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Focus on Habits not Goals

by Beth on January 7th, 2014

Have you made any resolutions for the new year? What goals do you hope to achieve in 2014? Would you like to lose 10 pounds? Move into a new position at work? Find better work-life balance?

A good way to increase your odds of making positive change is to focus on establishing habits rather than just setting goals. A habit is an automatic behavior that is triggered by a stimulus. The stimulus can be a time of day, a person, a mood, or another behavior. Adding small habits to your daily routine can lead to big changes over time.

Start by identifying a behavior that will help you to achieve your goal. Now find a trigger or cue that will remind you to do the behavior. One of my health goals is to exercise regularly. So I made going to the gym every weekday morning a habit by using the kids leaving for school as my cue. I don’t even think about it. I automatically leave for the gym when they walk out the door.

If your goal requires that you eliminate a bad habit, the easiest way to do this is to replace the unwanted behavior with a more desirable behavior. In this way the same cue will eventually lead to a good habit. For example, if the end of a meal has been a trigger for a sugary dessert, you can now let it be a cue that it’s time for a piece of fruit instead.

Look at your resolutions for 2014 and identify small behaviors that will move you in the direction of your goals. Find a time of day or another behavior that is already a habit to trigger these new behaviors. It takes effort in the beginning, but using cues will help to make the behaviors automatic.

Here are a few habits I’m going to adopt for 2014:

  • For my goal of being more active I will establish a habit of taking a walk after lunch.
  • For my goal of being more productive I will establish a habit of checking email when I turn on my computer in the morning, after my midday walk, and before I turn my computer off at the end of the day.
  • For my goal of finishing my book I will establish a habit of writing for at least one hour at the beginning of every workday.

What about you? What habits will help you achieve your 2014 goals?

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