Goal Setting for Success: Harnessing the Power of Atomic Habits
I finally sat down and read JCs Atomic Habits, which people have been raving about for years. It was validating to see many of the concepts in the book are concepts I’ve successfully used in private practice and in my own life for decades, so I can wholeheartedly attest to the concepts in this book being tried and true!
As we begin another year with excellent intentions, I want to share some of the key concepts from the book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear about how to reframe your goals beyond just creating a SMART goal to creating a strong, supported framework to increase your odds of success. To truly transform our health or fitness, we need to move beyond just about setting goals; it’s about creating a system that transforms these goals into tangible, everyday actions.
Small Changes, Big Impact
First things first, let’s talk about the magic of small changes. James Clear emphasizes the power of tiny, incremental adjustments, and I couldn’t agree more. Think of each small habit as a single ingredient in a nutritious recipe. Alone, it might not seem like much, but when combined, they create a delicious, healthful meal. Every small habit you adopt is a step towards a healthier, happier you. Start with something ridiculously simple, like doing 5 push-ups off the counter daily. Work up from there and see where you are by the end of the year!
Focus on Systems, Not Just Goals
While having goals is great, the real secret lies in the systems we create to achieve them. Instead of just focusing on losing 10 pounds or running a marathon, concentrate on the daily habits that inch you closer to these goals. It’s like shifting your focus from the perfect dish to perfecting the cooking process. The right system ensures you’re consistently making choices that align with your health goals.
Identity-Based Habits: Become Who You Want to Be
One of Clear’s most powerful concepts is building identity-based habits. This means focusing on who we want to become, not just what we want to accomplish. I first did this exercise when I was 17, and kept the paper tucked in a drawer that I found 8 years later. I was stunned to realize that much of what i dreamed of as a teen I had achieved my my mid-twenties (but it took me another 15 years to get that garden going).
Here’s how this works – rather than just aiming to eat healthier, start seeing yourself as someone who loves nourishing their body with wholesome foods. Act as if you are that person. I often ask my clients, “what would the best verison of yourself do in this situation?” This questions guides you towards your ideal version of youself and reduces the distance from how you perceive yourself now and how you want to behave tomorrow. This shift in perspective is a game-changer; it aligns your actions with your identity, making your habits stick for the long haul.
The Power of Habit Stacking
Another gem from “Atomic Habits” is habit stacking. It’s the idea of pairing a new habit with an existing one. Let’s say you already have a habit of brewing coffee every morning. You could stack a new habit of taking your vitamin D by putting the bottle next to the coffee maker and taking it with your coffee and breakfast. By linking the new habit with an already established one, you’re more likely to stick to it.
Remember, the path to your goals isn’t a straight line; it’s a winding road with ups and downs. Embrace the imperfections and setbacks as part of the process. If you miss a day at the gym or indulge in a treat, don’t beat yourself up. Acknowledge it, learn from it, and jump right back into your healthy habits. Our obstacles are not failings, they are information that we can take to refine and hone our habits and increase our odds of success. Consistency over time is key, not perfection in every moment.
Tracking Your Progress
Just like a chef tastes their dish while cooking, regularly check in on your progress. Tracking your habits, whether it’s through a journal, app, or calendar, helps you stay accountable and provides valuable insights into what’s working and what’s not. It’s a tool to celebrate your successes and adjust your course as needed. I use my bullet journal for this, but you can also track in an online calendar or use a habit streak app. Client sessions often act as a progress checkpoint and an opportunity for expert guidance in troubleshpoting any obstacles that came up. When steps towards your goal become habitual, you can then use yoru progress checkpoints to assess implementation of new steps or going deeper in other ways.
Conclusion: Cultivating a Healthy Lifestyle
Ultimately, goal setting for success in health and wellness is about more than just deciding what we want to achieve. It’s about building a lifestyle that naturally leads us to those achievements. By focusing on small, consistent changes, embracing our identity, and creating supportive systems, we set ourselves up for a lifetime of health and happiness.
Remember, your health journey is uniquely yours. Any advice in a program or book which does not take this into consideration is unlikely to be successful or sustainable. Take these principles, adapt them to your life, and watch as your small habits compound into significant, lasting changes. Here’s to setting goals and crushing them, one healthy habit at a time!