Why habits (not goals) are the key to success.

The Influence of Habits

When we aspire to change in our lives, we usually try to take things logically, but of course, there is huge emotion at play. We’ve been told to always have an end in mind, so we create goals. Yet while goals are very important in providing direction and hopefully a preview of our desired outcome, it’s fair to say that not all goals end up a success.

The fulfillment of a goal, especially a long-range one, is often subject to many factors. The success of a goal is determined by a person’s motivation, determination, skill sets, hard work, luck, access to opportunities, connections and other factors also.

Many variables could affect a goal’s chances of success, and a problem with many of them is that they are variable themselves. Take motivation, for example. At times we feel so strongly about a goal that we feel that it will be at the forefront of our minds every waking moment and while we sleep as well! Yet, at other times the same goal has us feeling very indifferent to it.

To be more certain of achieving our goals and desires, we shouldn’t be simply relying on goals as much as we ought to rely on creating habits that take us to the attainment of our goals. Habits are proving to be better drivers of success because they’re more instinctive, reliable and automatic.

Goals versus Habits

How good would it be if we could set a goal and then put it on autopilot? 

Goals are both logical and emotional, and there is often a struggle between them. They are very subjective. Goals depend mostly on extrinsic motivation and are subject to a person’s level of motivation that understandably fluctuates, so often require ‘re-motivating.’ Goals are created by our conscious mind and require that mind to apply the whip to get results. Because it is our conscious mind, it is subject to forgetting.

Habits are intrinsically sourced and directed. Habits are instinctive and automatic. Habits are internally set. They are the domain of the subconscious mind. Whichever habits a person is subscribed to will ultimately set their path and often, even their destiny in life. When firm and established habits exist, it’s possible to predict results. A person’s habits are so deeply ingrained and interwoven into their character, that much of what they choose to do and could potentially do is determined by it.

Stephen Covey, the famous author of The Seven Habits book says, “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”

Without allied habits, motivation needs to be strong enough to cause action and constant repetition of behaviors that lead to success. If not, there will be a lesser impact on efforts that result in the successful achievement of a goal.

Merely Relying on Goals Can Be Ineffective

Studies have shown how the actual process of goal setting impacts people’s brains and from the standpoint of someone who wants to succeed, it is not very encouraging. Some research claims that goals tend to make people more complacent.

Our brains tend to label the goal-setting as an achievement of the desired outcome itself, even when we have not yet put in the effort to achieve it. This could be a very risky misrepresentation of goals for someone who needs to put in a lot of work to make something happen.

The effect could be more pronounced when people willingly tell others about their goals. Though it’s seemingly a good thing to commit to a goal by telling other people about it, it may not serve you well, and it could backfire. According to some recent research, a person has better chances of succeeding if they keep their goals to themselves rather than telling everyone about it.

The Influence of Habits 

Because habits – good and bad – are a given for everyone, we may fail to acknowledge the great power they exercise in our lives. Most people are unaware of their habits’ potential, and therefore changing their ways or old habits is not given the priority it should. This leaves them to rely mostly on their fluctuating  and unreliable motivation to work toward their goals.

Although motivation always helps kick-start our biggest projects, it’s usually not enough to sustain the momentum. Motivation and willpower, which drive people to action in the beginning, often wanes as failures, changes, criticism and all other factors are experienced. External factors are beyond our control. These stressors could simply take a toll on our willpower and cause us to lose all of that initial drive.

Use Your Motivation to Create Habits

While motivation is high is the perfect time to instigate new habits. Determine the behaviors that will take you to your dreams in the fastest, easiest manner. Then create the procedures and protocols to execute those behaviors. Keep doing them until they become a habit. Now you have a subconscious, automatic driver that is taking you to your desired outcome.

There is nothing more reliable than habits if we want to stick to completing a goal until the end. Setting goals is good for success, but habits make the pursuit of it more certain. Building habits is the single most effective and surefire way a person can achieve success and realize their goals. It is habits that establish consistency and makes difficult things easy and effortless to do.

So, to succeed, look closely at your habits. These could prove to be a better predictor of your success compared to how lofty your goals might be. Even better, build your habits around your goals. You’ll find that success will come to you more automatically in this way.

“Motivation is what gets you started, habit is what keeps you going.”

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