I’m not a big fan of new years resolutions but I am a huge fan of goal setting. And the new year is as good a time as any to get started! So, if like me, you have big goals for 2020, I want to offer some guidance on how to achieve success this year, and that my friend, is by focusing on your habits, not your goals.
We often overlook our habits as we focus on the results or goals that we want to achieve. We desire instant results and life transformations.
But the reality is, achieving success requires doing the small, seemingly insignificant things (i.e. your habits) which add up to create lasting and meaningful change over the long-term.
What are habits?
Habits are repeated behaviours or thought patterns that occur automatically. They are formed both consciously and subconsciously and can evolve over time.
Habits exist to make our lives easier by helping us to function largely on autopilot. This allows us to conserve our brainpower for more complex, urgent or exciting challenges.
We all have habits that guide our behaviour, whether we recognise them or not. Some are good, some bad and others are neutral. We are often unaware of our habits and the impact they have on our lives.
Habits involve four stages which are: cue, craving, response, and reward. By understanding these stages, we are able to understand our own habit formation and create habits that lead to success.
The big impact of small habits on achieving success
It can be easy to dismiss habits and has too small to make significant change, but as James Clear points out in his book Atomic Habits, the effects of small habits compound over time. He explains that “if you can get just 1 percent better each day, you’ll end up with results that are nearly 37 times better after one year.”
37 times better in one year! Incredible, right?!
Habits are the key to long term success in all areas of life, as they create pathways of achievement through small, consistent actions.
How to create habits to support your success
In order to achieve success, we need to understand why are goals are important to us and focus on the identity we are trying to create, rather than simply identifying what our goal is.
In Atomic Habits, Clear describes this as the identity we have for ourselves. He uses the example that goal may be to run a marathon, but the identity is to be a runner.
By considering our goals in this way, we take a broader perspective on what we are working towards. This makes it easy to recognise behaviours that align with that identity. Some of these behaviours may be big, while others are small, seemingly insignificant actions. For example, a runner may run a marathon, but they will also put on their running shoes every day.
Clear explains that once we articulate the identity we want, we can start to take small actions (like putting on your runners) which ‘casts a votes’ for that identity. By repeating this action every day, we create habits that identify you as a runner. From there, focus on making small improvements to your habits every day (e.g. running 1 minute, then 2, then 5), because consistent, incremental change is what will get the results.
Useful resources to help you achieve success
So, if you want to achieve success in any area of your life, habits are the key. Here are some great resources to help you:
- Atomic Habits by James Clear is well worth the read if you want to commit to creating powerful habits that add up to big results.
- Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a game-changer. I read (or listen) to this book every year without fail and is a must-read for everyone.
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