What Kinds of Targets Should You Set When You Want To Change A Habit?


Monday, 6.14pm

Sheffield, U.K.

Are you the kind of person that thinks if it isn’t hurting, it isn’t working?

Do you set ambitious targets – because that’s what you feel you should be doing – and then feel guilty and down when you don’t achieve them?

If that’s the case, perhaps you’ve been going about targets all wrong.

Let’s take a few things that many of us would like to do.

We’d like to become more mindful – more calm, we’d like to be healthier and fitter and we’d like to be better at our job – say it’s a sales role.

What do you need to do to achieve these outcomes?

Well, we’ll need to put time and effort into them. If you’re not calm right now, then being able to be calm is a process. If you’re overweight – that’s another process. As is selling.

What many of us do is start with a target – set a goal – have an ambition.

I’m going to meditate for an hour every day. I’m going to the gym for an hour five times a week. Or I’m going to make 100 calls a day.

We rush into the task full of energy. We give it all we have, perhaps for a few days, perhaps a few weeks.

Perhaps even a few months.

And then, it gets hard. If we aren’t seeing results or life gets in the way or other things become more important, it just becomes too hard and we start to “forget”.

And then we stop.

One answer to this is that you should have more willpower. Do more affirmations, tell yourself to do it, control your mind and focus…

But that’s hard, isn’t it? How long can you keep going at full speed before you just run out of gas?

This way of being is hurting us more than it’s helping.

Some people suggest we do things differently.

Think about the game Limbo, for example.

That’s the game where you turn around, bend over backwards, and shuffle your way under a pole. Then the pole is lowered and you start again.

That gets harder and harder, doesn’t it?

Well, what would happen if you set the pole at neck height, faced forward, bent back slightly and shuffled under the pole?

It would be embarrassingly easy, wouldn’t it?

And this is the secret of how many people manage to train themselves and set new habits.

You’ll find a few examples in Tim Ferriss’ book, Tools of Titans.

Here you have the monk that says to become more mindful – take just one breath a day.

To get fitter, do just one push-up a day.

IBM used to ask it’s sales representatives to make just one sales call a day.

And, if you want to be a writer, just writing two shitty pages a day will get you on the way.

So, for the next thing you want to change, before you start with an ambitious and far reaching action plan to reach a goal, try this.

Set an embarrassingly easy task that you’ll do every day that will move you closer to your goal.


Karthik Suresh

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