We all know the power of habits. In addition, if you want to achieve a goal, you need to set that goal first, right? However, by my research, we tend to neglect the power of both forming habits and setting goals. Thus, we’re left stagnant and miles from reaching our full potential in life.
What exactly does a habit do? In discussions with psychologists, the art of habituation enables a person to resist temptation and keep his stock of willpower. See, willpower is a finite source that slowly diminishes throughout the day. Example: someone brings a platter full of your favorite cookies, brownies, and ice cream to work. It’s probably someone’s birthday if I had to guess. Anyhow, you may be able to resist for the first 6 hours of the workday, but by the end of the day, those treats have been wreaking havoc on your subconscious. You finally indulge and 8 cookies later you dive deep into a pool of dopamine – reward time!
This resisting of temptation that habits allow can be applied across the board: setting a habit of waking at the same time each day (resisting the urge to hit the snooze), exercising regularly (resisting the urge to be lazy), reading and studying (resisting the urge remain stagnant), etc.
Habits, unfortunately, aren’t always healthy, are they? Just to name a few: cursing, my caffeine addiction, gluttony, smoking, drinking, texting and driving, and my personal favorite of eating Whataburger every time you receive a paycheck. All things in moderation of course, but we must be careful. Habits can be created both intentionally and unintentionally.
Step one for creating a noteworthy (good) habit: write it down! The process of actually carving out the time and mental energy to write something down is potent and frankly, becoming a thing of the past. This allows you to keep whatever act you wish to accomplish in the forefront of your conscious.
Thus, when you know it’s Katie’s birthday at work, and they’re catering kolaches, muffins, sodas, and donuts, write down that morning “I will show self-discipline and only eat 1 donut today.” (If you’re a real go-getter than say half or zero, but I probably wouldn’t be that strong!)
What happens at that moment when you reach the platter of Diabetes? The decision has already been made for you. No debating back and forth with yourself. No heckling. No subconscious battle that wears out your willpower. Your decision when you showed up was to eat 1 donut. So you can grab your donut, savor it, show Katie how much you appreciate her being born, and escape with your willpower and blood sugar still in check.
Oddly enough, how do goals ever get accomplished? What do you have to do?
WRITE THEM DOWN!
See you’re smarter than you give yourself credit for. This works in the same manner as creating a habit: stores your goals in the center of your conscious and subconscious levels. Now you’ll be working towards that goal throughout the day because it is literally on your mind!
Example: I need to save money and quit living beyond my means. If a friend asks to golf (a cheap green fee of $50), I’d politely decline. Why? Because I have written down “spend less than you make today.” (Note: I didn’t make 50 dollars today) So again, when the friend asks, it would be an automatic “No” for me, right? No thinking, no heckling, no debating. Willpower is still intact.
This may be a section for another post, but to complete the discussion on habits, once formed they become a 4-lane superhighway in your cortex. The road is paved, easy to travel, and your neurons know it well. This is precisely why we need to be mindful of the habits we create. The 4-lane superhighway, just as in real life, can be a danger zone and even death trap. Once a habit or act is quit altogether, the road begins to be covered by natural vegetation, but the path is always there.1
Now that the foundation is laid, we can get to the meat of what I want to share with you today. I have begun to interweave these processes of goal-setting and creating habits by writing them down! This can also be referred to as journaling.
Now, there are a million and one ways to journal, and I’ve tried a few. I want to walk you through what has helped me lay off the snooze, achieve goals, and live a more productive life.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday
- Heavy Lifting days:
- Long-term Goals
- Daily Goals
- Reminders and Affirmation
There is no set number for any of these, it can be 1-3 all the way to 10. I do believe simple is better, however. Try to be varied, but stay honest. If you want to be thankful for your wife every day, that’s great, but you can also be thankful for the ability to read and write as you are now. Be creative. Thankfulness places you in the right mindset to avoid sin and temptation, as well as be open to the opportunities today will bring you.
Long-term goals will be anything 3 months out or more; business, personal life, social life, etc. Some examples would be “Be a millionaire by age 28,” or “Have 100 cups of coffee with 100 different people in 12 months.”
