Habits and goals are most definitely linked, but the main bulk of the air time is dedicated to big goals. Whilst these can provide a burst of motivation and excitement at the start, the truth is that slow and steady wins the race.
Take a moment to think of the swathes of people who set lofty New Years Resolutions and gave up in mid February or March. Compare this to those people who developed small and sustainable habits and still have them embedded in their routines mid way through the calendar – and may even have the energy to add more. This is the power of slow and steady.
Francesc Miralles and Hector Garcia note in their book Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, that the communities of the world with the longest lifespan have a number of things in common. Some of which are:
The authors noted that when travelling across these Japanese islands, many buildings such as temples and community centres were in need of repair. The locals explained that buildings are not built to last because these did not matter as much as behaviours – the rituals and traditions that people enact on a daily basis. The focus of their culture is on personal discipline and ensuring that each day is spent doing ‘the right things’ for a good life.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Will Durant
There are a lot of experts out there professing THE morning habits of high performers as if there is an exact set of rules for a successful life. Whilst there is usually some usefulness in the suggestions, it is far more valuable to start by defining what success means to you and developing your own habit pattern.
Start by asking yourself what kind of person you want to be?
Happy, motivated, kind, wealthy, muscular, knowledgeable?
Then ask the follow up question: What things would a _____ person do every day?
Perhaps a happy person spends time on their hobbies
Maybe a motivated person does visualisations
A knowledgeable person could read a chapter a day
You can take this further and imagine a future version of yourself who embodies all of these qualities that you wish to be. How do you spend your whole day in order to live out these qualities? What routines help you to maintain your identity?
Answering these reflective questions can help you to identify the changes that you would like to make in order to bridge who you are now and your future self.
Disclaimer! You may notice LOTS of things that you want to change in order to reach your future self. This can lead to over-stretching and losing motivation. Even if you noticed a number of changes that you want to make, just focus on one for now.
Quite often a goal is an end point – the result that we are aiming for and directing our hard work towards… such as your future self. It is important to set healthy, motivating and achievable goals. However, goals are only half of the story because they do not set out the regular behaviours which will help you to get there…
That’s where habits come in.
Take for example the goal ‘to be fit enough to run a 10K charity fundraiser in 3 months time’. (This is much better than the vague goal ‘Be fitter’). The goal states the what.
Many people will work towards a goal like this by going out for a run ‘when they can’ to slowly build up their fitness. This can feel like a positive move that gives flexibility and choice… but it can also lead to a lack of commitment and challenges in motivation.
Now let’s imagine that someone working towards the 10K goal also decided what their habit would be on top of that: “I’m going to take a 30 min run four times a week straight after work.”
This states how the individual commits to behaving on a regular basis in order to reach their goal and, as the habit becomes more established, they can increase their commitment.
Creating new habits takes time and motivation so the main task is to ensure that your habit will be sustainable to last and eventually become an automatic part of your day.
A range of different studies have suggested that habits take between 14-60 days to form. After that point the behaviour becomes embedded, automatic and takes less energy and motivation. The massive advantage of this is that the spare energy can be used to:
This means that people who focus on habits make consistent improvements everyday which lay out an easy path for them to meet their goals and become their ideal selves.
If you want to understand your professional or personal habits to get more out of your day, The Self Leadership Initiative provides bespoke training and coaching services. Get in touch today to find out how positive habits could help you have a bigger impact in the world.