Why I Value Habits Over Goals

Today was a reflective day on my 2019 year.  My colleague and I just finished recording a podcast episode on goal setting and why many of us fail at reaching the milestones we set for ourselves.  And on top of that, I have, in the past couple weeks, finished two books that made me evaluate my ability and inability to achieve more.

As we were discussing the goals we set out for ourselves earlier in the year, everything started to click.  I realized that most of those milestones we set out for seemed rather empty.  My mindset started to shift.  Achieving goals wasn’t what I truly coveted.  I coveted the habits that, over time, would bear more fruitful achievements than imaginable.  I don’t want the apple from the tree.  I’m not even sure I want the tree itself.  What I really want are the roots and soil and land and the seasons that create a lifelong network of many healthy trees to which they bear many fruit.

So why are achieving goals the only thing that’s celebrated?  Engraining strong habits you never had before, and eliminating poor habits you’ve built up over a lifetime, are truly the exceptional achievements that you should be aspiring for.  Those you should celebrate.  And that’s my focus from here on out.

In the book, The Compound Effect, by Darren Hardy, a short passage grabbed my attention; “Consistency is one of the biggest pitfalls of people trying to achieve.  And nothing kills momentum like a lack of consistency”, he writes.  I can vouch for this.  I’ve been trying to write a book for the better part of this year, and it’s going horribly slow.  I realized it was a result of zero consistency.  I would write when I was super inspired, had no other responsibilities on the day, and had a clear and creative head space.  As you can imagine, those days come around as often as unicorns riding rainbows.  I’ve sabotaged my momentum by waiting on something that rarely occurs.  I realized that instead of having the goal of finishing a book, my aspirations should be daily writing instead.  As John C. Maxwell says “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily”.

In the book, “Finish”, by Jon Acuff, I learned about strategies on how to finish things you start, and the one that stood out to me most was about our tendency to associate goals with tremendous difficulty and hardship.  Have you ever noticed that in your own head, you may associate goal setting with words like “hard work”, “sacrifice”, and “discipline”.  And while all those things may be completely true, they can also be replaced with words like “fun”, “exciting”, and “simple”.  He states “your belief that goals must be difficult to achieve will kill your ability to finish”.  Your idea of how to lose 20 pounds in a year may conjure up images of daily 5am boot camps, kale dinners with no dressing, and completely eliminating carbs, sugar, and fats.  But what if instead, someone pitched to you that it only required an extra 5,000 steps a day to get those results?  Which presentation seems more fun and exciting and simple and easy to achieve?  As Acuff states, “fun goals win, joyless goals fail.”  It may be as simple as changing your language, and identifying the simplicity of a daily routine than looking ahead at the unsurmountable task of achieving a lofty goal.

Just the other day, I said that I had to force myself to write every single day, that I had to sacrifice time spent elsewhere and diligently commit to writing.  And now, while that intent has not changed, the attitude has.  My practice going forward is to view this process, not as a challenge, nor an improbable goal to achieve.  Instead I will view this as the fun part of my day.  30 minutes of writing will be my reward.  It’s a great opportunity to be alone with my thoughts, and put them to paper.  I may not be able to publish everyday, but 30 minutes of writing is easy.  And with the help of these books that have given me a lot to ponder, I am so excited to build a habit that has eluded me for so long.  I hope everyone has something in their life that they would like to improve on, some habit they’d like to engrain.  I hope you do it everyday, and see it as one of the best parts of your day.  And in doing so, we will all transform our lives and the way we view what’s possible.  Good luck, and let the momentum build.

Michael Der



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