In our life, we try to achieve many things. These things will vary from your career goals to improving health, reducing weight, overcoming smoking, and reducing alcohol intake. To meet the aims, we create goals or targets. But are the objectives good enough to succeed? The main issue with the goals is that they are time-based. When we try to achieve intangible things like happiness, success, well being the beginning for this is to create tangible goals.
We want to try and run half a marathon within six months of starting the training. Making the goal is fine. But if you make it a habit of running eight hours per week which means at least an hour per day you are more likely to succeed. Once you fall into the habit of running every day, you have made it. You may even achieve your goal a little early too due to the practice of running every day. You may overshoot your goal of half a marathon to full marathon, who knows!
I wanted to read a book a week, and I tried to reach the goal in one year. I hardly read ten books in six months. There was always no time to buy the books when I went to book the specific book was not available. I bought myself a Kindle. Now I have at two to three books I want to read, downloaded on Kindle. I read for at least 15 to 20 minutes before I go to sleep plus as and when I get time during the day. I started carrying the Kindle while travelling and now I have far exceeded the target of 50 books per year target! It’s a habit of reading during travel, before going to sleep or waiting at the airports that put me on the path.
Having family time is the goal everybody has. It can become tricky with tight schedules. Jaya and I play cards every day for half an hour. (Now I am sharing a secret; we have both semi-retired!) This habit gives us time to discuss serious as well as mundane things. We play, we cheat, we cut jokes. We try not to take any phone calls during that half an hour.
How to choose between goals and habits?
- Habit is an ongoing process. You set a goal to reduce 8 kgs of weight in three months. You manage to do so. But then your body and mind may relax. You may gain back 5 kgs in the next two months. But if you form a habit of exercising regularly, it becomes an ongoing process in your life, hopefully for your lifetime. So controlling weight remains a current project with no endpoint.
- When we set a goal, the failures can be because of things beyond our control. You may travel a lot during those three months. You may hurt your leg due to a fall. An event in family or business or work may eat away a lot of your time. When you form the habit, the habit will absorb minor deviations. Once the event is over, your habits will bring you back on the path to what you want to achieve.
- Goals depend on self-discipline and will power. The book Power of Habits says, “Willpower isn’t just a skill. It’s a muscle, like the muscles in your arms or legs, and it gets tired as it works harder, so there’s less power left over for other things.” You have set a target to save money. Every time you buy something, you need the self-discipline to save money. It’s tough not to buy that mountain bike you always wanted. But if you get into the habit of saving say ten thousand rupees a month, then you know that you can buy that mountain bike at some stage.
- Achieving a goal can put you back in an undisciplined life. It can also happen that we take a wrong path to reach a time-based goal especially if you have declared the intent publicly.
Stephen Covey has said, ”Habit is the intersection of knowledge (what to do), skill (how to do), and desire (want to do).”
Once we form some good habits, things work on auto-pilot. Your mind and body will encourage you to do things rather than you forcing yourself. Habit makes saving money easy. The habit makes you reach your goals in step by step manner.
What are the Benefits of habits?
Habits are for life
When we form any habits, those can remain ingrained for life. Once the habits are part and parcel of our life, then goals become meaningless. Habits will continue lifelong and will help you surpass whatever goals you have set.
Habits can be tiny
Brushing your teeth before sleeping helps you improve your dental health. Drinking warm water just after waking up is also a good habit. These small habits together can assist you in general enhancement of your well being.
Habits have additional advantages
If you get into the habit of exercising regularly, your digestion can improve, you may eat better, your alcohol need may come down.
Habits are easy to complete
Once you form the habits, achieving them does need anybody’s permission; it happens automatically as your brain gives right signals to your body to perform whatever is your habit, at the right time.
When I started blogging, initially I wanted to reach 50 blogs in the first couple of years. Writing the blog was a significant effort for me initially. It took me much more than the two years I had allotted myself. In between came many travels, a considerably severe health issue and blog writing always got the last priority. Later on, it became a passion, and I formed the habit of writing blogs. Rest as they say is history! In the year 2018, I wrote 181 blogs which far exceeded my target or expectations. In the first four years I managed 170 blogs, and in one year I exceeded these numbers. Now there are no goals no targets only writing.
If we make the habits, ultimately habits will make us. I am sharing below a list of habits all should have.