Habit + Goals = Super Charged Success
In my earlier article “ritual de lo habitual” (if you know what that title refers to you are officially middle aged) I talked about using habit as a tool for evolution. On its own habit is a powerful tool but when I align my habits to a framework of goals/ tasks I super charge my success. I have found this especially effective when it comes to learning new skills but I have applied it to physical tasks as well (for example, buying a house)
The framework I use is very simple, another tool I borrowed from the corporate world. My dreams are high level goals, these are long term tasks or objectives I want to achieve. For example, learning web design, starting my own business, yoga, improving my jiu-jitsu, etc. These lofty aspirations take at least a year.
I sub-divide them into mid-term goals. These always link back to a high level goal and take anything from one month to a year. For example, when I started learning web-design one of my mid-term goals was to complete free code camp’s html course inside of 2 months. For yoga it was a little trickier, my mid-term goal was to touch my toes with no knee bend (that is still a work in progress).
Lastly, I break my mid-term goals down into short term goals. These take anything from a week to a month. This is mostly where I start pairing things up with “ritualised habits” For example, to improve my yoga I need to put the time in, my short term goal might be to practice yoga every morning for at least ten minutes or to follow a practice video on YouTube to change things up. The habit I try to put in place is to do at least ten minutes yoga a day. I make it conditional, I do it as soon as I get up, even if I get up late yoga gets done.
For web design, the habit is slightly different. I commit to doing twenty minutes of the free code camp course on my lunch break on the days I am not going to the gym.
The last piece of the puzzle is accountability. I have to hold myself accountable or I will not achieve as much as I aim to. How I accountable I hold myself depends on how much “I want it” its good to be determined, to go all in and hit knock off these goals. Sometimes though I find that as I “speed up” I begin to miss the process of learning. This is the knife edge of being a driven person, too much push and I miss the process of learning, I am not present in it and worse than that I could burn myself out. Too little drive and I become despondent, disengaged and don’t achieve what I set out to achieve.
Coming back to accountability, there are different methods for this. Some people like to “out” themselves on social media. I have done this myself with HIIT workouts, it isn’t the best tool for me but I have seen others get great results with it. My personal favourite is the order and structure of lists. The problem is that lists tend to be in your phone, on a notepad i.e. out of sight; if I don’t see it regularly it is easy to conveniently forget about the ones I don’t want to do.
To get around this I use our blackboard wall. My wife suggested we convert a feature wall in our living room to a blackboard space. This works really well for us both, to do lists, motivational phrases, reminders, random thoughts we write them on the wall. It being the focal point of our living room means that I see it all the time, if im on the sofa zoning out, that wall is in the corner of my eye. Each night before I go to bed, I write my list of tasks/ goals for the next day. I cross them off as I achieve them which is very, very satisfying.
I am not suggesting you rush out and buy a tin of blackboard paint and create a wall in your living room. What I am suggesting is that you have to make yourself accountable for your goals and the best way to do that is to list them where you see them often.
Why does this method work so well?
When I sat down to write this article I began to mull over why this method worked (for me at least). I wanted to share it on the blog, I know it is not new, it is not ground breaking but it does work. Aristotle wrote “we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not act but habit” so like I said, this isn’t a new method I have discovered.
Structure is one answer to this. Taking a dream, analysing it and breaking it down into component tasks. Asking what it will take to get there? How do I make this happen? Laying out all that is in my head in a logical plan lets me see the path. One phrase I love is “if I can see it in my mind, I can hold it in my hand” Once I can see the path, I can understand it and I can do it.
The framework of goals allows me to focus on smaller tasks contributing to the overall task. I do not get overwhelmed by the scale of what I am trying to achieve and I do get a regular sense of achievement through daily tasks.
By making parts of my dreams habits and holding myself accountable for them, I guarantee repetition. As Arnie says “reps, reps, reps”. The Jiu-jitsu equivalent is “a journey of a thousand taps” (I am not sure who said that one).
To summarize, I think there are four fundamentals that make these tools work:
Clarity: a clear structured vision of what it is I want to achieve and why I want to achieve it
Focus: how I am going to achieve my vision, what I need to do to get there and when I am going to do it
Accountability: making sure I get done what I need to, when it needs to
Frequency: practice, experiential learning through repetition