How One New Habit Can Get You Closer to Your Goals
There’s a saying, “We cannot cross the sea merely by staring at the water.” I don’t know who said it, but it probably rings true for many of us. Often we think about crossing the sea, we think about what we want, but we just stare at water.
What if you took one tiny step forward each day toward your biggest goal—just one small step. Even if you did it for just five minutes a day, every day, you’d be making your way across that sea.
Wherever we go in life, it’s habits that get us there. Thousands of tiny habits govern how we think, react, the actions we take and the results we get. We may have a clear goal, and even a clear plan, but if we don’t have supportive habits in place to reach it, we struggle.
So for anything you want to achieve, you need to set up habits that support that outcome. Of course it’s not so easy to create new habits, but once you put in the initial time, and have a habit in place, they’re also—as we know all too well—hard to break. Which means the time put in will be well spent when you’re creating healthy habits for getting the things you want.
Our brain loves habits, as Charles Duhigg points out in his book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. Things you’ve learned to do without even thinking mean efficiency for your brain. That is, they are less of a drain on brain power because your brain can grab onto something it can do by rote. MIT researchers found that habits typically follow this very efficient path: Cue→routine→reward. The cue is the event or feeling that triggers the habit (for example, boredom might be the cue for grabbing some junk food). Identify these elements in a habit and you have a better chance of changing it, says Duhigg. By the same token, you can also use that info to create new habits, by using the same cue and changing the routine (while keeping the reward or creating a new one).
It’s worth repeating that everything we have, do and are is built on habits. How we think is habitual, how we react is habitual, the actions we take are habitual. If we have healthy habits, we have a healthier life. If we have good money habits, we have more money. Even the way we communicate is a habit.
So if you’re having trouble creating the financial security you want or reaching the level of success you want (financially or with any goal), it may be time to create new habits to support it. Here are 6 steps you can take to get started:
- Choose your goal. Make sure it’s important enough to your life that you’re willing to make a change for it. Are you willing to put aside something else less important to you to free up time, energy and money for it? Are you willing to replace an old habit that isn’t supporting forward motion for one that is?
- Ask yourself what one new daily or weekly habit that, if you implemented it, could help you get closer to or reach your goal. Then take one step every day and turn it into a routine. That step is what you need to focus on doing each day. As an example, many sports coaches don’t have players focus on goals such as winning a game. They have them focus on the steps they need to take for each day, such as building strength. That step is the catalyst to reaching the goal
- Create the conditions you need to make those steps happen. A supportive all-set-up environment makes anything easier to do. Granted, it requires set up time, but then you get to coast a bit. For example, if you want to eat healthier, you’d have to come up with a list of healthier snacks and meals, shop for the ingredients, and have them cooked and ready to go so you don’t grab junk food when you’re hungry. But as you repeat the process, it becomes easier (and you find short cuts).
- Use a current habit (cue) as a catalyst to trigger the new habit. For example, “If I drop the kids at school, I go to the gym and workout on the treadmill for 30 minutes.” Or, “If I pay my bills, I also transfer 12% of my paycheck to my savings or to be invested.”
- Give yourself a reward, whether it’s an emotional reward or physical one. For example, acknowledging your victory by carving out some free time (taken from an activity that wasn’t meaningful to your heart and soul goals). In his book, Duhigg suggests experimenting with rewards to see what works best.
- Do the step you chose every day until it becomes a routine, and finally a habit. Even if you can’t do it in it’s entirety one day, do it for five minutes (the Five-Minute Rule—five minutes on your goals is better than nothing at all). And even if you skip a day, don’t lose focus—start back up full force the next day.
So if you were to pick one new habit to create for financial security, what could that habit be and how would you go about building it?
Here are two ideas:
First, in your business or work, take one more action each day or week to ramp up your pay or revenue. For example, spending five minutes a day networking on social media, making at least one more call to bring in a prospective client, or going to at least one networking function a week where you know possible clients hang out or where you might meet professionals in complementary businesses who could refer clients to you. Whatever it is that brings clients or money into your business, create a system in which you go just one step further in your effort each day.
Second, when you pay your bills each week or month, take a percentage of your pay off the top and send it to a savings or investment account. Make it a routine. Save as much as you can, even if it’s $5. Making it a routine is the important thing, because once you have more money to put away, the routine will already be in place.
The bottom line is that tiny, healthy habits done daily are what will lead you to success.
What daily or weekly habits have you found that really move you forward on your goals or improve your daily performance? We love feedback! Let us know in the comments below.
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