Building Lasting Habits Towards Meaningful Goals
We are good at setting goals. Goals provide us with direction and even push us forward in the first instance.
But your life, including your progress towards any given goal, is created by the habits you practice.
Habits are the decisions we make and small actions we take every single day. When you learn to transform your habits, you can transform your life.
Identify your values to connect to your goals
Goals are what you want to achieve. Values reflect how you want to get there.
We’ve all heard of values, and you might already have clarified what yours are. But often people have goals and people have values, but people seldom have values-based goals.
If your goals don’t align with your values - what is truly meaningful to you - then whose goals are they?
When your goals, and the habits and behaviours you use to reach them, unite with your values, you’ll be living life by the standards you set for yourself. How you want to be in the world.
You’ll feel fulfilled by living your life by your values, satisfied by how you went about achieving your goals, and even when you don’t achieve them you’ll feel fulfilled by the process of trying.
If you’d like a little help in clarifying what your current values are, I’d highly recommend giving this activity a go.
Build your new identity
You know what your goal is, and you know what your values are. Now it’s time to become the person who works towards their goals, living by their values, believing they are the person who can.
The same way your life right now is created by your current habits, your current habits are a reflection of your current identity. Who you believe you are.
We almost always centre our goals around outcomes. A weight, a speed, a distance. But what if rather than focusing on what we want to achieve, we focus on who we want to become?
Every action you take, every habit you practice, is a tick in the box for the type of person you are. To become a healthy eater, you'll want to make mostly healthy meals. To become an active person or even an athlete, go out for that run or turn up for that training session.
To reinforce the new identity you are trying to build, it is essential to repeat the associated behaviours. When the actions in favour of the new you, however big or small, outweigh the actions that support the old you, the desired outcomes will follow.
When embarking on building new habits or chipping away at a new goal, people are often incredibly motivated and focused. But it is easy to fall victim to changing habits radically and all at once. While it’s good to aim high, this can lead to running out of steam pretty quickly. There is another way.
You can probably recall times when your motivation seemed infinite and other times it felt non-existent. This is a normal pattern of motivation, which is why it’s not a reliable companion to building sustainable habits that support progress towards your goals.
The most effective way to change your habits without relying on motivation is to pick a habit so small that you don’t need motivation at all to make it happen. You’ll notice Greg discusses the concept of not ‘biting off more than you can chew’ in the free Resilient Nutrition e-book available here.
It’s easy to underestimate the value of making small daily improvements. While they might not always seem impressive to you, the accumulation of small changes over time can result in phenomenal outcomes.
On day one the difference between making a small improvement or not, voting for the new you or the old, might barely be noticeable. But in time the difference will be evident between those who make small improvements every day compared to those who make no change at all.
When people achieve their goals or make a significant change, their success is rarely down to an isolated event but instead the outcome of all of those days they chose to make small changes.
Focus on regularly doing things well rather than occasionally doing things perfectly
Anybody can choose to eat entirely homemade, fresh, nourishing food for one or two days and revert to old habits of eating convenience and junk the rest of the time. They are all in, or all out.
While their changes may seem impressive, their progress towards their goals and building a new identity will be slow compared with someone who eats nourishing food more often than not, week in, week out.
Comparing these two approaches, over one month the difference in progress is likely to be small but significant. After one year, however, the difference is bound to be much bigger.
Finally, while today might not feel like the ideal time to start building your new identity, if you are following the guidance in this blog and are working on enacting small new habits, there’s no reason not to begin immediately.
Pick your goal.
Choose the identity of the person you will become to get you there.
Select a small behaviour every day that votes for that identity and get to work.
It’s not about 100% perfection. It’s about showing up, starting small, putting in consistent work, learning from your mistakes, and enjoying the process.
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”
- Henry Ford.