Step One in Achieving your Goals!

Lisa Thal

What needs to happen first for you to achieve your goals?
It starts with you getting clear on Whom You want to become!

The new year is here. Many of you over-achievers likely already started months ago. Have you thought about what you want to achieve this year? Better Health, Financial Security, More Meaningful relationships, Become a Better Leader, possibly a new career.

Well, it’s this time of year that we reset our intentions and what we want to accomplish. You also hear and see many companies market how they can help us achieve those goals—for example, the 21-day challenge to stop smoking and lose weight.

The question is, how long do you think it takes to achieve that goal you set, 21 days, 30 days, or 90 days?

The answer is Forever! Yes, See, the reason is if you stop doing it, then it’s no longer a habit.

It’s consistently doing some action every day vs. the immersion in 21 days. Don’t get me wrong; you may need to initially create a new mindset and focus. But to achieve what you want in life, it has to become a habit.

The best news is that you have done this without knowing it. We all have created habits that have become a way of life. For example, we brush our teeth, shower, make our beds, make coffee, drive to work. We do it without even thinking.

And if you’re trying to do something that becomes part of your lifestyle, you start to see a little bit more clearly the value of making a small change or doing something more reasonable or sustainable.

In thinking of the best way to achieve my vision in 2022, I was reminded of the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. I highly recommend it. I thought it could be helpful to share his views and systems for achieving success over the next several weeks.

In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear describes shifts in how you view your habits. Step one is creating identity-based habits that encourage you to start with the type of person you want to become versus thinking about the result you want or the outcome you’re trying to achieve.

This is worth repeating: It starts with whom you want to become!

He shared an example about weight loss and the principle that applies to any goal you focus on achieving. In weight loss, all kinds of people will say, “I want to lose weight,” okay, so they start with a result, they say, “I want to lose 20 pounds,” and that’s the outcome. That’s the goal. “And so if I want to lose 20 pounds, then I need to come up with a plan. I’m going to go to the gym four days a week, I’m going to eat this food,” and then the assumption is, “If I do that, then I’ll be the kind of person I want to be, that if I’m able to achieve that, then maybe I’ll be happy.” And so, who is the type of person that can do what you want to do?

And James says, let’s invert that process and start by saying, “Okay, who is the type of person that can lose 20 pounds?” And maybe it’s the type of person who doesn’t miss workouts. And so, that’s fine, let’s put the goal on the shelf then, forget about the weight, forget about the number, forget about the judgment and the guilt and all this other stuff, and let’s focus on being the kind of person who doesn’t miss workouts, focus on fostering that Identity.

So essential to focus on you and your Identity. Who is the type of leader that I want to be? Maybe it’s someone who leads by example. They are in the trenches with their teams. You’re focused on that kind of person, not necessarily on the quantifiable metric at work.

And so, the first step to achieving long-term, habit-building success is to ask ourselves who’s the type of person we want to be, what’s the kind of Identity we want to reinforce? And then next, let’s ask ourselves, What is the system that I can design that carries me inevitably toward that Identity that strengthens the kind of person I wish to become?

In Atomic Habits, it is all about standardization before optimization. Define whom you want to be, make it the standard in your life, and then worry about doing it better.

Strategies like this work because you reinforce the Identity you want to build. If you show up at the gym five days in a row—even if it’s just for ten minutes— you are making and supporting your new Identity. You’re casting votes for the type of person who doesn’t miss workouts. You’re taking the small actions that confirm the kind of person you want to be.

Once you are clear on the Identity you want, we can build the habits necessary to support that life. So I ask you to take some time to think about the person you want to be.

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