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Last Updated on January 20, 2021

How to Change Your Beliefs and Stick to Your Goals for Good

How to Change Your Beliefs and Stick to Your Goals for Good

In one of my very first articles, I discussed a concept called identity-based habits.

The basic idea is that the beliefs you have about yourself can drive your long-term behavior. Maybe you can trick yourself into going to the gym or eating healthy once or twice, but if you don’t shift your underlying identity, then it’s hard to stick with long-term changes.

habit-layers
    Graphic by James Clear

    Most people start by focusing on performance and appearance-based goals like, “I want to lose 20 pounds” or “I want to write a best-selling book.”

    But these are surface level changes.

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    The root of behavior change and building better habits is your identity. Each action you perform is driven by the fundamental belief that it is possible. So if you change your identity (the type of person that you believe that you are), then it’s easier to change your actions.

    This brings us to an interesting question. How do you build an identity that is in line with your goals? How can you actually change your beliefs and make it easier to stick with good habits for the long run?

    How to change your beliefs

    The only way I know to shift the beliefs that you have about yourself and to build a stronger identity is to cast a vote for that identity with many, tiny actions.

    Think of it this way…

    Let’s say you want to become the type of person who never misses a workout. If you believed that about yourself, how much easier would it be to get in shape? Every time you choose to do a workout—even if it’s only five minutes—you’re casting a vote for this new identity in your mind. Every action is a vote for the type of person you want to become.

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    This is why I advocate starting with incredibly small actions (small votes still count!) and building consistency. Use the 2-Minute Rule to get started. Follow the Seinfeld Strategy to maintain consistency. Each actions becomes a small vote that tells your mind, “Hey, I believe this about myself.” And at some point, you actually will believe it.

    Of course, it works the opposite way as well. Every time you choose to perform a bad habit, it’s a vote for that type of identity.

    But here’s the interesting part.

    As I mentioned in this article, research shows that making a mistake or missing a habit every now and then has no measurable impact on your long-term success. It doesn’t matter if you cast a few votes for a bad behavior or an unproductive habit. In any election, there are going to be votes for both sides.

    Your goal isn’t to be perfect. Your goal is simply to win the majority of the time. And if you cast enough votes for the right identity, eventually the good behaviors will win out.

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    What can we learn from this?

    “Every time we participate in a ritual, we are expressing our beliefs, either verbally or more implicitly.”
    —Tony Schwartz

    I find it useful to think about identity-based habits for a few reasons.

    First, identity-based habits focus on you rather than your goals. It is surprisingly easy to achieve a goal and still not be happy with who you are as a person. Society pushes us to obsess over results: What are your goals? How busy are you? How successful have you become?

    And while there is nothing wrong with achievement and improvement, it is also very easy to forget to ask yourself the more important questions: Who am I? What do I believe about myself? What do I want my identity to be?

    Identity-based habits are one way to match your values and beliefs with the outcomes that you want in your life. (My 2014 Integrity Report was another attempt.)

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    Second, the idea of “casting votes for your identity” reveals how your daily actions add up over the long-term. Your actions drive your beliefs and each action you take is a vote for the type of person that you believe that you are. What beliefs are you expressing through your actions?

    Third, this framework helps to remove the “All or Nothing” philosophy that can so easily wreck our progress. For some reason, we often think that if we fail to follow our plan step-by-step, then we have totally blown it. The truth is that it doesn’t work that way at all. If you make a mistake, remember that it’s just one vote. Be aware of the votes you’re casting and try to win the majority. Every action is a vote for your identity.

    I’ve said many times that I don’t have all the answers. As always, I’m just learning as I go. If you know of other ways to change your beliefs and build a new identity, feel free to share.

    This article was originally published on JamesClear.com.

    Featured photo credit: Change – Its A New Year/Nana B Agyei via flickr.com

    More by this author

    James Clear

    James Clear is the author of Atomic Habits. He shares self-improvement tips based on proven scientific research.

