I was thinking about all the different habits you have to accumulate in order to form a healthy lifestyle.
There are exercise habits like getting active and strength training. There are nutrition habits like eating until you’re 80% full. And there are mindset habits that are based around your body image and mindful eating.
These are great habits to have and are part of a healthy lifestyle and body weight.
But there’s another habit people forget about. It forms the base of all other habits.
What is it?
The habit of setting and reaching goals.
Which Kind of Person Are You?
When it comes to achieving your goals there are a few kinds of people:
- The person who doesn’t bother setting goals, so they rarely achieve any.
- The person who sets such big goals that they are hard to achieve, so they rarely achieve any.
- The person who sets small goals and achieves most if not all of them.
Each of these three people has created a habit. Either they’re in the habit of reaching their goals or they’re consistently falling short of them.
Achieving goals is a habit, so you have to set up your goals in a way that ensures you consistently reach them. You want to reinforce the trust and confidence in yourself that you have it in you to follow through with what you set out to do.
Mapping Out Your Lifestyle Change
There’s a lot of rah rah about setting huge goals – that if the goal isn’t big enough it’s not worth achieving.
To me this is perfectionist thinking, and it gets in the way of actually getting the small wins that add up to big change.
Achieving a goal triggers a strong reward signal. It completes the habit feedback loop.
You set a goal, take an action, achieve that goal, and then receive satisfaction from that triumph. That satisfaction is needed in order to reinforce the new behaviors you’re working on.
Setting Goals That Are Small Enough
I don’t think there’s such a thing as a goal that’s too small. If something you do improves your life, it doesn’t matter how small it is.
I think there’s a place for big goals. Dreaming is a good thing. I see big goals as the “why” or the “theme/purpose” of your lifestyle change.
But those big goals are made up of hundreds of smaller behaviors. These are the behaviors that actually change you. These are the behaviors you should focus on.
And you should approach them with a less is more approach. If your goal is to start strength training, don’t set the lofty goal of lifting weights 5 days per week.
What do you think your chances of going from 0 to 5 days per week of exercise is going to be?
Not achieving that goal reinforces the habit of not achieving your goals. So make sure the goal you set is achievable.
There should be very little doubt in your mind that you can accomplish your goal.
If one day per week of strength training is all you know you can commit to, then set that goal. Achieve that goal.
That achievement reinforces the new habit of reaching your goals. It completes the habit feedback loop. It rewards you.
Go after those small victories. Let them add up to big things. Learn to trust in yourself again that you can do what you set out to do.