Who Needs Goals When You Can Develop New, Good Habits
This article originally published on Jan. 9, 2015
The startup world is an endless sea of strategies, goals, objectives and to-do’s that relentlessly grows the deeper you delve into it.
Maybe it’s the “entrepreneurial way,” but the grand-slam approach of setting a single, massive goal for the year poses more hardship than ease for the simple fact that too much is oftentimes just that -- too much.
After all, putting forth an all-out effort towards achieving one large goal can be overwhelming for myriad reasons: the distance in time and space to goal attainment, the massive amounts of (underdeveloped) resources and contacts to build and cultivate, the lack of funding with no investors in site.
So, instead of establishing a new goal, try this instead: set a new habit.
That’s right. Don’t focus on achieving any goals. Instead, aim to develop the behavior that creates long-lasting habits and wields the results you want as a byproduct.
Habits -- the right ones -- wield positive results because certain laws in human nature are reciprocal: being trustworthy builds trust, keeping promises builds integrity, selflessness builds service, kindness builds decency. You get the idea.
To spark your creativity for building better habits, here are five habits to pioneer your habitual success (in no particular order):
1. Think in terms of three
When faced with a decision, consider three options -- unlikely, likely and most likely -- and drill down into each one by forming contingency plans for if/when the anticipated course of action goes awry. Stick with three, though. More than three and you enter the realm of analysis paralysis.
2. Adapt small and win big
One reason why new habits don’t stick is because they seem overwhelming. Setting out to have your business up and running in six months from scratch isn’t exactly realistic (although I commend the ambition), so instead break down the steps that lead to achieving your goal into smaller bites so its attainment feels more palatable.
Ideally, you’re doing something every day to further your progress, so break down your strategy into a weekly rhythm of to-do’s. This way, you also make smaller course corrections along the way rather than massive breakdowns only to be realized months later.
3. Say thank you
It may be small, but a dozen tiny opportunities to demonstrate appreciation add up to a single perception about you. Moreover, telling your brain to habitually look for praise trains it to constantly look for the positive side of things. If you’re unsure of when to say thank you, start the habit of identifying opportunities for praise. Chances are you’ll find them.
4. Question constantly
This is something my 3-year-old son does well. In fact, it’s something most kids do naturally -- they ask “why?” incessantly -- because they’re curious and they don’t know any better. In other words, as we mature we learn not to ask questions. Inquisitiveness may connote a negative label such as being nosy, interfering or troublesome. However, the deeper you drill down into the why of circumstance, the more granular details you’ll see and the more understanding you’ll gain.
5. Seek feedback
Staying curious is important, but doing so alone without conferring with others or accepting outside perspectives limits you to personal bias. The most knowledgeable authorities in the world aren’t a one-person show. Rather, they got there through a rocky road of learn, unlearn, re-learn -- an iterative process that is just as much a skill as it is a habit.
No matter what habit you’re trying to form, its attainment is immediately within reach. Start now, right now, to get the behavior ball rolling towards newfound success.