You Have Goals? Not Good Enough.
Ouch, harsh – but true – so suck it up and listen.
I have goals, dreams, aspirations - whatever you want to call them - as do many of you.
I have a goal of one day owning land on the beach in a Caribbean or Mediterranean nation (or both, fuck it, why not) where Rachel and I will spend most of the year living on our eco-resort while running our online businesses, writing and creating, while my built-wealth and returns from managed investments are enough to cover our expenses while still earning through our business ventures. In the seasons with variable weather - a common migraine trigger – Rachel and I will travel slowly, run our remote businesses, shoot photos, create art and write around my chronic migraines.
That is our Nirvana of Living Free. We’re not there yet, not even close.
That is a fine goal for us, and a powerful dream to hold onto but the truth is that it will never happen unless we develop the underlying habits that will earn that future for us.
As it has been going, that dream was the stuff of pipes: it’ll happen one day, perhaps after winning the lottery or by saving diligently any money left over from my day job, eschewing any sort of modern convenience so that I may be able to afford part of that dream by the year 2100. Or maybe I’ll get super lucky and be given the kind of opportunity only found in movies, like being reunited with a long-estranged relative and being groomed to ‘take over the family business’ – my migraines would only screw that up anyway.
The Importance of Habits vs. Goals.
We’ve all been there: I want to lose 5-10kg for beach season. Did you hit your goal? Did you keep the weight off? Me either. That’s because goals are a one-time deal, and alone are wishful thinking: prayers to the universe that our wildest dreams will simply fall into our laps. That’s not going to happen, and even if you had some windfall or luck that help you hit your goals, your success won’t be sustainable if it hasn’t been built on a foundation of solid habits.
I’ll be honest, habits are not sexy to think about. Goals are sexy - being 10 kg lighter, or having $1 Million in the bank, running an online business remotely, or being a professional photographer, or a skilled artist or whatever is your ‘goal’ - are all very sexy, but nobody likes to consider the repetition and work that goes into earning and sustaining those goals and simply think of the goals as a destination. They are a side-effect of aligning your lifestyle and habits with your goals.
Why Goals Alone Won’t Work - Self-Discipline as a Resource
Understand that self-discipline is a finite resource. Most people think of goals in a consumerist, transactional, spending mindset: ie, “if I spend X hours at the gym, I’ll lose X kg by beach season”. Thinking of each goal as a transaction, a thing to be purchased with the currency of time and work will only make the work involved seem insurmountable and feel like it isn’t worth the effort. Relying on sheer self-discipline rather than fine-tuning their habits and day to day living. That mindset is why most people that lose weight put it back on and then some. It’s also the mindset that keeps you poor.
Compare that to an investment mindset, where you consider the habits needed to reach those goals and use your limited self-discipline to develop those habits aligned with your goals. I’m talking daily, actionable habits that will carry you to your beach in the Caribbean and beyond. It’s a huge stress reliever to be able to take such a large goal and break it down into bite-sized habits for success that can be worked day to day. Rather than stressing about the big picture every time you work on something, or worse, every time you sit wondering what in hell you should be doing.
Without cultivating the underlying habits that will become part of your lifestyle, you are setting yourself up for failure or rebound.
Consider time and self-discipline spent building habits as investing into yourself
I’ve always loved video games and I’ve have taken to thinking of habits as skills that need to be practiced, refined, and repeated until they level up and become increasingly more powerful versions of themselves. As a side effect of levelling skills, I myself level up and become a more powerful version of myself.
It doesn’t happen without effort, determination, grit and grinding through the days you don’t want to do it with repetition. Success doesn’t happen without it.
Cultivating Habits - Making Success a Side-Effect
My dream of a Caribbean paradise is a huge goal, one that I’m not equipped to handle yet. When I look at that goal as a whole, it seems as if I’ve made no progress toward it, which is depressing and demoralizing. So instead, I’m choosing to prioritize making daily choices that develop the habits of a successful person.
Goals are great - you need them – but it is better to concentrate your limited energy and willpower and self-discipline on forming useful habits that support your goals. Don’t take on too much at one time, focus on the fundamental habits.
Don’t focus on losing 10 kg, focus on making lasting changes to your habits: replace the bag of Doritos for a bag or apples on your grocery list. Cooking foods from fresh, non-processed ingredients a daily habit. Follow a daily fitness plan that you can will stick to. I’m starting with the 7 Minute workout.
Shortcuts tend to be shortsighted and aren’t going to cut it. Self-discipline is a finite resource and I’m the kind of guy who gets comfortable in his habits, so I’ve decided to align my habits with my goals.
Where Do You Find Motivation?
Being an entrepreneur is great: I work my own hours on what I want to work on; I don’t have the pressure of a boss to please or colleagues to appease or convince of every idea; I can work around my painful chronic migraines without worrying about letting someone down. But you also have to consider the challenges: I don’t have anyone to motivate me to work but myself, I don’t have anyone to tell me what to work on next, I don’t have a salary.
The only way my business is going to be a success is if I make it so. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and I don’t have Jay-Z money to hire the best so I need to build my dreams incrementally, with structure and healthy habits.
Excellence is not an act, but a habit, and a habit is a matter of deliberate practice and grit – until it becomes almost automatic. Any action or mental action repeated often enough will perpetuate itself without conscience decision, without being concerned with the results. In short, a created habit becomes just a thing you do.
How Do Habits Apply to my Goals?
Jogging? Just a thing you do. That is how you create a habit that is aligned with your goal of weight loss, but not for weight loss sake. Jogging is just something you forced yourself to do daily until it became a habit - about 30 days - and it stuck. Now, as a side effect of this habit - an almost automatic, self-perpetuating thing you do – you’ve lost and kept off that 10kg and then some. You also have more energy, are happier and a new habit that will help you remain healthy.
Over the last few years suffering from chronic migraine, most of my habits are around preparing for headaches, worrying about headaches, and dealing with the fallout from headaches and missed work. I've become a list of symptoms on autopilot and constant recovery mode.
Let's Do This.
I have decided that I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired, and that I’m going to live free. To live free, I need to break out of my emergency mindset and focus on making improvements to myself and forming habits that will naturally result in success. As Aristotle said, “we are what we repeatedly do”.
Why not upgrade yourself with some new habits?
You can along follow with me as I form some new habits.