Creating and changing your habits is hard.
If it were easy, we would all floss our teeth daily, eat healthy foods, quit smoking, exercise faithfully, have wildly successful businesses, and so on. Even when you’re highly motivated, mustering the self-discipline to take the small, consistent actions required to form a lasting habit (or break a bad one!) can be challenging.
As F. M. Alexander said, “People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.”
Think about this. Most people choose the wrong habits.
They create short-term habits to achieve a short-term goal. For every new goal, they have to create different habits. The result is a series of short-lived bursts of activity, rather than sustainable long-lasting habits.
Short-term habits aren’t really habits at all, but rather tasks done for a short time in pursuit of a specific outcome. Once the outcome is achieved, the behavior stops. The behavior hasn’t been practiced long enough to become automatic, to become a habit, like buckling up when you get in a car.
Let’s say you want to lose weight and get in shape, so you set a goal of losing ten pounds. You might try a new “lose-weight-fast” diet, work out every day for an hour, take appetite suppressants, or some similar tactics. After you lose the weight, you celebrate your achievement and promptly stop doing the things you did to lose the weight. Chances are you will go back to your old habits that helped you gain the weight in the first place and the lost weight will reappear.
What if you chose a better habit or even a better goal?
What if your goal was to be strong and fit for the rest of your life? Would you employ the same short-term habits you used to lose ten pounds fast? Or might you instead look at the long-term habits required to be strong and fit for life? Chances are, the habits required to be strong and fit for life would not only help you lose the weight in the near term, but they would also help you to continue to be strong and fit for years to come.
This paradigm shift was a game changer for me.
Instead of simply setting goals, I now consider the game-changing habits I need to create not only to achieve the specific outcomes, but also to achieve my bigger goals in the future.
Yesterday I met with a fitness trainer who drove the point home. My long-term goal is to be strong, healthy, fit, and flexible for life. It’s not a SMARTER goal because I’m not looking for a specific outcome (although I do want to lose the muffin top). This is a long-term strategy to help me become leaner, stronger, and achieve some specific training goals along the way. To achieve the long-term outcome I desire, I need to think differently about exercise, training, and moving my body daily. I need fitness habits that are sustainable for life.
My new game-changing habit is weight training 2-3 times a week. I expect to become leaner, stronger, and develop the shoulder, core, and upper back strength to achieve my next milestone goal: hold a handstand for 10 seconds.
As you’re setting your 2021 goals, think about the game-changing habits can you create to help you crush your goals and set you up for continued future success!