It happens every January. You probably experienced it this year: everyone talking about goals like they’re going to change your life.
I used to ride that train too, believing if I just set bigger, better, clearer goals I would finally become the business owner or person I wanted to become. But setting goals that produce long-term success can be a real struggle.
For example, it’s May and the world is in an uproar. I think it’s safe to guess many of the goals you made in January are the last thing on your mind.
The horrifying truth is most goals we set on Jan 1 fizzle out and fail before the second Friday in January.
So a couple of years ago I started doing research into what might work better than goals to improve my life and help me make real, lasting progress.
Thanks to what I learned, my business revenue grew by 85% last year. In addition, I work less, I’m less stressed, and I’ve lost (and kept off) over 75 lbs.
It’s been a total game-changer for me, and it can be for you, too. Keep reading to learn how to harness this “non-goal” approach to getting what you want out of business and life.
There’s only one thing I’ve found to be more effective than setting goals for yourself: habits.
I’m far from alone in this way of thinking. In fact, many experts agree habits are a much more sustainable and effective long-term strategy for improvement.
You might be wondering what it is about habits that make them so good for personal and business growth.
Habits foster early success, they’re easy to define, and they’re low-pressure. Whereas goals are often too far in the future to stay top-of-mind, they can be ambiguous, and come with all sorts of undue pressure.
If you want to make an actual change in your business, the choice is simple: set good habits.
The lofty aspirations and big accomplishments will naturally follow. Let me show you how using two simple examples: one concerning my business and the other concerning my health.
I run a small lifestyle business that supports me, my family, and a small team of incredible people.
Last year (January 2019) instead of setting a goal to double our revenue (lofty and lacking a clear path) we decided to double down and build regular habits around activities that we knew would bring us more business.
For example, every morning we respond to all customer emails where we assist customers who were unable to sign up, convince leaving customers to stick around, and answer questions to customers on the fence about our service.
The moment we began this habit, we saw an immediate jump in customer retention and satisfaction.
As another example, every Wednesday, I write articles adding value to audiences that might appreciate our product. These articles get our brand out there but also provide valuable backlinks that improve our search rankings for important, relevant keywords.
Due to this relatively simple habit, our blog traffic has climbed by 82% (Q4 2019 vs Q4 2018) and we even doubled the revenue of a small part of our business from $36K to $72K (97% YoY) almost on autopilot.
As we stick to our habits, we know we’ll continue to see growth.
As many entrepreneurs know, running a business can be taxing on your health.
But research shows healthy eating and regular exercise can make you more productive.
So in 2017, I decided enough was enough. I was far too overweight and unhealthy. I needed to make a change.
Instead of setting a weight-loss goal (like I had done many times before), I focused on simple habits like skipping sugar 6 days/week, walking/jogging/running every morning before work, or eating a veggie-heavy lunch every day.
The results have been incredible for me and my business. I’ve lost 75 lbs and last year I ran my first 10K. I followed it up this month with a St. Patty’s 10K right before the Corona Quarantines kicked in.
Not only that, but I’m less stressed as I build my company. I’m more patient at work and at home. I have a clearer mind about business decisions. And I’m just happier.
All thanks to habits.
So what do habits have in store for your business this year?
You may have already set goals in January of this year. And if you’re on-par with statistics you may be flailing with them or may have given up entirely.
Instead, here’s how you can use habits to make major progress in your business this year:
First, start with manageable, basic habits that align with your overall vision or aspiration.
Instead of “I will quit my job and start freelancing” (harder to do) try “Every morning, on the train, I will check sites with independent contractor jobs and pitch to at least one.” (much easier and more sustainable).
Use apps like Habitica or StickK to set habits and track your progress over time.
To understand what kinds of habits you should create, try reading James Clear’s thought-provoking book Atomic Habits.
Eventually, your good habits will happen on auto-pilot. But in the beginning, you’ll need to train your brain to perform important tasks on a set schedule.
For that, open up your calendar app (like, right now) and decide when you’ll actually act on your new habits. Then never dismiss that notification without fulfilling the obligation you made to yourself.
I use Google Calendar as a simple way to keep me accountable to my habits. You could also try a to-do list app with recurring and reminder options like Wunderlist.
With time, you’ll notice your brain just attacks these habits on its own. Today is Wednesday (at the time of writing) so… I’m writing. This morning, I interacted with my customers. I also went for a walk. And I’m about to go eat a salad.
I don’t have to think about it anymore. And that frees up my mind for all sorts of business- and life-expanding activities.
I won’t lie to you and tell you that setting (and keeping) important habits is always incredibly easy.
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