To Change Your Life, Focus on Your Habits

habitsYou’ve decided to change your habits, clear the slate, dream big dreams and set your goals.

But setting our goals may not be the best way to get where you want to go.

Today, as I did my morning habit of working out, I listened to a recording of Brian Johnson, founder of Optimize, as he interviewed Leo Babauta.

Optimize is an online company with a constant offering of recordings on living your optimal life. I find it a wonderful, inspiring way to start my day. (If you like Oprah’s Life Class, you’ll love these classes and interviews.)

And Leo Babauta, if you who don’t already follow him, is a blogger and author of several books, all focused on Zen Habits. Living simply with maximum peace and pleasure.

What Leo said today was something I’ve experienced a lot.

When we set goals, it’s common to find there are many factors we cannot control as we work to get the results we want. There are so many aspects, so many detours, that we simply can’t write down a goal on one date and count on achieving it by another date.

But, what we can do that will be immensely satisfying and rewarding is to deconstruct our goals to the habits that they are composed of.

And one by one, work on those habits.

The habits you do over and over eventually give you a new reality. So if you want to change your life, focus on the habits you do.

What does this look like in daily life?

  1. First sit down and create a vision of what you want. Just like a goal but really fleshed out in detail.
  2. Now, conjure up what feelings you want to create with that vision.
  3. Let’s take the vision apart… what are the habits of thought, feeling or behavior, that you would have to instill that would bring you closer and closer to your vision?
  4. Pick one habit. This is where most of us fall down. We create a vision, get excited about it, and want it to happen immediately. And we’re confident. We’re in the honeymoon stage of change. So we tend to think we can make all the changes at once. This is a perfect formula for failure.
  5. Instead, train your focus on this one habit. Determine if you want to do something you currently aren’t doing, or stop doing something you are doing. Do you want to do more of something or less of something? Be really specific.
  6. Now set yourself up for the new habit. When will you do it? If it’s something you want to stop doing, plan for that as well. When _____ happens, you will do _____.
  7. Enjoy doing the habit. The habit will get you to your vision, but the habit can’t be something you hate that you’re forcing yourself to do. So make sure you can frame the habit into something that feels good while you do it, not just when you think it will give you the result you want.
  8. Don’t worry about how long it will take. All those articles about the creation of habits taking 21 or 30 days don’t take into consideration the depth and scope of the habit you are working on. It will take however long it takes. The important thing is that you start.
  9. Create a trigger, after which you always do your habit. This will build a pathway in your brain. For me, I have my morning coffee, and then I always do my exercise.
  10. Keep going. Eventually you will feel more unnatural skipping the habit than doing it.


Face the right direction.

And then, when you feel like the habit is becoming natural, add another small habit.

Eventually, you should be pretty close to your vision.

To sign up and listen to this interview and others, click here.

To look at Leo’s popular blog, Zen Habits, click here.

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