Building Sustainable Habits for the New Year by not Focusing on your Goals
As we enter February, I think many of us feel the magic of the new year beginning to wear off. Our ambitions start to wane, and we begin reverting to our old ways. In fact, 80% of New Year’s resolutions are abandoned by February.* So if you’re starting to lose that motivation you had on Jan 1st, you’re not alone.
But why is this? Why do so many of us fail despite having such great intentions?
One major reason is that most of us focus too much on the goal. Yes – focusing on the goal is the problem. But how can that make any sense?
A goal may be a fine benchmark, but it doesn’t help with the day-to-day steps you need to complete that goal. Instead, like James Clear tells us in his bestselling book Atomic Habits, we’d be much better served thinking about the daily habits or small steps we need to reach our goal.
You want to read 24 books this year?
Focus on developing the habits of a reader. Make your goal small and manageable. Maybe it’s committing to read at least 20 pages before bed every night. Over time the competition of that daily task will begin to add up to whole books. Soon you’ll habitually grab for a book instead of your phone when you get in bed. Over time you’ll not only complete your goal, but have developed the habits to continue reading for years to come.
You want to lose 20 pounds?
If you haven’t had a workout routine for some years, maybe it’s not smart to try and lose all 20 pounds at once by signing up for a daily 90-minute workout class or some insanely restrictive diet.
Focus instead on developing healthy habits. Commit to get your butt in the gym for at least 15 minutes five days a week. Soon you’ll begin to feel better and better, that 15 minutes in the gym will just become a part of your routine. Since you’re feeling good you might bump that 15 minutes up to 25, or you might skip the donut in the office that day, or substitute a salad instead of the cheeseburger to keep the good feeling going. Those good decisions will compound into habits that will compound into other healthy habits. Before you know it, you’ll have lost the weight and developed the habits necessary to stay healthy.
And yes of course…. This same theory can be applied to your finances.
Set a goal, break that goal down into small daily actions, focus on completing those, and slowly improve on those daily goals as you feel up to it.
*“Research Shows 80% of People Abandon Their New Year’s Resolutions by February.” ABC Columbia, 31 Dec. 2021, https://www.abccolumbia.com/2021/12/31/research-shows-80-of-people-abandon-their-new-years-resolutions-by-february/#:~:text=Research%20shows%2080%25%20of%20people%20abandon%20their%20New%20Year’s%20resolutions%20by%20February, -Dec%2031%2C%202021.