Achieving our goals usually means doing something repeatedly, or stopping an action that we do repeatedly. Or, as we usually say, developing a habit.
Most goals we have require stopping, starting or changing a habit, but sometimes it's hard to decide what is the right habit to pick or stop?
For the sake of completion, I'll define a habit as “a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.”
For example, if you want to run a marathon, you have to start a habit of running consistently, slowly increasing the amount of time and distance you run. Alternatively, if you want to stop smoking, you have a number of techniques that you can use, such as stopping the habit immediately, tapering down your smoking habit over time, or changing to vaping habit.
Sometimes it’s obvious - if we want to stop smoking, it’s pretty clear what needs to stop. But what if we want to start learning a new language - should we start listening to radio shows in that language, attend a class, or buy a language book that we’ll read daily/weekly/monthly? All of the above? Something else?
We’ve spoken previously about prioritising your goals so that they’re achievable, where breaking down your goals into smaller and more digestible chunks makes you more likely to succeed with them.
So ask yourself some of the following questions, once you’ve identified a goal that you’d like to achieve:
- Think about similar goals that you’ve achieved in the past: why did you succeed and what could you apply to this new situation?
- Reflect on some times where you didn’t succeed: why not? What can you learn from those situations? Perhaps you were too busy? Or you took on too big a challenge?
- Think about the goal itself - have you a realistic idea of what’s required to achieve the goal? What barriers may occur and have you a plan to overcome them?
- Do I know someone who’s done this before? What were their experiences like? It may not directly apply to your situation but it’s always good to talk to or read about someone who’s done it before and learn from their experience.
- Is there something I really like (or really hate) that I should keep in mind when planning this goal? For example, you might find it easier to exercise as part of a class instead of on your own, or you hate waking up early, which means not signing up for the early morning yoga class!
This isn’t and shouldn’t be a particularly involved activity; the idea is that you’ll quickly be able to pick a habit to start, stop or change that’s more suited both to the goal you want to achieve and you as a person. Additionally, you may find that you can incorporate existing habits into your goal, further increasing the chances of success!
For those who want a tool to help them with their habit tracking, I've created a habit tracker (Printable PDF) that asks exactly these questions and makes it easy to track and plan your habits. Check it out here!