Want Different Results? It Starts With New Habits and New Identity.
When you think of reaching your goals, set a schedule for your day-to-day routine and your weeks. Make your days and weeks actions become your habits. What do I need to do on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis that will work towards reaching short-term and long-term goals through repeated action and habits?
The Power of Setting a Schedule, Not a Deadline
In my experience, a better way to approach your goals and build good habits is to set a schedule to operate by rather than a deadline to perform by.
Instead of giving yourself a deadline to accomplish a particular goal (and then feeling like a failure if you don’t achieve it), you should choose a goal that is important to you and then set a schedule to work towards it consistently. If you want to be the type of person who accomplishes things on a consistent basis, then give yourself a schedule to follow, not a deadline to race towards.
It’s so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making better decisions on a daily basis.
Almost every habit that you have — good or bad — is the result of many small decisions over time. And if this is true, if the problems you’re facing now are the result of thousands of small decisions made over the course of years, wouldn’t it make sense that the path to success would also be through thousands of daily decisions? And yet, how easily we forget this when we want to make a change. When you become obsessed with achieving a result quickly, the only thing you think about is how to get to your goal, and you forget to realize that our process for achieving goals is just as important as whether or not you achieve them at all. The desire to achieve results quickly fools you into thinking that the result is the prize.
But here's the truth...
Becoming what you want to become is about the daily process you follow and not the ultimate product you achieve. Why is this true? Because your life today is essentially the sum of your habits. The most common mistake that people make is setting their sights on an event, a transformation, an overnight success they want to achieve – rather than focusing on their habits and routines. Your life today, and how successful or unsuccessful you are, is essentially the sum of your habits.
We wish that we could go faster tomorrow. We want to do more, and be more...right now. I’ve felt those things too, so I get it. And in general, I applaud the enthusiasm. I’m glad that you want great things for your life. But it’s important to remember that lasting change is a product of daily habits, not once-in-a-lifetime transformations.
If you want to start a new habit, I have one suggestion that I cannot emphasize enough: start small. In the words of Leo Babauta, “Make it so easy that you can’t say no.”
How small? Just one.
In the beginning, performance doesn’t matter. What does matter is becoming the type of person who always sticks to your new habit – no matter how small or insignificant it seems. You can build up to the level of performance that you want once the behavior becomes consistent. The key to building lasting habits is focusing on creating a new identity. Your current behaviors are simply a reflection of your current identity. What you do now is a mirror image of the type of person you believe that you are (either consciously or subconsciously). To change your behavior for good, you need to start believing new things about yourself. In order to believe in a new identity, we have to prove it to ourselves.
The reason why it’s so hard to stick to new habits is that we often try to achieve a performance goal without changing our identity. Most of the time, we try to achieve results before proving to ourselves that we have the identity of the type of person we want to become. It should be the other way around. Each action you perform is driven by the fundamental belief that it is possible. Decide the type of person you want to be. Prove it to yourself with small wins. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to start with incredibly small steps. The goal is not to achieve results at first; the goal is to become the type of person who can achieve those things. In my experience, when you want to become better at something, proving your identity to yourself is far more important than getting amazing results. If you want to get motivated and inspired, then feel free to watch a YouTube video or listen to your favorite song. But don’t be surprised if you burn out after a week. You can’t rely on being motivated to make lasting changes in your life. You have to become the type of person you want to be, and that starts with proving your new identity to yourself.
If you’re looking to make a change, then I say stop worrying about results and start worrying about your identity. Become the type of person who can achieve the things you want to achieve. Build the habit now. The results can come later. Daily habits — tiny routines that are repeatable — are what make big dreams a reality. Dream big, but start small.
I think the following quote from BJ Fogg, a professor at Stanford University, sums this idea up nicely:
“If you plant the right seed in the right spot, it will grow without further coaxing. I believe this is the best metaphor for creating habits. The “right seed” is the tiny behavior that you choose. The “right spot” is the sequencing — what it comes after. The “coaxing” part is amping up motivation, which I think has nothing to do with creating habits. In fact, focusing on motivation as the key to habits is exactly wrong. Let me be more explicit: If you pick the right small behavior and sequence it right, then you won’t have to motivate yourself to have it grow. It will just happen naturally, like a good seed planted in a good spot.”