You might think that a combination of strong will power, discipline and motivation is the key to success but the reality is somewhat different. It’s the tiny habits that you commit to that will have the greatest impact on whether you succeed or not.
As a new year starts we’re excited about the chance of a fresh start, the chance to consider how this year is going to be different.
This year I’ll write a book.
This year I’ll create an online course.
This year I’ll consistently blog every week.
But having goals isn’t enough.
You don’t need more goals or the perfect planner. You need better habits.
I remember being on a plane from New Zealand to London (where I lived and worked as a corporate lawyer) a few years ago, full of excitement about the new year and what I would do. I sat there with a new notebook and happily wrote out what I wanted to achieve that year – run 3 to 4 times a week, run a 10km in the first half of the year, run a half marathon in the second half of the year, learn French…
I felt very satisfied with myself after I’d written my lengthy list.
I also remember achieving next to nothing on that list by the end of the year. Life got in the way and I didn’t take the steps I needed to.
I didn’t develop better habits
Now I’m so much more mindful that setting goals isn’t the end of the story, it’s only the start.
Last summer I had the goal to get into the splits on my right side. An odd goal for a business strategist you might think! At that time I was part of a salsa performance team and flexibility was a necessity.
By the end of the summer not only was I down on my right side but I’d significantly improved my left side too and would be able to do splits in both directions a month later.
The key to success? Little habits
During that summer I was housesitting at a beautiful home that had a large deck. That was my workout area 6 mornings a week.
The 3 little habits that I developed were:
Habit 1: Put my workout clothes on the back of a chair the night before.
I’d never wake up in the morning to find that all of my gear was in the wash or that I can’t find my socks.
Habit 2: Have my yoga mat, yoga block, skipping rope and exercise plan by the downstairs door.
No hunting around in the morning for any of the tools that I needed.
Habit 3: Put my workout clothes on as soon as I got out of bed.
There is very little willpower required to dress myself and once those clothes were on it was natural to complete my exercise plan.
These may sound like very small habits that wouldn’t make much difference. Yet they were key to success as they removed any excuses I could come up with.
When you set goals, you need to remember to set in place a process.
Developing habits can make a huge difference to your work days too. I know that when I’m not achieving what I want that it’s usually because I’ve let my habits slip.
My habits are even more critical to me these days as I travel full time and will have a new home office every month.
One of the best business habits I have is to write down my goal for the following week, together with the actions I’ll take each day, on Sunday afternoon.
Come Monday morning, I start work right away.
I’m not wasting time deciding what to do first – that decision has already been made.
I’m not distracted by emails or social media – they’re not the first tasks on my list.
When I stick to this habit I can achieve a lot in a day. When I’m travelling on a Sunday and forget to write out this list I start the week disorganised and distracted.
If you’ve set goals in the past but haven’t achieved them, then take a look at your habits. You could be missing a critical key to success.
What habit could you start today that would help you achieve one of your goals?