Goals are an integral part of our lives.
Without them, we would be lost and fail to accomplish much in life.
However, not all of us are able to do what it takes to achieve those goals. Most often people start off with enthusiasm but gradually lose steam in a couple of days.
Well if that’s the case you are not alone. We are humans and get easily distracted.
I am sharing some really easy and practical tips to develop good practices and keep you focussed towards your goal.
First, let’s dive deeper to understand what causes you to fail.
Why is it hard to stick to your goals
Bad Habits are difficult to break free
Habits are formed when a behaviour is performed in response to a particular situation repeatedly over a period of time.
You might not notice but in an entire day; there are a number of little things you do as a part of a habit. Ex. Brushing teeth as soon as you get up, your breakfast or morning coffee, etc.
According to ScienceDaily; Studies show that about 40 percent of people’s daily activities are performed each day in almost the same situations.
Our brain works on a trigger reward-based system. The human brain analyzes a situation and acts in a certain way in response to the situation.
Ex. You are bored. You come across Netflix.
Watching Netflix made you feel good. Therefore, you watch it again and again until a pattern is formed called a ‘habit loop’. This behavior becomes a habit. Whenever you are bored, you will watch Netflix.
Here, the trigger is the feeling of boredom that signals your brain to watch Netflix and the reward is the end result. In this case, the feeling of happiness or entertainment.
Rewards drive a certain behavior. Repeated actions lead to the formation of new habits.
Therefore, it can be said that the end results of our actions largely determines the possibility to act in the exact same manner when the same situation presents itself.
Bad habits are relatively easy to form as they give an instant feeling of happiness or satisfaction and you tend to repeat the same behavior. On the contrary good habits like exercise demand effort although you won’t see any visible changes in your physique immediately.
Good habits provide less incentive to repeat the same action day after day whereas bad habits keep the brain motivated to perform the same behavior again and again.
New Habits don’t just happen overnight
Not only is it challenging to break free from long term habits, but it also isn’t any easier to develop new ones. Since new habits take time, it is easy to lose focus and slide back into your original routine.
There has been a lot of research to identify how long it takes to form a habit. Several psychologists and advice columns have suggested that 21 days is the magic number you need to look out for to develop a habit. Although, this number varies from person to person.
As explained in the recent research conducted by Phillipa Lally and her team; the time taken by participants (in the research conducted) to reach automaticity of behavior varies from 18 to 254 days. Thus, the study highlights that it can take a very long time for individuals to automate a certain behavior for it to become a habit.
Lack of Motivation
As human beings, we are always looking for the simplest and quickest ways of getting things done.
Millions of companies are constantly competing with each other to develop solutions focussed on maximizing output with reduced time and efforts.
Unfortunately, it takes time and effort to develop good habits. As said above, you can hardly see any concrete benefits of good habits in the initial days. Only when you exercise daily for a month, you can see a reduction in your weight.
In such cases, it is easy to be demotivated and slide back to your regular lives
Vague or improper goal setting
Goal: “I will meditate every day from tomorrow onwards”
You must be wondering what’s wrong with this?
Well, you have an intent to meditate but this goal statement isn’t specific. You are not sending clear instructions to your brain.
Goal: “I will meditate from 7.00am to 7.15 am every day in my room ”
Now, the above goal gives a clear and detailed picture of the time and place where you will meditate from tomorrow onwards.
Our brain is designed to address specifics and details.
When your boss asks you to complete an assignment, you require all the details – like what is the deadline, what are the specifics of the deal, what all needs to be done, etc. Your brain can’t function with missing details.
Setting too high expectations
Most often people set too high expectations for them.
You see a friend or a neighbor going for a run every morning. He goes to the gym as well and eats healthy.
This motivates you to follow the footsteps of your neighbor and you set a high benchmark for yourself.
Somehow, you do not analyze your capabilities or your situation objectively and set unrealistic goals for yourself that result in failure in the long term.
Unfortunately, people get intimidated by other people and set unrealistic goals for themselves and ultimately fail.
6 Pro tips to Achieve your Goals
Be patient and calm
Firstly, it takes time and a lot of effort to make shifts in routine or lifestyle.
Therefore, just be calm and stick through the process.
Another way of thinking that helped me personally:
My binge eating or outside eating habits were not formed in a day. It was when I started ordering food repetitively twice or thrice every week; only then I was able to see the increase in my weight.
Likewise, you can’t expect to see changes in a week or two. So, just be patient and calm. Endure the process and practice self-restraint.
Break your goal into small milestones
The best way to achieve goals is to break them up into small achievable and work on them step by step instead of taking it all at once.
This is a very systematic approach to achieving goals that might seem overwhelming at first.
Once you have set small targets for yourself, it becomes easier to accomplish them one by one.
Ex. You decide to lose 5 kgs of weight in a month. You understand you need to go to the gym, stop binge eating, stop ordering outside greasy food, make major shifts to your food habits.
Well, you can’t do all of this at the same time, therefore; take up tasks bit by bit.
You could start by going to the gym and later move towards a healthy diet.
Once you have shifted to a healthy eating habit, you could limit binge eating and so on.
Detail-oriented Goal setting
Set specific and clear goals for your brain to execute.
This has been discussed above in the section ‘Vague and Improper Goal setting’ with examples.
Couple new habits with existing ones
You have an existing habit in place.
When trying to develop a new one, all you need to do is twin in together a habit you have been doing for years.
Ex. You decide to meditate every day.
Say to yourself,’ I will meditate for 15 mins right after I brush my teeth or I will meditate right after I have my coffee’
This technique is particularly useful as it is easy to remember and gives a sense of direction to your mind.
Write it down
When I need to stick with a schedule or a new goal, I simply write it down every day.
This simple habit reminds me of what needs to be done and sort of reaffirms this upon me. Thus, I am able to focus better on my objectives.
I usually work from home. In the initial days, I used to get distracted and watched Netflix. At the end of the day, I lagged behind majorly.
Later, I started this habit of writing tasks to be done first thing in the morning. This habit gradually put me on track and I was able to focus on my work without anyone supervising me.
You could also try holding people accountable for your actions. Other people like friends and family will keep checking with you. You are more likely to do important stuff when you are accountable to others rather than having no one to keep a tab on your actions.
10 mins Rule
Good habits require effort, discipline, and self-control.
Nevertheless, they are much more rewarding and worthwhile in the long run.
I read about this trick in one of the books ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear and found this extremely effective.
Start with a new habit only for 10 mins. Go to the gym only for 10 mins. Practice meditation, go for a walk or read a book only for 10 mins.
As per the rule; you practice a new habit every day only for 10 mins, not a minute less or more than that. You won’t feel the burden or compulsion weighing down on you and you will happily stick to the habit.
You do this regularly and one day you’d think, “Well I have been coming to the gym all this while, why not stay a bit longer than 10 mins.”
The above tips are shared based on my past experiences and have worked like a charm for me. I am certain these will prove to be useful for you too.
For more useful tips on habits and goal setting; I recommend you to check the content on the blog by James Clear. I am sure you will find several useful bits of advice to attain a happy and successful life.
Thanks for your time for reading all the way through!!
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