Updated: Sep 8
I recently read a blog post by Farnam Street  on habits versus goals. It talked about the shortcomings of goals and the virtues of habits; how goals have an endpoint and rely on willpower and factors we have no control over - such as an injury with a fitness goal - whereas habits are easy to complete, can compound and can be for life. Often quoting Charles Duhigg from The Power of Habit (great read by the way!), I mainly agreed with FS’s points, however, I found something missing.
Other than believing it is good to have an overall, long-term vision or intention (not necessarily goal), I believe positive habits are borne from one’s values; the root of it. We all know what values are, but how many of us can clearly identify ours? When was the last time we clarified them? If we are finding healthy habits not so easy to complete perhaps it is because we are not in touch with what we feel is truly important, perhaps we do not have an overall vision or belief.
I shared the post on social media and, in affirmation of it, said my being active was a lifestyle, not a goal. It is a systematic approach to my value of being active: physically active, mentally and emotionally. That one value informs a lot of what I do. However I, like others, have additional values that shape my life and relationships.
So if you have stubborn habits you want to replace or ones you want to create, I suggest you first get clear on your values and how you want to live.
Here are a few suggestions:
Create a mission statement or a living manifesto for your life (it can be a working document as things change), read it daily
Compile a list of life categories, and under each one (i.e. family, relationship, friends and other relationships including yourself, health, finances, work, learning/personal growth, hobby/leisure, civic duties/contribution, the environment, and spirituality if applicable) list all the things you value, individual cue cards or post-it notes are best. To clarify further, order them from most to least important.
Reflect on a day or a week and see if you were living according to your values. If not, list all the areas where you were not and why. Apply differently the next day or week.
Knowing your values is one thing, but living them is another. Ask yourself how you can close whatever gap exists between knowing and doing, and make a plan. Habits tend to become automatic after 30 days of consistency but before that, it is not so easy. Planning your day, scheduling the time for the new habit, mentally preparing yourself for roadblocks and celebrating your successes gives you an advantage in achieving things systematically. They say it is “the journey and not the destination,” but what if it is both? Why not enjoy the journey to get to whatever destination? Soak up the sun, have a little fun and arrive fully in alignment. Then rinse and repeat.