I’m fairly ambitious and goal-oriented, and I tend to set my sights pretty high, but that can backfire. Sometimes I feel like I’m stuck in a rut, that my goals will never happen, that I’m just not moving forward in my life. It’s taken me a long time to diagnose the problem, but I think it comes down to an unrealistic view of human behavior.
I once thought that having goals would be enough to drive me forward on a day-to-day basis, but I’m starting to realize that this kind of top-down approach to personal development doesn’t really work. At least not for me. Don’t get me wrong, I think goals are really (really) important, but I think they’re more important for picking a direction, and reminding yourself of that direction every so often. The really hard work comes in the journey itself, and the person making the journey doesn’t *really* care about those goals. That person might care a little, but they don’t really care when it’s 5am and they don’t feel like getting up, or when they’re trying to decide whether to have a second helping of that dessert. They just don’t care. So the key for me has been to stop focusing so much on goals, and focus more on habits.
Habits are the force that drive me forward every day. They’re not perfect, because they’re kind of “blind” in the sense of not really caring about the long-term consequences, or caring about anything, actually. That’s the whole point of habits: you just do them. You don’t think about it, or worry about their long-term effect, or decide whether you feel motivated to do them. You just do them. And the end result of really strong habits is this inexorable force that just drives you forward in whatever direction you happened to be facing when you started the habit. So you become a slave to your habits, but the truth is that you’re a slave to habits one way or the other. Either you’re a slave to the bad habits (and we all have them), or you’re a slave to the good habits that you’ve cultivated and are driving you in the direction you want to go. The key for me has been to pick good habits and really focus hard on the rhythm of those habits and making sure I keep moving forward with them.
But how does this affect your long-term destination? Well, my approach is to periodically look up and evaluate my habits and my goals and make sure they’re in agreement. And to the extent that they’re not, I readjust. Blogging every day is a new habit that I’ve added to my list because I really want to share some of the things that I’ve learned, and I enjoy the conversations and connections I make when I blog on a regular basis. It gives me a view of the world that I sometimes miss when just journaling, which I also do every day. I try to do this evaluation of my goals and habits about once a month, but I’m not strict about it.
I’ll write more tomorrow about the methods I’ve found for forming good habits. They’re really simple but they’ve made a huge difference in my life. Hopefully you’ll find them useful as well.