget daily. To get healthy my habits are work-out 4 out 7 days a week and eat 500 calories less than I require. By looking at my vision and habits twice a day created a reminder of what I want to accomplish.
Use a cue or trigger of something you all ready do to start with this habit. By using a habit I all ready do well create an environment where I am more likely to start my new habit. For example, my goal of getting out of debit I created a budget. Part of my budget is knowing where my money is going. For this I use every dollar budget tool by Dave Ramsey. My trigger is every time I pull out my debit card I enter the total I just spent and what category to take it out of my budget. (I will write about this process at a later time.) The main point here is:
spending money (trigger) = enter information into budget (new habit)
Another example, is I want to be healthier. In order, to lose weight healthy I have been counting my calories. I use myfitnesspal to help me track my daily caloric and tracking my goal. (I will explain how I use counting calories to achieve my goal a different time.) But again:
eating or drinking (trigger) = entering information into app (new habit)
“How do you eat an elephant take one bite at a time” said, Creighton Abrams when describing how to break down difficult tasks. When creating a habit start small. When I first started going to the gym my “win” was going to the gym. I would maybe walk on a treadmill and lift weights for a total of 20 minutes. Regardless, it was a win and it built momentum. As I grew confident my bites grew bigger. To the point where I go 4 out of 7 days a week for a hour. My habits grew bigger with time and part of the process is accepting it.
I forget where I first heard of the Seinfeld Rule. The rule is to never miss two days in a row of your target behavior. The rule was created when Jerry Seinfeld was writing material for his stand up act. Another example, is when I first started to work out my goal was going to the gym for 30-45 minutes 4 days a week. I drew a monthly calendar on my bathroom mirror and when I went I put an X on that day. If I missed a day the next day I was mindful about going to the gym. This rule creates a natural buffer from giving up. This rule has been one of the most powerful points in starting and maintaining behavior.
Maintaining the Habits
At this point of the process a habits are formed and I am giving myself a pat on the back!! The habit does not take a lot of effort to execute and I see how it will help me reach my goals. However, at this point I have learned the importance to celebrate, to forgive myself, re-evaluate.
I love a good win! Regardless, if it is my favorite team winning (GO BRONCOS!!) or accomplishing a goal. Winning feels good and it needs to be celebrated. What works for me is to be mindful of my new habits and recognize when I accomplish what I do. As I do the habit more and more my recognition decreases over time. However, I draw from my experience of building previous habits to be successful. Also, I set up other rewards. Such as, at night when I get done with dinner I usually have a mess in the kitchen to clean up. I am building the habit to have a clean kitchen. I will clean the kitchen and only then will I be able watch TV.
I do not accomplish all my goals and the habits I want to. There have been times that I would get down on myself. I have learned to forgive myself. That it is ok not to accomplish everything. The biggest lesson I have taken away is to learn why I did not accomplish it and not repeat it.
As I re-vist goals and habits that I do and do not accomplish I see how I can improve on them. I look at why or why not I accomplished my goals, how I can apply what I learned, and if need be start at the beginning of creating my goals and habits.
When creating habits to reach goals is a process. However, the pay off of creating habits allows me to free up my attention band width to other goals. Also, creating habits to reach goals moves me forward to be a better person. Through the process of starting, creating, and maintain my habits I have found success creating habits to reach my goals. It is my hope you find something to help you in reaching yours.
How do you start, create, and maintain habits that help you reach your goals?