Focus on the Habits, not the Goals

For years, I have belabored the overarching agreement within the coaching and leadership industry around goal-setting and especially “SMART” goals. As discussed before, the whole idea of “SMART goals” is something catchy from an old article, lacking any science or proof, that caught fire with the coaching industry.

It never helped me. It always left me unhappy with myself and made me feel inadequate. I would have to pull myself up off the floor, dust myself off, and reset goals EVERY month. Most of the coaching industry says “make goals too high to achieve, and POOF, you will achieve them!”

And month after month, I didn’t. Month after month, I fell into a deep sense of self-loathing. Month after month, I thought I was a loser and that the universe must not want me to succeed.

The toxicity of “10x your goals” or “you will achieve what your mind believes” sent me lower and lower in my vibrations and probably set my career and personal achievement back YEARS. (Am I a little perturbed and angry about it? Maybe.)

So in 2022, with the rise of books about just creating powerful habits, I realized I had been doing some pretty cool stuff all along. If I hadn’t had to pull myself out of self hatred every month and had been encouraged to instead focus on the powerful habits I had created, I could have been growing and achieving much more all of this time.

But that’s why we live and learn, isn’t it?

Listening to “Atomic Habits” by James Clear made me say out loud (usually on my morning walk) “YES” and “THANK YOU” over and over. I was vindicated!

I started my personal foundational habits as a kid. I remember needing structure and schedule, so I had specific reading times, listening times, homework times, and once I started playing saxophone, practice times (2 hours a day, mind you).

These habits got me to #13 in my class, opportunities in music, a scholarship to college, and a well-laid personal plan to keep growing into the person I wanted to become.

As a young adult, I developed habits of exercising, drinking water, eating healthy, reading and listening to personal development, praying, journaling, and meditating. All of these habits had personal accomplishments as outcomes, including speaking at conferences, writing a book and several published works, and creating a business that serves women.

Looking back on all of it, I realize SMART goals set me back and habits propelled me forward.

So, what should you do if you have been demoralized by SMART goals and bad advice?

Start some strong habits that serve you. Start small, like with a wake-up time. For me now, with bigger kids who get themselves ready in the morning, morning habits are easy. I can take care of myself while my kids make their own breakfast and lunch, dress themselves, and get transportation to school.

If you still have people at your house that need your help to get ready, just make sure to carve out some time for you when you are not typically interrupted. For about 10 years for me, that meant getting up at 4:30 AM. Now, I am privileged enough to make that time 5:15 and have about 2.5 hours of self care every morning. That has taken time.

Habits to consider to make your life better in a short period of time:

  • have some kind of alone time scheduled during the morning
  • get outside during the day
  • read something that matters to you
  • listen to something that helps with your personal well-being
  • do some kind of fitness that works for your body
  • drink water all day
  • have healthy foods ready to go
  • take the time to prepare nourishing foods
  • pray or meditate
  • journal
  • take time for an artistic hobby

There is so much to these habits. They raise our vibrations, which makes our environment better. It affects the people around us. The habits increase brain space to allow for creativity. The habits strengthen our resolve and resilience. And with all of this, we can achieve more without holding our necks to a chopping block.

I think too that our world will be a better place once we all prioritize the things that make our hearts happier. We all deserve that, and we deserve to show our children that we matter. If they see us prioritizing our habits and strengths, they will do it, too.

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