Goals Are Nothing Without Habits

Without habits, goals are just abstract aspirations

Words by Shawn Mihalik

Without habits, goals are just abstract aspirations, and you're unlikely to achieve them, except by accident. 

In fact, I don't set short-term goals. Instead, each month, I choose a few things I want to focus on, and then I pick habits that support those focuses.

For example, if one of my focuses is to finish writing the first draft of a novel, an important daily habit will be to write either a certain number of words each day or for a certain amount of time. If, later, one of my focuses is getting that novel published, a good supporting weekly habit would be to query ten agents. 

For me, jiu-jitsu is a focus essentially every month. Now, some weeks it's less of a focus than others, depending on what else I have going on that week. But during weeks where it's a main focus, the supporting habit is daily, or even twice-daily, training sessions. 

Why focuses instead of goals? Because, at least for me, goals lead to attachment to outcomes, and attachments tend to weigh us down. If I framed jiu-jitsu as a goal instead of an area of focus--that is, if I trained specifically for the goal of achieving the next rank--I might get discouraged when I'm not promoted "fast enough," and then I might train less. (Confession: There aren't really any mights here for me. I learned this lesson because it happened, more than once.)

Focus, on the other hand, spurs me to consistent action.

Why not give this a try this month? Pick your focuses, assign yourself some supporting habits, track them, and see how much you've accomplished when the month is over, no goals necessary.

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