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    Last Updated on April 14, 2021

    What Are SMART Goals (and How to Use Them to Be Successful)

    What Are SMART Goals (and How to Use Them to Be Successful)

    As a track and field runner in school, every year I would sit down with my coach and set a series of goals for the season. Once we had set my goals for the year, we would create a training plan so I could achieve those targets. This helped me answer the main question here: “What are SMART goals?”

    Before I got a coach, I used to run aimlessly with no plan, no target races. More often than not, I would end up injured and find my season ending after achieving very little.

    Once I got a coach, though, I started winning races that mattered and began enjoying my sport. This annual process taught me from a very early age that goals are important if I want to achieve the things that are important to me.

    So what exactly are SMART goals? This article will talk about why goals matter, how to use SMART goals effectively with your time and resources, and how these goals give you a clear, specific plan that works time and time again.

    Why Do People Fail to Reach Their Goals?

    Setting SMART goals and achieving them

    is not easy, and many people fail. A study by Scranton University found that only 8% of those who set New Year goals actually achieve them, meaning 92% who set new year goals fail[1].

    The problem is that many people see goals, such as New Year resolutions, as hopes and wishes. They hope they will lose some weight, they wish to start their own business, or they hope to get a better job. The problem with “hoping” and “wishing” for something is that there is no plan, no purpose, and no time frame set for achieving the goals.

    Once these hopes and wishes come face-to-face with the realities of daily life, they soon dissolve into lost hopes and wishful thinking.

    Therefore, in order to really achieve something, you need a concrete goal: a SMART goal.

    What Are SMART Goals?

    The foundation of all successfully accomplished goals is the SMART goal.

    Originally conceived by George T. Doran in a 1981 paper[2], this formula has been used in various forms ever since.

    SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based. It has been used by corporations and individuals to achieve their goals and objectives and is a formula that, on the whole, works well.

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    Use SMART goals to help you achieve more.

      The strength of SMART goals is that they set a clear path to achieving goals, and they have a clear time frame in which to achieve them. Let’s look at the SMART criteria in a little more detail:

      Specific

      For a goal to be achievable, it needs to have a very clear outcome. What you are asking is, “What exactly do I want to achieve?” The clearer the goal, the more likely it is you will achieve it.

      For example, if you just say “I want to lose weight,” then technically you could achieve your goal just by not eating dinner for one day—you would lose weight that way, even if it were temporary.

      You need to have a more specific goal: “I want to lose twenty-pounds by the end of July this year.”

      Measurable

      To achieve anything, it’s important to have measurable goals. T

      ake the example above: “I want to lose twenty-pounds by the end of July this year.”

      It’s measurable, as all you need do is weigh yourself on 1 January, then deduct twenty-pounds from that and set that weight as the target for 31 July. Then, each week you weigh yourself to measure progress.

      Attainable

      Being attainable means that SMART goals are realistic and that you have what you need in order to achieve them.

      In our example of losing weight, 20 pounds in six months is certainly doable. Your resources could include a gym membership, some at-home weights, or simply motivation to get outside and run everyday.

      If motivation is an area where you struggle, you can check out Lifehack’s Ultimate Worksheet for Instant Motivation Boost.

      Relevant

      For any goal to be achieved, you need to set relevant goals for your unique life.

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      If losing weight is doable with the lifestyle you have, and if you believe it will lead to a happier, healthier life, then it is certainly relevant to you. It’s even more relevant if your doctor has pointed out that you need to lose weight to prevent health issues.

      Time-based

      Finally, you need a timeline. All your goals need to have an end date because it creates a sense of urgency and gives you a deadline.

      In our example of losing twenty-pounds, a timeline of six months would be specific, measurable, relevant, and would have a timeline. Furthermore, as you have what you need to achieve that goal, it is attainable—all elements of the formula for SMART goals are included.

      How to Reach a SMART Goal

      The problem I have always found with the SMART goal formula is it does not take into account the human factor. We need motivation and a reason for achieving these goals.

