Should we focus on achieving goals – or developing habits?

With my constant focus on the importance of goal setting, this question may sound sacrilegious. It isn’t.

The simple answer is that BOTH are important, because habits help you achieve goals.

Why and how?

A habit is something you do consistently, such that you don’t even think about it – for example brushing when we wake up, or flossing regularly, or getting dressed for work, or wishing loved ones, etc.

So if you take every goal that you have and can convert the action related to it into a habit or ritual, then you have fewer goals on which to focus, and you let the power of habits help you continue achieving your goals.

Let me illustrate with an example. Let’s say you have goals related to work/career; relationships; health; spiritual practice; and making a contribution.

For some goals like health and spiritual practice, break your goal down into its component parts. For example, for your health goal, some key elements may be adequate sleep, healthy nutrition and regular exercise.

Take one goal at a time, schedule each of these components into your calendar, and start becoming consistent at this one component. Do this over 30 days, journal about it, and have an accountability buddy to help you stay on track. Celebrate your achievement. Spend the next month mastering this habit. Celebrate!

Then move onto the next habit and repeat for another 30 days. Soon, this goal becomes something you will be achieving without even thinking about it, like your other habits.

While this may sound like a slow process (compared to the normal 21-days-to-form-a-habit advice you’ll usually get), I find it takes much longer to break old habits, and to form new ones. So patience reigns supreme.

It’s been very difficult for me to muster this patience, and I do slip up and fall once in a while, but by persisting, I’ve certainly been able to put many goals on auto-pilot achievement through developing habits for my business and personal life. And when I study successful, balanced, happy people, I find that most of them are creatures of habit.

What about other areas of your life like career and work, relationships, etc.? It might not be possible to convert all aspects of your goals into habits, but even if you can covert some aspects, that would make it so much easier to achieve your goals.

At the start of each month, review progress on your formation of new habits and take corrective action where needed.

That’s it.

To recap:

  1. Have clear measurable goals.
  2. Break your goals into a few key components.
  3. Schedule this goal component into your calendar.
  4. Implement consistently over 30 days. Celebrate. Master your new habit over the next 30 days. Celebrate.
  5. Review monthly, take corrective action.
  6. Start the process over with your next goal.