“The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.” ― Samuel Johnson
Having goals is great, having habits is even better. Goals tend to be temporary, as they imply once the goal is completed you are done. Habits, on the other hand, don’t have this limitation.
Fortunately, goals and habits are related because our goals can support our habits, and we can use habits to support our goals. Before we dive in with too much depth, let’s get a clear understanding of the difference between goals and habits.
One of the most defining characteristics for a goal is that, when done properly, it has an end date. Running a marathon in six months, losing twenty pounds this year, getting straight A’s this quarter are all goals. Having an end date can be perfect in some circumstances. For example, perhaps the goal is saving up enough money for an upcoming vacation or getting out of debt by the end of next month. By having an end date to our goal, sometimes it helps us put in the extra effort because we know that it has an end date, and it isn’t something we are going to be working on forever.
Habits also have their value. Habits tend to be more of a long-term change. It might be going on a walk after work every day, flossing every morning, or spending time reading before bed each night. When we get in the habit of doing something, we tend to do it without a reminder, on a regular basis. Unlike goals, habits tend to happen unintentionally. People don’t tend to try and cultivate the habit of eating unhealthy or surfing the web for hours, it just becomes a habit with repetition.
To reach success, use both habits and goals. For long-lasting results, try using habits and goals so that they support one another. For example, if you want to make running every morning a habit, try making a goal of running a 5K or half marathon in a few months from now. By using the goal as an incentive to get started, you can cultivate the habit. Similarly, by having a habit of running every morning, it will be easier to accomplish your running goal.
Even if you have already started a goal, consider finding a way to make it a habit. If the goal is saving money for an upcoming trip, see if you can still save money after the trip is over. Want to lose twenty pounds for an upcoming event? After completing this goal, try making healthy living a habit.
Similarly, we also want to get rid of bad habits. Let’s say the bad habit you want to get rid of is smoking. Make a goal to stop smoking and give yourself a due date. While working on the goal, make a new healthier habit to replace smoking. For example, when tempted to smoke, leave the cigarettes at home and go for a walk. Habits are stronger when the visual reminder is available, so by leaving the cigarettes at home and going for a walk, you are increasing your chances of stopping the bad habit.
Visual reminders can also help us reinforce good habits. Want to learn how to play the guitar? Leave the guitar within site, and arrange a setup so it’s easy for you to pick up the guitar and start playing. Want to workout more? Pick a gym that’s in a convenient location for you and leave the gym clothes in a visible place rather than hidden in a closet. People like to take the path of least resistance, so when we set up resistance in our favor, we can strengthen the likelihood of reaching our goals and reinforce habits.
Make the transition and create more positive habits in your life. Habits can be tough to implement, but once we do, they pay huge results. When we let good habits become automatic, we are automatically moving closer to success.
***Check out my guest post, Let it Go: What’s Holding You Back?***
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