Today’s goals need to be no more than 3, very specific items. This allows for minimal distraction, leeway, and arranges your goals for a maximum success rate. More than 3 specific things to do in a day can become stressful and tax both mind and body. Please avoid.
The question of reminding is synonymous with affirmation. What is something, that if the Heavens opened up right now, that would give you the most confidence in the word, that would turn your day around, that would break the slump in your life – what would it be? This is something that gives you the courage and tenacity to chase after those dreams and goals you have placed above.
This section is the meat and bones of your journal. It sets up the rest of the week for inflection.
- Long-term Reflection:
- Long-term obstacles
- Daily Goals
It is great that you’re now setting goals. You’re well on your way. Let’s dive deeper into those long-term goals. Think of why it is you actually want those goals. If you had all the money and talent in the world, could you achieve them? Or is there something else holding you back? Like fear or complacency? It’s time to face the beast head-on.
The first step in facing your fear is to write it down, and then step back and laugh at it! In all seriousness, write it down and examine what is truly holding you back from starting that business, shedding that weight, or reaching 100 cups of coffee with 100 different people.
- Long-term Fix:
- Long-term goal achievement plan
- Daily Goals
Now that your beast has a name and a face, it’s time to set a battle plan. What are you actually going to do to best the beast? Sit down, think it through, and come up with a game plan that will allow you to reach 100 cups of coffee in 12 months.
Who are the first 20 people you can ask? What are some diet plans and exercise routines that will allow you to achieve the body you want? Start forming your actual business plan for the business of your future. Work on how to become a millionaire by 28. Everyone would want that right?
And if you don’t hit your goal, I guarantee you will be closer than the person who doesn’t write it down and doesn’t come up with a plan.
- Short-term Achievement:
- Daily Achievement Percentage for the week
- Reasons for failure
- Or reasons for success
You now have those long-term wheels churning, and it’s time to see how well-oiled your daily goal vehicle is running.
I want you to take an actual percentage. Say you set 14 goals for the day and completed 12. You would have a percentage of ~ 86%. This provides a real number to compare week to week.
Look at each failed goal. Why did you fail? Was it that specific day, or is there something greater at play?
For example, I want to obtain my Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist certification. I set a goal on Wednesday to spend at least some effort studying for the exam. When it came time to study, I didn’t have the motivation in me. I realized the test seemed so distant (I had not booked a test date) and I lacked a formalized study plan. This process of thinking things through allowed me to visualize the reason for my failure, and attack it.
- Short-term Changes and Implementation:
- This is where you will actually work through those solutions you came up with on Saturday to avoid failure this coming week
- If you did not fail, feel free to journal whatever is on your mind! You earned it.
Lastly, just as you did on Friday for long-term goals, we’re going to give breath and action to improve your daily achievement percentage. Here is where the concrete is paved. What do your solutions look like?
If you want to read more, and on Saturday you stated I just don’t have the time or energy. Well, today you come up with 2 times per week where you can dedicate 30 minutes to reading. There’s the time. And the mental energy and motivation are now gone from the equation because you already made the decision to read on Sunday and Wednesday nights at 9:00 pm.
In the above example for myself, I went through and created a study plan and wrote down a date that I would have the certification. Action breeds action. Movement creates momentum.
Prescription: Repeat this process for one week out of the month. The other 3 weeks, use only the “Heavy Lifting” template for EVERY DAY of the week.
I know that is a lengthy and thorough explanation of a simple process. It literally takes no more than 5-10 minutes of my time and less than one journal page. View the entire outline and prescription HERE.
This is just a template that has made my weeks and days much more productive. With the goals in my mind, I have created habits that keep me free from trouble and temptation which has plagued me in the past.
It’s my hope this helps you in some small way. Even if you’re not the journaling type, take the time to think about your goals, write them down on a sticky note, and remind yourself of them daily. I think you’ll be amazed. And remember me when you’re a millionaire and only 28 years old.
- Dr. Roger Hall, CompassConsultation