7 Ways to Use Habits to Reach Your Goals
By: Martina McGowan
We all have dreams we’d like to see come true, and goals we’d like to achieve. One of the keys to reaching any goal, especially if it is a new one, is to put habits in place that support the fulfilment of that goal. If your current habits are not working for you, or are working against you, you will need to change them or run the risk of coming up short and disappointing yourself more than anyone else.
How do habits help us reach our goals?
1. Identify you goal(s).
The first step is to clearly and specifically identify your goal. What is it precisely that I want to achieve, and more importantly, why do I want to do this thing? The question that only we can answer is, “Why is this goal important to me?”
Is the goal achievable? Obviously the answer is yes, or you would have stopped reading already. So, pick a goal and…
2. Write it down.
Writing out our goals helps us to clarify them. It also gives our mind a focal point.
3. Develop supportive habits.
Suppose your goal is to run a marathon. If you don’t already have the habit of running regularly, you’re unlikely to be successful until you can adopt that habit. Running regularly can help you attain your goal in several ways, including getting you into much better physical shape and strengthening your endurance.
Developing supportive habits is much easier than most people think and far more powerful than most can imagine!
4. Identify the Habits You Need.
Before you create new, positive habits, you’ll want to figure out which habits will help you attain your goals. For every goal, there are habits that can practically guarantee success. Reflect on your goals and what real and do-able actions you can take to help bring them about.
How do I choose the right habits? I’m glad you asked.
Look for daily habits. Habits that you can practice each day are much easier to put into place and keep than those that are less frequent.
Keep it simple. The more complex the task, the less likely you are to stick with it. If you really do need to implement a complex habit, start with a simpler version and then add more complexity later. Break the tasks down into simpler steps, and add as you achieve the smaller successes.
Be specific. It’s not enough to just specify what you’re going to do; your written goals should also include the how, when, and where as well. Time is always critical when creating a new habit. Be sure to specify a precise period of time in which you wish to implement the new actions. Set a deadline!
Saying or writing something like, “I’m going to exercise 1 hour per day” is not sufficient. “I’m going to swim from 6-7 am, Monday through Friday at the YMCA” is much more focused. This has enough detail to be quite clear about what you want to accomplish and includes the how, when and where.
5. Prepare for Interference
There are usually obstacles to creating new habits and behavioral patterns. Try to figure out and be prepared for these possibilities ahead of time so you can eliminate them as quickly as possible.
For example, if you’ve decided that you’re going to eat a healthy breakfast every day, get rid of all the breakfast junk food in your pantry and freezer. Give it away. That junk food is an obstacle to successfully implementing your habit. It is a whole lot simpler to reach for something quick then it is to check and prepare the night before. But the something quick is not one of our new habits to support our goals, is it? Back away.
The biggest obstacle for most of us is time interference. Maybe your family doesn’t usually leave you alone for 30 minutes every night so you can meditate, write, read, or whatever it is you want to do towards your goal. Simply let them know ahead of time that you need be undisturbed during this time.
Let the people around you know what you’re trying to accomplish. Enlist their aid. It would be great if you can do it together, but not if they will be a hindrance.
6. Look for Deeper Supporting Habits.
When you have determined which supporting habits will help you reach your goal, consider going even deeper into the details to find habits that will help you accomplish your other new habits.
For example, if one of your new habits is to make it to the gym every morning by 6:00 am, you will need to develop several supporting habits to help you establish this habit, such as:
Get out of bed by 5:15 am.
In order to get up at 5:15 am each day, you might need an additional habit of always being in bed by 10:00 pm.
Another supporting habit might be to pack your gym bag the night before. Get your special workout shoes, weight gloves, written routines, water, lucky towel, and headphones…..whatever it is that makes this new habit work well for you.
These supporting habits are monumentally important. Take time to think about what additional habits you can develop to support your efforts.
7. Enjoy Automatic Success
Once an action becomes a habit, you’ll do it automatically, without having to make the decision to do it each time. In other words, you’ll automatically move forward, day after day, toward achieving your goal until you reach it.
Just as those counter-productive habits can keep us from success, supportive habits can practically guarantee our victory. So reflect carefully on the habits that will best support your goals, put them into action on a daily basis, and enjoy your new success!
What additions would you make to this list?
Martina McGowan ~ Servant, physician (MD, gynecologist), blogger, seminary stud, Momi, Ma’mere, sexual assault victim’s advocate, entrepreneur, listener, ministry, speaker, teacher, leader, occasional haikuist, budding curator and writer.