8 steps to changing goals into habits

Changing your goals into habitsIf you could develop one or two new, good habits in the next few months, what would they be? You might want to save more money, exercise more regularly, learn to better handle stress or find more ways to give back to others.

You may simply feel like it’s time to make some positive changes in your life. You can do it!

I wrote a recent post about breaking bad habits. As a result of that post, I have not chewed my fingernails in over two months. Considering that I have been biting my nails for almost 40 years, I feel very proud of this accomplishment.

After reading the book, A Completely Balanced Life, I have been focusing on finding more balance in my life. I want to change everything at once, but that’s not very realistic. So I have been concentrating on one or two new goals each month and turning those goals into good habits. When I feel like I have those habits established, I move on to new ones while maintaining the existing habits.

In addition to breaking the bad habit of nail biting, my current goals are to exercise more, eat healthier, get plenty of sleep and live with less “stuff.” I have been fairly consistent with the first two goals, but not so great at the last two. I like to stay up late. I also like to shop. I even like to stay up late and shop online! I am continuing to work on them.

Here are 8 steps to help you turn your goals into habits:

Write it down
First, if you write it down, you can better visualize and internalize your goal. It will be easier to achieve success if you have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish. Second, you will feel accountable to follow through when the goal seems more concrete. Take it a step further and post your goal on the refrigerator to remind you – and your family – of what you plan to achieve. Or, announce your goal on Facebook so others can encourage you.

My nail biting goal was simple to define: Stop doing it. However, some goals will be more complex. If you want to make your daily routine more productive, it may require more steps and planning.

Break your goal into steps
If you have a broad goal, such as be more positive or get organized, you’ll need to break it down into manageable pieces. It can be overwhelming to think about making a huge change all at once. By having mini goals, it will be easier to see progress and feel like you are changing your goal into a habit.

To become more positive, you may need to set actionable steps for each day. For example, you may have a mini goal of finding five ways to be positive each day. To get organized, you can evaluate how and where you want to organize and create steps to getting it done.

Make small continuous improvements
Rather than expecting to suddenly make a drastic lifestyle change, choose small changes that you can commit to on a daily basis. It will be easier to create a routine, and therefore, turn it into a habit.

For instance, you want to meditate each day. Your first instinct might be to jump right in and plan to meditate an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. That’s an ambitious goal. If you aren’t able to make the adjustment in the first few days, you will most likely become discouraged. You may find it easier to establish your routine by beginning with 5 – 10 minutes in the morning and 10 – 15 minutes in the evening. You can build up your time over the days and weeks until you achieve your end goal.

Tweak and refine your goal
Once you are a week or two into changing your goal into a habit, you may discover it’s not working out the way you expected. Maybe you bit off more than you could chew and started out too aggressively. Maybe the time of day you chose for your goal isn’t working as well as you expected. It’s okay to make adjustments and tweak your steps to achieving your goal.

Focus on the whole
If you focus on the results, such as losing 30 pounds or eliminating your debt, you may become frustrated by your progress. Instead, pay attention to the whole process. Celebrate all the little steps you have planned and the progress you make. You may have lost a few inches in your waist or dropped a pant size. You may have paid down half the debt on a credit card. All your accomplishments toward the end goal matter!

Pat yourself on the back
Give yourself credit for the little successes. Be proud of what you did right. Feeling good about your accomplishments will help you stay motivated to reach your goal.

However, there may be things that happen that are out of your control. For instance, as you work on eliminating debt, your car breaks down. Paying for the repairs interferes with the steps and goals you have set. Accept that you got off track because of circumstances beyond your control. Adjust your goals and keep going!

Put it on autopilot
As your goal becomes a habit, you can put it on autopilot. You need to continue to give it your attention, but to a lesser extent. By remaining consistent, you can make real and lasting changes. If you get off track, go back and focus on the habit until you have it under control again.

Set a new goal
Now it’s time to select a new goal and create a new habit. Don’t get too carried away. Make sure you are able to maintain your current habits while you work on establishing the new ones.

Have you recently changed a goal into a habit? Do you have any advice on how to make a lasting change? Do you have any tips for creating good habits? Let us know!


One thought on “8 steps to changing goals into habits

  1. Pingback: 11 Healthy Eating Habits for 2014 | Live the Balanced Life

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