“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” — Jim Ryun
Every January 1st, we have a renewed sense of motivation to become better than they were the year before. We make resolutions to ourselves: We will eat healthier, we will exercise four times a week, we will pay down $15,000 of our debt. There is no debate that these are valid and worthy goals to achieve. In fact, I think it’s important to have defined goals to measure our progress towards. However, I just don’t think that it’s sustainable.
Less than 10% of New Year’s resolutions are actually achieved. What gives? Well, several reasons: Our goals are too vague, our goals are too ambitious, or maybe our goals are simply not practical.
But as I learned this year, setting goals is only 1% of the equation — the remaining 99% requires developing sustainable habits.
This year, at the very end of August, I started a blog. When I announced my blog, I received several warm messages of encouragement. My initial goal of getting 200 eyeballs to my site quickly transformed to 2,500. As September transitioned to October, I felt motivated by the incoming ‘shares’, ‘likes’ and personal messages. The reception served as motivation to keep writing valuable content for my growing audience.
But then, the readership didn’t sustain. I saw a few significant peaks, depending on the post, but ultimately my blog was stagnating. Was I doing something wrong? Am I not a great writer? Was it all just beginner’s luck? It is easy to write every single day when you know that people are waiting to read your words. It is far harder to write when you have an audience of none.
I tell this story because I see this as akin to people who create resolutions at the start of the year. The desire to further your self-development should always be celebrated, but it’s keeping that momentum during the times when you’re feeling lazy or unnoticed that is the most important.
Instead, I am a big believer in creating actionable habits — ones that you can start anytime, anywhere. Focus less on a particular goal, and instead concentrate on habits that will move you in the direction that you want to go.
You don’t need to identify a specific destination. You just need to know how to read the map in order to get on the right highway.
In other words, I don’t set a goal for myself that I will land a regular column at a major media publication by the time that I turn 30. I work on implementing a writing routine that allows me to write uninterrupted for at least two hours each day. Whether I am exhausted, unmotivated or have a six page To-Do List, I have no say in the matter. I have deliberately carved out a portion of my day to doing this one thing.
So as the upcoming year approaches, I hope you, of course, set actionable goals for the months ahead. Just make sure that you also take time to express gratitude for all the progress that you’ve made thus far.
We all get infatuated by fresh starts, but life doesn’t really work like that. There are no clean slates. There are simply more opportunities to further our growth. A healthy balance of gratitude for the past and measurable plans for the future will — quite definitely — be a recipe for a wonderful year.