Why Goals Aren't the Key to Success
A Guide to Building a Mindset of Sustainable Habits
We think goals are important because they give us something to focus on. But, what if we adopted a mindset of something more character-building and sustainable; something intrinsically valuable for ourselves and our careers?
Creating lifelong habits instead of working toward singular goals adds greater purpose to our lives. Habits are foundational for a broader vision. They are more rewarding in the long run. When we concentrate on a specific goal, the larger vision is tunneled and we sell ourselves short.
It’s said that the way we do one thing is the way we do everything. Meaning that the habits we form impact all aspects of our work, life and play. The cultivation of a habit begins with forming a solid foundation upon which you can continually grow, maintain productivity, take pride in your work, and achieve your desires.
The difference between Goals and Habits:
GOAL: A singular achievement. A goal is the desire to accomplish one thing or acquire something desirable that we do not already have. Goals aren’t bad, but they are distracting and limiting in nature. Goals create a mindset of pressure which can be overwhelming, causing us to fail or quit completely (think: every time you’ve set a New Year’s resolution).
Example #1: You put in long hours at work and over commit to tasks because you want a promotion. You feel burnt out, chronically stressed and unhappy because you're tired and unbalanced.
Example #2: You’re a yoga teacher who networks because you want to teach weekly classes. It takes most of your energy to network and not a lot, if any, class time is coming out of it.
HABIT: An underlying character trait strengthened over time. It becomes a part of your being and the instinctual way you tackle all projects, tasks and life situations. You begin to develop strengths that help improve your life in all areas.
Example #1: You do your best at your job and strive for work-life balance. You learn the history of the company you work for and why what you’re doing matters. You seek advice from superiors, ask questions and learn from people who have already mastered what you do. You strive to grow with the company and support the team around you. Over a couple of years, you get two promotions because of your dedication. You are trustworthy and loyal and now manage a small team of people. Cultivating a habit of excellence is rewarding and continues to create many opportunities.
Example #2: You strive to learn yoga from all perspectives and teach from a grounded, holistic and informed posture. In addition to your certification, you continue your personal practice four days per week. You take an anatomy course to understand the body and offer classes at a discounted rate in the beginning to gain experience. You learn what the business of yoga looks like and seek advice from experienced yoga professionals. By preparing and studying yoga holistically, you have formed the habit of diligence and commitment which leads to steady growth and an abundance of clients and opportunities.
The case for Habits:
By definition, a habit is a tendency or practice that becomes especially hard to give up. It’s the consistency of that practice, with diligence and commitment, that sets the foundation for being better at your work on every level.
By daily, weekly and yearly repetition, habits start to become easier to do than to not do.
Muscle memory is formed, processes and thought patterns are programmed and your life starts to mold around your habits. If you went back to old ways, you would feel uncomfortable, discontent and your work would suffer.
The key to understanding how to create habits is to understand that they are formed and sustained in the repetition that becomes habitual in itself.
Now that we understand them well, habits are clearly more desirable, right? Goals seem more enticing and easier because there is a clear image and an end goal we can visualize. Our brains connect to goals more naturally. Moving away from a goal mindset to one of habit can be a challenging transition but the most beneficial one you can make.
Here are ways to cultivate your best work, your best play and your best life through positive habit-forming:
Maintain Your Health:
Take care of your body and mind. Do not take this lightly. Maintaining optimal health and eating well are not just for health freaks and marathon runners. Everyone should be exercising - movement matters!
Food is fuel. Choose your fuel wisely. Pick food and drink that make you feel alive, vibrant and alert. What feeds your body feeds your mind.
Movement and clean eating are habits in and of themselves to which everything else builds upon. They are foundational habits that will either positively or negatively affect every other habit you develop. They will continuously influence your cognitive function, decision-making and energy levels each and every day.
Diligence: Habit requires careful and persistent effort.
Know what you are working on and why you are working on it. If it seems mindless or doesn’t contribute to the overall vision, ask yourself if it’s a necessary function of your work.
Slow down and look at what your efforts are producing. Adopting keen senses make it easier to discern what has consistent return and overall positive value. Keen senses are formed when we mindfully approach something; calm, thoughtful and intentional.
Don’t overwhelm yourself by throwing out all your goals and doing a major overhaul of your foundational habits. Consistent practices aren’t formed overnight. It takes work each day, and overtime, your goals will transform into habits. As your practices deepen, your habits will strengthen.
What are the top two or three habits you want to cultivate? Pick a few things and work toward those first (hint: start with exercise, food and routine).
Each day matters. Developing a mindset of sustainable habits will require daily attention.
Discern what keeps you focused. Whether it’s writing or journaling, making lists, finding an accountability partner or some other form of organization, find what keeps you focused and clearly aligned with the habit(s) you want to cultivate and implement it into your routine.
Strong, sustainable habits are hard to form on a weak foundation. By building solid foundation and staying focused, your habits quickly become key influencers to your success on every level.
Habits are the key drivers to our success because they give us the freedom to continually refine how we approach our work.
They slowly evolve into strongly rooted practices that, over time, are far more rewarding and less overwhelming than our attempts at attaining singular goals. They naturally deepen our commitment to our larger vision, strengthen our character and bring more purpose into our everyday interactions.
What habits will help you create work you are proud of and a life you desire?