      If you decide to lose twenty-pounds, for example, you are going to spend many months feeling hungry, and unless you possess superhuman mental strength, you are going to give in to the food temptations.

      All SMART goals can be distilled down to three words:

      • What do you want to achieve?
      • Why do you want to achieve it?
      • How are you going to achieve it?

      When you simplify your goal in this way, achieving it becomes much easier.

      1. Visualize What You Want

      One way to make your goals achievable is to visualize the end result. When you write out your mission statement, you should be imagining what it will be like once you have achieved the goal.

      In our weight loss example, you would close your eyes and imagine walking down from your hotel room in Ibiza in July with your towel, sunscreen, sunglasses, and swimwear on. You would imagine walking past all the other sunbathers and the feeling you have, the pride in the way you look and feel.

      Try to invoke as many of the five senses as you possibly can[3].

      2. Identify Your “Why”

      If you take losing twenty-pounds as an example, once you have made the decision that you want to do this, the next question to ask yourself is, “Why?” The more personal your why, the better.

      Your why could be, “Because I want to look and feel fantastic by the pool in Ibiza this summer.” That is a strong why.

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      If your why is, “Because my doctor told me to lose some weight,” that is not a good why because it’s your doctor’s, not yours.

      One way to identify your “why” is to write your mission statement.

      To help with setting achievable SMART goals, when working with my clients, I always ask them to complete the following mission statement:

      I will [STATE GOAL CLEARLY] by [DATE YOU WANT TO COMPLETE THE GOAL] because [YOUR WHY].

      If you want to write a SMART goal for the weight loss example, your mission statement would be written: “I will lose twenty-pounds by the end of July this year because I want to look and feel fantastic by the pool in Ibiza.”

      Never write a mission statement that is full of vague words. The words you use should be simple, direct, and clear.

      3. Figure out Your “How”

      Before you can begin achieving your goal, you need to create a list of steps you can take to make it happen.

      Write down everything you can think of that will help achieve your goal. It doesn’t matter what order you write these tasks down; what matters is that you write down as many action steps you can think of.

      I always aim for around one hundred small steps. This makes it much easier to assign tasks for each day that not only moves you forward on your goal, but also keeps you focused every day on achieving it.

      Once you have your list, you can create a to-do list for the goal and allocate the steps to different days so you create momentum towards a successful outcome.

      You can learn more about how to use SMART goals to achieve success and lasting change in this video:

      Bonus: Make a PACT

      There is one more part needed to really make sure you achieve the SMART goals you set for yourself, and that is something I call PACT. PACT is another acronym meaning Patience, Action, Consistency, and Time. You need all four of these to achieve goals.

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      Patience

      Without patience, you will give up. To achieve anything worthwhile requires patience. Success does not happen overnight. Be patient and enjoy the process of stepping a little closer towards achieving your goal each day.

      Action

      If you do not take action on any goal, then even SMART goals won’t be achieved. You need to make sure you remind yourself of your goal and why you want to achieve it each day. Read your mission statement, make an action plan, and then take the necessary action to make sure you move a step closer each day.

      Consistency

      The action you take each day towards achieving your goal needs to be consistent. You can’t follow your diet program for a week and then have three weeks off. Jim Rohn said it perfectly when he said:

      “Success is a few simple disciplines practised every day.”

      Time

      Of course, you need to allow enough time between where you are today and where you want to be in the future. Be realistic about time, and don’t get disheartened if you miss your deadline. Readjust your timeline if necessary.

      The Bottom Line

      The key to success is to put everything together. When you connect all of these elements, you create an environment where achieving SMART goals becomes much more attainable.

      Whether it’s personal or business goals, when you have a strong personal “why” for your goal, your motivation to keep going stays strong.

      Start with your “why,” and then get started on the action steps that will take you all the way to the end.

      More Tips on Reaching Your Goals

      Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

      Reference

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