Goal-setting is hard.
There, I said it! Everyone wants to set goals, to change their life, to be a better person. But setting goals is hard. Even with frameworks like SMART goals, actually following through on your dreams is hard work.
Now, I can’t do all the work for you. That’s up to you. What I can do is share the concept that took me from mindlessly setting goals every month and year with zero success to mindfully engaging with myself to make real change in my life.
Let me introduce you to foundational habits.
What are Foundational Habits?
When we set goals, we usually have to work on developing habits that let us achieve those goals. For example, if your goal is to become fit, you need to develop a habit of exercising.
Over the years, I’ve learned that the biggest problem with achieving my goals is that the habits I focus on are too extreme. I can’t go from 0 to 100 in just one day. Trying to run every day for 30 minutes out of the blue is impossible, especially when my normal routine is lying in my bed for those 30 minutes instead!
This is where foundational habits come into play. These are habits that involve tiny changes to your daily life. They act as a foundation for those big goals you want to achieve. And when I say tiny, I mean tiny.
Going back to the example I mentioned earlier, if your goal is to become more fit, a foundational habit for this goal might be getting off the bus one stop early and walking to work from there. That’s a tiny change to your life in the grand scheme of things – but it’s so much easier to stick with than a bigger habit, and it gives you a solid foundation to work towards becoming a more active person.
How to Set Goals with Foundational Habits
To incorporate foundational habits into my daily life, I like to set goals using a concept I call the funnel method.
- Think of one goal you want to achieve. This can be really, really broad – we’ll get more specific as we go on! For example, your goal might be to learn piano.
- The next step is to think about what habit you need to develop in order to achieve this goal. In this example, you may think that you need to practice every day for an hour in order to get a good handle on playing the instrument.
- This is the point where most people stop, but we’re going to keep going. You don’t want to jump right into the deep end by practicing for one hour every day! It’s time to think of a simpler habit you could do. You could practice for a shorter amount of time – only 30 minutes. Or you could decide to read sheet music for some time, instead of sitting down at the piano.
- Once you’ve brainstormed for a little bit, you should have a bunch of options sitting in front of you. Now, all you have to do is choose the easiest one! Whichever habit you think you can most seamlessly incorporate into your life, choose it.
- Now, all you have to do is whatever habit you’ve chosen! After a couple weeks, check back in with yourself. If you feel like you’ve mastered this habit, go back to your list and choose a harder one to start working on. If you don’t feel prepared to do that, keep working on the habit, or try thinking of something even simpler to do.
You may not see results fast with this method, but you will see results – and that’s the most important thing!
Tips for Achieving Your Goals with Foundational Habits
There are two big things you need to keep in mind in order to make foundational habits successful for you.
1. Stay small. The smaller the habits you choose, the more sustainable they will be. Working on simple habits will always be easier than trying to make drastic life changes.
2. Track your progress. Tracking is the most important part of goal-setting. If you don’t know what you’re doing, how can you tell if you’re getting closer to your goal? If you track yourself every day, when it comes time for self-reflection, you’ll immediately know whether you need more time with a habit or if you’re ready to move on.
The Last Thing You Need to Know about Foundational Habits
Look at that! You’re an expert at foundational habits now. Just remember that these habits are small, incremental changes in your life. They require real dedication in order to work. It may feel like you’re not getting anywhere for a while – and that’s when you need to dig your heels in and stick to the plan. By working small at first, you’re going to be able to develop really sustainable routines that will help you achieve your goals!
If you have any questions or you try out the funnel method, feel free to leave me a comment on this post! I’d love to hear from you!