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Your Life Goals Are Not Your Habits

Your Life Goals Are Not Your Habits

I can’t be the only person who has been determined to stick to a new behaviour (for real this time), only to find myself not doing it a week later… tell me you’ve done this too?

Why is it soooo hard to create healthy habits? Why is it so difficult to be consistent? How can we have the best intentions to become better, and yet still see so little progress?

And more importantly, is there anything we can do about it?

Your Life Goals Are Not Your Habits

“Your audacious life goals are fabulous. We're proud of you for having them. But it's possible that those goals are designed to distract you from the thing that's really frightening you —the shift in daily habits that would mean a re–invention of how you see yourself.”

— Seth Godin

We all have hopes and dreams (if you don't, you're probably not the type of person who would be reading this).

Most of the time, we have at the very least, a general idea of what those goals are: the way we want our bodies to look naked and in clothes, enjoying how it feels to be in good health, the respect we want to receive from our peers and the important work we want to do, the kind of relationships we want with our family and friends and the love we want to share.

Overall, this is a positive thing. It feels good to know what you want and having goals gives you a sense of purpose & steers you in the ‘right’ direction. However, behavioral scientists who study habit formation say that many of us try to create healthy habits the wrong way. We make big bold resolutions to start exercising or lose weight, for example, without putting the steps in place to set ourselves up for success, in other words, we bite off more than we can chew!

I know you know what I’m talking about…

You get inspired by The Biggest Loser, head to the gym, go hard for a week, and then you are so sore and broken, you take the next three months off to recover.

You finally get inspired to create that online course, spend the whole weekend making a list of all the content that will be included, start drafting emails and designing workbooks, and then head back to your day job on Monday and never come back to it.

You're motivated by your friend's stories of traveling to new countries, so you start to plan your own around–the–world trip, only to end up overwhelmed by all the details and stay at home.

More often than not, our motivation and desire for the end result drives us to make too many behavior changes at once that end up making you feel overwhelmed and anxious, instead of starting a small, new routine that is totally achievable and leaves you feeling empowered.

I know, I know. It's not nearly as sexy as saying you lost 12kg in 12 weeks. But in reality, the dreams that you have are very different from the actions that will get you there.

So how do we find the balance between wanting to make life–changing transformations with the need to create small, sustainable habits?

I'm so glad you asked.

Dream Big, But Start Small

If you're serious about making real change, what I mean is, if you are serious about doing things better than you are now — then you have to start small.

Think about the typical habits you have, good or bad: brushing your teeth, putting your seatbelt on, biting your nails when you're at the traffic lights (yep, that’s me), making a morning coffee.

These actions are small enough that you don't even think about them. You simply do them automatically. They are tiny actions that become consistent patterns.

So it makes sense that if we wanted to form new habits, the best way to start would be to make tiny changes that our brain could quickly learn and automatically repeat.

What if you stopped thinking about your life goals as a big, overwhelming thing that you can only achieve when it’s the right time, or you are in a better financial position or when you are feeling more positive… but instead as small, daily tasks you do over & over again until you can’t help but succeed?

What if losing 20kg didn’t depend on a researcher discovering the perfect diet or you relying on your friend to be motivated to go to the gym with you everyday. What if it was based on you doing a series of small habits every day that YOU could always control? Habits like walking for 20 mins a day, drinking soda water instead of soft drink, taking lunch to work everyday.

What I have seen over the years as a nutrition & fitness coach is that most people have an ‘ALL OR NOTHING’ mindset when it comes to changing habits. So when they start out on their quest to get fit but haven’t been to the gym in 5 years, and then miss one out of seven days at the gym, in the first week, they just quit. Not because they are ‘hopeless at sticking to anything’, but because they set themselves up to fail. The best approach is to start small and slowly, gradually build a new habit into your life until you just do it whether you want to or not.

I love this…

Focus on Lifestyle, Not Life–Changing

Too often we get obsessed with making life–changing transformations.

Losing 20kg would be life–changing, eating vegetables everyday is a new lifestyle

Publishing your first book would be life–changing, emailing a new book agent each day is a new lifestyle.

Running a marathon would be life–changing, running 3 days per week is a new lifestyle.

Earning an extra $20,000 each year would be life–changing, working an extra 5 hours per week as a freelancer is a new lifestyle.

See the difference?

Having big goals in life is a good thing, they help kick start new behaviors, help guide our focus and helps sustain that momentum in life, but they can also trick us into taking on more than we can handle (guilty).

Daily habits, those tiny tasks we do day-in-day-out, eventually all add up to a big thing and before you know it, BOOM, your dream is now your reality!

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