How to make reaching your goals an easy habit

Banish shame: No more disappointing New Year’s resolutions for you

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

As part of setting resolutions for the year, I review and reflect on what worked and what did not in the past. Most of the time, this review is a cause for celebration. But to be honest, shame and disappointment can also be part of the process if I don’t reach a goal. I know that I am not alone in this.

During a review of past goals, I noticed that I tend to set two kinds of resolutions. Michael Hyatt categorizes these two types as achievement based and habit based resolutions. Achievement goals focus on a one-time accomplishment. While with a habit goal, you try to make an activity ongoing and as automatic as possible.

What type of goal is harder for you to achieve?

In general, I tend to be more successful with achievement goals with a tangible result at the end. For example, completing a master’s thesis motivated me to succeed.

Sometimes going after and even reaching an achievement goal left me feeling stressed. I thought achieving a goal is supposed to make me happy! How could this happen?

I had left feelings, or the “why,” out of the goal setting equation. I had this “aha” moment while reading the Desire Map. According to the author, Danielle LaPorte:

“You’re not chasing the goal; you’re chasing the feeling you hope reaching the goal will give you.”

After my “aha,” I decided to reverse how I set my goals by focusing on feelings first.

Habits are harder for me to form. I cannot tell you how many times I have tried to establish a daily yoga practice. Here are three of the reasons why:

  1. More time required: It takes 66 days instead of 20 for a habit to stick.
  2. I had not internalized why I wanted to establish the habit.
  3. A habit was not what I thought it was: it is a three-part loop, not a single routine.

I discuss these three reasons in more detail in this article.

Not rocket science: Use a habit goal to reach an achievement goal

This year, I am adding another tweak to make the goal setting process work even better for me. (If you know StrengthFinder, I am a maximizer who loves improving things.)

Michael Hyatt suggests using habits to help reach achievement goals. As a goal-oriented person, this might help motivate me to start a new habit. This idea never occurred to me before.

How can I make this work in my life?

I have an achievement goal of writing 52 articles or blog posts a year. First, I set this goal with the intention that it will help me feel the way I want to feel on a day to day basis. Writing the articles will help me feel creative. Writing will also enable me to be curious about different topics. Finally, the articles will foster a deeper connection with both my area of expertise and with current and prospective clients.

To help reach this goal, I have set a habit goal of writing five days a week for one hour or 1,000 words.

Two for one deal

I am starting to use the Pomodoro technique to reach an achievement and establish two habits:

  1. Achievement: Write 52 blog posts a year.
  2. Habit: Write five days a week for one hour or 1,000 words.
  3. Habit: Practice yoga for 15 or more minutes a day.

Have you heard of the Pomodoro technique? If you are not familiar, here it is in brief:

  • Chose a task
  • Set a timer for 25 minutes. (The Italian founder of the technique used a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato. Pomodoro is tomato in Italian.)
  • Work until the timer goes off.
  • Take a 5-minute break.
  • Repeat cycle four times. Each 30-minute period is called a Pomodoro.
  • After four cycles, take a longer break of 15–20 minutes.

Here is the pomodoro cycle I am testing:

  • Set the timer on my phone for 25 minutes. Put the phone in the hallway where I can still hear the timer.
  • Write the blog post for 25 minutes.
  • Mark on my daily calendar and to-do list, an X or color in a square to show I completed a pomodoro cycle.
  • During my five minute break, head to my yoga mat for a yoga break. If I do this three times over the course of the day, I have met my habit goal of practicing yoga for 15 or more minutes a day. I never said it had to be 15 consecutive minutes of yoga.
  • Repeat the cycle four times.
  • Take a longer break.

Check back with me after 66 or more days. It will take at least that long to establish this habit.

A better day one habit at a time

In closing, I leave you with this quote on habits from Gretchen Rubin:

“Habits are the invisible architecture of daily life; about 40% of daily life is shaped by habit, so when we have good habits, it’s much easier to be happier, healthier, productive, and creative.”

At first, new habits are like scaffolding and are temporary. But over time, the scaffolding gets removed, and a permanent structure remains. Here’s to a year of automatic habits and goals achieved.

Still curious?

Prefer audio: Here is an audio recording of this piece.

New Year’s resolution and habit series:

Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte

Michael Hyatt has a new book out titled Your Best Year Ever on setting and achieving goals. I have taken his course of the same name and cannot wait to read the book.

Pomodoro Technique

Do you need a tool to help you track your new habits and a place to establish milestone dates for your achievement goals?

Download a free 2018 calendar based on the Desire Map planner.

Kelsey Cleveland is a Desire Map facilitator who helps women in transition figure out how to set goals based on how they really want to feel. She is also a freelance writer who writes articles, essays and blog posts and is working on a book-length memoir.