When was the last time you sat down with your 2020 new year’s resolutions and goals? If you say today, then I applaud you. No need to read any further, my friend. But if you’re like most of us, 2020’s goals have gone out the window of the past along with any sense of normalcy. So, with these past months of mourning the loss of normalcy behind us, now is a better time than ever to revisit your goals and get excited about the future.  

Many of us have various broad goals like owning a house, losing 10 pounds, texting an ex less, etc. But, rarely do we set these goals knowing that the key to accomplishing them lies in the functionality of our habits. Day to day habits are the building blocks to these lofty goals and it’s nearly impossible to reach these new heights without reviewing, strategizing, growing, and clarifying our own building blocks.

Our habits comprise most of these building blocks, for better or for worse. Habits are the behaviors that have become automatic in order to free up brain real estate and avoid decision fatigue. So, habits might not make it any easier to attain goals, but they will make it easier to stay committed and focused. Below are 3 steps that will help you identify areas for growth and get motivated in recommitting to your goals. 

Step 1 – Observation, what is currently taking up the seconds, minutes, and hours of the day?

It’s easy to spend a lot of time mindlessly scrolling on our phones to feel connected these days, but that time can add up. If we’re not attentive, it can quickly become half the week without realizing it. In fact, according to the productivity software company RescueTime, the average screen time for most users is 3 hours and 15 minutes. And it’s easy to see why – we basically have the world’s most enticing distraction tool in the palm of our hands. 

The problem with this is that our brains actually aren’t designed to multitask. A recent study by the University of London even found that participants who multitasked during cognitive tasks experienced an IQ decline of up to 15 points. So, what we don’t realize is that when we hop back and forth from work to phone to work to phone, our brains are left behind and struggling to catch up. Proof of this is evident in a study that found it takes 9 minutes to return to the original task after opening an email. As a result, most of us are left as prisoners of our own devices without even knowing. 

So, the time is now to break free. We can’t identify a problem until we are aware of it and the only way to become aware of our bad habits is by taking a good, hard look in the figurative mirror. Recording each minute spent checking Instagram, hours spent on TikTok, and time spent staring aimlessly into the refrigerator is what will provide the most accurate report of what habits are helpful or hurtful. 

Step 2 – Identifying Threats & Recognizing Areas for Growth 

Identifying the distractions that pose a threat to us conquering our goals is essential for success. For example, if my goal is to write a book, I would cross out any habit that doesn’t serve my goal. This is not to say that I can no longer check my phone, it means that I will mindfully check my phone when it’s appropriate. Some other examples of threats are roommates wanting to socialize, children needing attention, the dog needing to go out, etc. The distracting threats to productivity are infinite, but they have less power when identified and planned for. 

Once the weeds have been found, time to plant the seeds. Popular podcaster and former monk, Jay Shetty, says it best – “focusing on goals and not the growth needed to achieve them is the biggest mistake people make.” So ask yourself, what skills do I need to learn or improve? Do I have all the tools I need? What new habits can I grow to support this goal? With attaining the goal of writing a book, my growth will not just be in something as vague as writing every day. Instead, it has to be intentional and strategic. The more granular, the more likely you will be in succeeding.

Step 3 – Threat Management & Growth Planning

The ability to form anticipatory strategies for dealing with distractions is a powerful skill that assists in overcoming and undoing habit triggers. For instance, suppose that I commonly find myself chatting with roommates during the time in which I planned to write. Instead of being swept away the second they get home, I could instead strategize a plan using an “if ___, then ____” type statement. So, in this case, “if I hear my roommates come home, then I will put my headphones in to help me block out the noise.”  

Growth planning is what will sustain the motivation to pick up the headphones in the first place though. This means breaking a lofty goal down into each individual and granular step it will take to achieve it while maintaining the original intention. For instance, by taking an hour of my day to research writers, I am gaining clarity on reaching my goal of writing a book. Answers to the questions laid out in step 2 are the road map to identifying the best habits and mini-goals to feed your yearly goals and leave you feeling empowered in doing so.   

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