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Stop Setting Goals… Do This Instead

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Stop Setting Goals... Do This Instead

80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February. How are you doing so far?

If you already feel like things aren’t going as planned, I’d like to suggest a new tactic to help you achieve what you want: Don’t Set Goals (or New Year’s resolutions).

As an avid goals setter, I almost can’t believe I just typed that!

Stop Setting Goals – Do This Instead…

Here’s the thing: We don’t really have control over the outcome of a situation. We do, however, have control of our actions and habits.

Instead of setting goals which focus on an outcome you’d like (lose 15 pounds, be fluent in Spanish, get a raise, become debt free…), look at habits you can create that will get you there.

An absolutely amazing book on habit formation is Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin. It’s one of my all-time favorite books.

If you want to lose weight

You don’t really have control over the end goal but you do have control over your daily habits. So instead of focusing on “I want to lose weight”, you could spend your energy creating healthier habits.

  • Develop the habit of eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
  • Get in the habit of a walk every day after dinner.
  • Join a fitness class and work on the habit of going 3 times per week.

This has worked well for me over the past few years. All together, I’ve lost 15 pounds. Losing weight was actually never really my goal. At first, I spent my energy developing the habit of working out regularly. Then I spent time getting out of the habit of drinking soda daily and lowered my sugar intake. I’m currently trying to eat more fruits and veggies.

By focusing on habits instead of end goals, you can create lasting change to your health and accomplish a goal along the way.

If you want to learn something new

I’d love to be fluent in a foreign language, be a better photographer, or understand how to use graphic design software. Just setting a big goal in any of those areas won’t really help me get there though.

If you want to learn something new, look for habits that you can create.

  • Get in the habit of spending your commute listening to foreign language lessons each day.
  • Purchase a course and schedule a chunk of time every Saturday to work on it.
  • Start a new morning routine where you have 15 minutes to practice a new skill every single morning. (I highly recommend Make Over Your Mornings to help you develop a great morning routine!)

If you want to read more

Spending more time reading is a very popular goal. Some people get specific and set a goal of reading one book per month or week. That goal is focusing on the outcome, though, not a habit.

Here are some ideas on how you could create a habit that allows you to read much more:

  • Get in the habit of bringing a book with you everywhere (or download the kindle app on your phone) and read instead of texting or scrolling through social media.
  • Go to bed 20 minutes early every night and spend that time reading.
  • Join a book club so that you have accountability to read.

Last year I set a goal of reading at least one book per month. I did well for the first few months and then forgot about it.

This year, I’ve been working on spending less time mindlessly browsing social media and have been developing the habit of reading in the eveving instead. I think I’ll be more successful in reading this year by focusing on the habit of reading each night instead of staring at my iPad.

If you want to earn money from home

I have worked at making money from home for a long time. It’s a goal for so many people, but I rarely see anyone tie it to creating new habits. I think this is why so many people don’t get anywhere with it.

To be successful at earning money from home it takes consistent effort, which is the perfect opportunity to create a habit.

  • When I started blogging, I got in the habit of writing and scheduling 2-3 new blog posts every weekend. With that habit established, I spent time each week learning a new skill.
  • If you are taking a course, create the habit of working on it for an hour every single night or scheduling a 3 hour chunk of time every weekend to go through it.
  • To get freelance clients, work on a habit of reaching out to X number of potential clients weekly.

In the end, you don’t necessarily have control over the general goal of earning money from home. You do, however, have control over your habits that will cause you to earn money from home.

The more often I set goals for my life, the more I realize that I’m most successful when I plan my actions, not the outcome. If I can create a habit that will help me achieve something big, I’m more likely to get where I want to be.

If you have a goal you’d like to achieve, try instead thinking of a habit you can create that will get you there.

⇒ What are some of your current goals? What is the last habit you worked on creating?

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