Create A Habit Not A New Year Goal

Posted: Monday January 4 2021

By: Guest Blogger

It’s time to ditch those New Year Goals and focus on creating habits.

Create A Habit Not A New Year Goal

By Rachael Mackenzie – World Thai Boxer & UK Boxing Champion – Director WorkAthlete

It’s time to ditch those New Year Goals and focus on creating habits.

We’ve reached that time again, the time when we look at the list of goals we set for ourselves at the beginning of last year and realise that we’ve been transferring the same goals, unachieved, into our new year plan for the last five years.

Google “goal-setting” and you’ll be inundated with methods, strategies, tools for setting your goals.  The sports world is fixated on goal setting. OKR, SMART goals, pick your own acronym and make up a system.  All of them work on the same premise.  Decide what it is you want to achieve (remember to be really specific about it), pick a way to measure it, set a time to achieve it.

Perfectly simple – so as a Thai-boxer I decide I want to be the best in the World, measured by my ranking and I want to achieve it by the 31st December.  So let’s say I work hard all year but wind up second in the rankings.  What do I do now?  I’ve failed to reach my goal? What does not achieving that goal (which incidentally is not wholly within my control) mean?  Perhaps achieving the goal is not the goal.

Let me explain.  Let’s say your goal is to lose a stone.  Quite easy to make a SMART goal around weight loss.  I will weigh X by Y date.  Perfect, we can track that on a daily basis.  In fact as a boxer I quite often had to reach a certain weight by a certain date in order to be allowed to step inside the ring.  Goal achieved!   There are many paths to this particular goals, lots of those paths involved a sweat suit, a sauna and a spin bike in my early boxing career.  Sure I’d made the weight, but at what cost?  You see the goal is not about the number on the scales it’s about the purpose.  Deciding the purpose, your reason, determines a shift in behaviour that is not constrained by a date.

Let’s stick with weight loss, a common January goal, our self-worth should clearly be defined by what number we see when we set on the scales (I’ll jump off that soap box…for now!).  Your goal is to weight X stone.  You can pick any off the shelf celebrity trainer and follow their calorie restricted diet plan for a few weeks and you’ll reach that goal.

Then what?  The reason most people yo-yo between weight loss and weight gain is because they’ve started with a number driven goal.   Don’t get me wrong, knowing the number you’re aiming for whether on the scales, or from your revenue streams isn’t always bad but get clear on your intention first.  Why are you trying to achieve something? What is it about reaching that goal that will positively impact on your life?  Most importantly, what kind of person do you need to become in order to reach that goal… and is that the person you want.

# Create A Habit Not A New Year Goal

Our outcomes are really a collection of small actions or habits repeated, if we define our reason it’s easier to establish the habits that lead us there.  Sure I can reach my goal weight by starving myself for a month, but the purpose of that goal is to feel good, to feel healthier, to be able to do more, that particular path won’t lead me there.  The habits of someone who maintains a healthy weight, for life, look very different to those of someone crashing into 2021 with a plan to lose a stone in a week.

The same principle applies across your goals.  What is it that achieving an uplift in your income will allow you do?  What is the purpose behind increasing your Instagram following?

I reached that number 1 spot in the World rankings, not because I wrote it down as a goal (I didn’t by the way).  I reached it because I’d identified the kind of athlete I wanted to be, the kind of athlete that is always trying to improve and that doesn’t need to sit in a sauna before every fight.  I built into my day the habits of that athlete and when I messed up, I didn’t beat myself up about it, when your job is to get punched you don’t need an extra kicking, instead, I worked out ways to reinforce the habits I needed.

So instead of instead of asking “what is my goal” start with “what is my intention”.  How would I want someone to describe the me that walks into 2022?

  • Define your desired future state.   I want to be the kind of person who… you really want to run a marathon or do you want to be the kind of person who goes running?
  • Work out what are the habits you currently have that don’t support that intention. What are the habits of someone who is the kind of person you want to be?  If you don’t know, find someone who appears to have the behaviours you want and go ask them.
  • Make it easy – remove the obstacle for the habits you want and put obstacles in the way of habits you don’t want. A lock on the biscuit cupboard anyone?  Or even better don’t bring biscuits into the house.

Rachael Mackenzie

Rachael Mackenzie is a director of WorkAthlete.

# Create A Habit Not A New Year Goal