How your habits affect whether or not you’ll achieve your goals

Are you habits helping you accomplish you goals, or hindering you? Read on to learn how to manage your habits in order to achieve your goals.

Like Comment

Habits are practices we have created that are difficult to change because they are deeply ingrained in our mind. We behave habitually when we act without consciously thinking about what we do. Imagine the way you drive a car, or ride a bicycle. A habit is at work when you know instinctively where to find your keys – or not, if your habit is to mislay them!

Goal-setting is also a habit. In his fascinating book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change, Charles Duhigg shows what researchers are learning about habits for individuals, organisations and even entire communities.

Below is a series of key points to consider if you want to reach your goals. They resonate with my experience of coaching clients to greatness, joy and wellbeing and helping them stay motivated by creating effective foundations based on good habits.

  • All habits, whether they serve you or not, have a payoff.
  • Find a different routine or action that will help you stay on track.
  • Give yourself every chance of success by adopting your environment to support yourself while pursuing your goal.
  • Cultivate an optimistic mindset.

Every habit has a cue that triggers action or a series of action-steps that create a specific payoff, which is some form of pleasure. Yes, there's no pleasure in yelling your head off at your partner when you get angry. But yelling when you’re angry lets off steam – that's your payoff. So your cue is feeling stressed, busy, or anxious. For other people, the same cues can be linked with different habits. For example, you might go for a run when you feel stressed instead of yelling at your loved one.

How can you use this information in your goal-setting?

Can you clearly name the payoff in your actions (habits) so you can see how it serves your goal? If what you want to achieve is something that you really desire, you are more likely to work towards it. But if the payoff from your actions is not that great, you may quickly drop the pursuit.

If what it takes to reach your goal requires sacrifice in the short-term, then ensure the payoff makes you feel good, so there’s a pleasure in it. For example, imagine you are saving for a dream holiday by skipping your daily coffee on your commute to work. You look forward to that coffee and you are enduring denying yourself. How can you sustain this new action in your routine?

Through our actions, consciously or not, we try to avoid pain and maximise pleasure. So you need a new routine to help you stick to your resolve. What if you could take a thermos of great-tasting coffee from home? Now you still get what you want and save money. It will be a lot easier to stick to your goal and reach it. But what if your payoff in getting your morning fix is to flirt with the good-looking barista? Now you will need to think a bit more creatively!

People who pick a gym that’s near their work or home are more likely to use it than those who choose one that requires extra travel. In other words, make it easy for yourself. This also includes surrounding yourself with people that help you stay on track. For example, if you want to lose weight, find a group of people you can exercise with. If you want to set up a business, join a local entrepreneurial group for ideas, support and inspiration. By being close to people who share your goals, you are more likely to stick to yours. Equally, if you are surrounded by people who bring you down, doubt you, and take you away from what you want to achieve, you may need to put those relationships on hold.

One of the key findings from Duhigg’s book discusses belief when it comes to creating effective habits. For some this is spirituality or religion or some higher cause. As it turns out, having a strong belief helps you stick to your resolve and maintain good habits. Habits, whether nurturing existing ones, breaking bad ones or creating healthy new ones, are key to achieving goals. And one key habit in creating success is discipline.

If you want to work on your habits and achieve amazing results along the way while you work on creating more balance, more success and the life you really want, try our free taster of ‘How to Achieve Your Goals’; a 30-day online course created by me for Psychologies, here. I’ll coach you in the comfort of your own home towards reaching your goals, whether that’s running a marathon, starting a business, writing a novel – or all three! You can have the life you want. Start the first day for free here - and buy for a limited offer price of £47 (usually £97) today.

Magdalena Bak-Maier

Author, Guide, Magically Real Heart & Mind Connector, Make Time Count ltd

Magdalena Bak-Maier helps people connect and align their heart and mind in service of their ‘big agenda’. Her writing, teachings and models clearly show that the secret of success, wellbeing and joy resides in our nervous system and how we use it. Trained neuroscientists and coach to world’s elite performers, Magdalena teaches her tools and approach to all those interested in learning about it. So far this has included top NASA engineers, NHS doctors, emerging global leaders, coaches and wellbeing experts across the world. She has been also sharing her work with Psychologies readers through NowLive events and for those living in London you can catch her at the School of Life. Magdalena’s first book, Get Productive! (Capstone, 2012) includes 36 thought-provoking exercises and practical advice to empower readers to become masters of their own time, and achieve exceptional results continuously. Get Productive! received very positive reviews from customers and press alike, and quickly became a bestseller in the personal development arena. The Get Productive Grid (2015) her second book, is a no nonsense practical tool called the Grid for achieving life, work and career goals whilst making time for critical self-care. Having studied burnout at work (The Times, 2013) and working with people who struggle to realise their aspirations, the Grid conditions focus, effective habits of goal setting and progressive realisation steps towards results. If you want to achieve results whilst feeling you absolutely love who you are let Magdalena be your productivity guide.