How Habits Can Help you Achieve Your goals

Did you know that most people give up on their New Year’s resolutions by January 17th?


Over Christmas, I was talking to my family about setting goals for the New Year. Most of my family members said they don’t bother making resolutions because they never stick to them. I have a habit of always setting goals around Jan 1, and I’m usually pretty successful in achieving them by year-end. But this wasn’t always the case, and it’s not because I have superhuman willpower. I spent many years like the people who give up not even 3 weeks into the year.


I believe the first step is to realize that changing the way we go about our day is HARD WORK. And given that, we should do what we can to make it easier and set ourselves up for success. My breakthrough came when I realized how habits could help me.


In my view, using habits is an often overlooked but critical tool to help you stick to your goals.


Here are two tactics that will help you use habits to support your goals….


1)   Substitution (bad habit out, good habit in)

Think of one habit you’d like to adopt and one you’d like to remove from your routine. The research has shown that substituting one habit for another is much easier than stopping something altogether.

I realized that I had two goals I could substitute: 1) I want to stop checking email and social media first thing when I wake up and 2) I want to start meditating. So, for the last week or so, right when I wake up and instinctively roll over to get my phone, I turn on the meditation app instead of opening my email. It’s not as hard as I thought it would be, and substituting one habit for another is really helping.


2) Temptation Bundling (I only get the reward if I do the work)

Temptation bundling is the scientific way of saying: bribe yourself so you can only do something you enjoy WHILE doing something you don’t enjoy but you know is good for you.

Let’s look at what this means in practice. I have a coworker who loves reality TV. It’s a guilty pleasure, but everyone needs to turn his or her brain off once in a while, right? The problem is she felt it was getting out of control and taking up too much time. She also realized at the same time that she had bought a treadmill with the intention of working out at home… but then the treadmill became a collector of laundry instead of a well-used piece of fitness equipment. Sound familiar? Her solution puts temptation bundling to work to make her new habits easier to achieve.  She only allows herself to watch “The Bachelor” when she’s on the treadmill.  


Over time, she will start to subconsciously associate running with the enjoyment she gets from watching The Bachelor. Tying these two activities together actually starts to rewire your brain over time, and eventually, you won’t even have to think about it—that’s the power of habit.


So I encourage you to think about it- could you use one of these tactics to build in habits around your goals?

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