Are personal goals really that important ?

Yes, it is indeed true that setting goals are important for many things you want to do in life. Be it losing weight, writing a novel, managing your finances.  Goals are there to help you visually see where you want to go but are not helpful at getting there. More research tells us that it’s our habits that ultimately  decide our present and future.

According to research from the University of Duke, up to 40% of our behaviors on any given day are driven by habit. That means that in almost half your day you are spending time on an autopilot mode doing things that either contribute to your progress or act as a barrier to it.

With so much of your actions controlled by habits, I am sure you would agree that it altogether makes much more sense to spend our time wisely and put effort into guiding our unconscious mind to make it a part of our daily routine rather than simply setting goals. 

Ever thought why do we set a goal and are unable to accomplish it most of the time? Here are some of the reasons: 

  • When you’ve set a goal, you just set the desired outcome. However, many studies show that only focusing on the final outcome will be less likely to keep you motivated and focused for a longer duration.
  • Because the accomplishment of goals involves external factors from our chaotic life and it’s more likely that something or someone will get in the way of achieving your goals. Without having habits in place, it’s easy to lose motivation towards your goals.
  • Our brains were designed to be lazy and conserve energy as much as possible, and it takes a  tremendous amount of mental energy to work towards your goals every day.

In short, goals don’t give you the exact tools you require to make real change. On the other hand, the habits which are small, repeated actions—practice over time, giving you the outcome you never could have imagined in achieving your desired goals.

Creating Good Habits

Here’s a look at a few ways to kick-start positive change and get on track:

Writing down your goals daily: This will help you remind yourself  what you choose to achieve and stay focused

Be specific: Have a goal in mind and have specific steps to get there.Losing 10 pounds can be a goal. But walking 40 minutes a day Monday to Friday before work or after dinner is a habit.

Schedule it: Decide when and where you’ll need to take action. When you write it down, it will increase the chances of success. Because most likely your brain is going to remind you about this upcoming schedule

Take up the 21-day challenge: Many studies have claimed that you will be able to form a habit if you consistently practice it for 21 days.

Celebrate: e underestimate the need to  celebrate even the smallest wins. Doing this will create positive emotions associated with the new habit and helps you stick and achieve it even faster.

Skip excuses: During this time,  your brain is probably going to find excuses to derail from your track and progress, so don’t use it as an excuse to stop.

Set up accountability for yourself: Meet up with a friend, ask your siblings or schedule a weekly check-in for the best accountability practices.

Start small and grow: It’s okay to start small. Small as while having your lunch you have added salads and that may be your ultimate goal. Try starting off with two days for a few weeks. Build from there.

Use tech to keep you on track: Use timers and prodo app to remind yourself when to do tasks that fit your habit. These can remind you of things like getting up and starting moving, having a glass of water, encouraging your customized habit , writing in your journal, etc. You will have to try different habits until you find what works for you.

Now let us know how we stuck into a habit loop

Let me give you an example of a bad habit most of us have developed : Checking our phones excessively.
Do you know what are the steps involved in this?

  • The first step is the Cue: Your phone buzzes, there is a new notification or update
  • The second step is Routine:You take your phone out of your pocket, swipe open, and search for the click on the notification. Is it an email? Text? Twitter or Instagram?
  • The third step is the Reward: You check out what the notification was, it was satisfied your curiosity which was the initial triggered when your phone buzzed and potentially giving you a hit of dopamine (a “good feeling” chemical released in our brain) from seeing a message from a loved one or being tagged on social media.

This is the point where the magic of habits comes into play. Once you have gone through this habit loop enough times your brain will automate the cycle to the point of not even needing any notification as a cue—and  mindlessly pick up your phone multiple times a day.

Now just imagine if you replace that bad habit of checking your phone with a good one? With healthy habits, you can make sure you write at least 500 words every day or floss your teeth every night, or go to the gym at 6 pm every day. 

The simple rule is to understand the framework that is causing a habit to be formed and stay, you can begin to use it to build the healthy lifestyle you always wanted.   

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