Goals Are Useless Without Habits

Goals can’t accomplish themselves.

I’ve fallen prey to the old cliche that just ‘writing goals down makes you 80% more likely to accomplish them.’

Who does the math on stuff like that? Is there really a researcher that studies goal accomplishment percentages?

All I know is that in my world, writing down goals does not equal accomplishing goals.

The only thing that can actually help me do that is building habits that support the goals. And the only thing that helps me to build habits is to turn a self-discipline-driven practice into a habit.

Habits are habits when we do them without having to hem and haw and argue with ourselves about it.

Habits aren’t habits the first few times you do a thing. Writing 3 mornings in a row in a journal isn’t a journaling habit. It’s a discipline.

When writing every morning happens because you always wake up at the right time, have your journal and pen out, and sit down and write because ‘that’s just what I do’… that’s a habit.

And without certain practices and disciplines becoming habits, goals are extremely difficult to accomplish.

First you have to have clarity on the goal.

Second you have to be decisive on the habit you have to build.

Third you should read Day 11 of my Starting Well Challenge (free) or check out B.J. Fogg’s ‘Tiny Habits’ program (also free) on how to build new, good quality habits that support your goals.

Most of us are stuck in the land of having to muster self-discipline. That’s okay and that’s good and I can fully and totally relate. But if we can turn a thing from a discipline into a habit? Watch out world!

Here are five ideas that can help you start with a discipline or a practice and turn them into a habit (there are a ton of things that will influence these ideas, but they are a good starting point):

  1. Schedule the habit (and show significant others your calendar): We simply don’t do stuff we don’t schedule.
  2. Have a trigger or an ‘anchor’: We all already have habits we do everyday. We get up, turn on the coffee. We shut down the computer at work. We check Facebook after we finish our lunch. Use that thing you do, and add the practice right after it. Hit ‘on’ on your coffee maker, sit down and check your bank balance if building a budgeting habit is important to you. Take your morning tinkle, and put on your running shoes. And so on. You already have habits – just make them work for you.
  3. Prepare your environment: Have the journal out and open. Have your running shoes by the door or your gym bag packed and in the car.
  4. Have a compelling why: Habits need a reason. Our bad habits have reasons (to avoid pain, calm ourselves, escape). Our good habits need reasons to: we love our kids and spouse, we want to have financial freedom, we don’t want to die at 50.
  5. Put your goals/disciplines/habits list where you’ll see them daily: I know this can run the risk of becoming too familiar, but still… put them in a place you can see and you’ll have a 73% better chance of building the habit (I made that percentage up, but you get the point).

Those are my best suggestions for creating goals.

And instilling those goals into your daily life? That’s the best chance you have for accomplishing long term goals.

What works for you?

A great place to start is my Starting Well Challenge. I’m currently rewriting and updating the Challenge into a nice, clear, single pdf document. If you’re not on my email list, sign up here and I’ll make sure you get a copy when it’s done.

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