The relationship between habits and routines 

We’ve talked about it earlier in this series how by definition a habit is a regular tendency that becomes hard to break or give up. For example, you might make coffee right away in the morning as a part of your routine. Looking back at the quote we emphasized last week, “The man who moves a mountain does so first by carrying away small stones.” – Confucius. We talked about how accomplishing big goals only happens if and when we commit to taking small steps every day that push us toward where we want to end up. So, today, we’re going to talk about how our habits can play a role in whether or not we are able to accomplish our goals. Do the habits we currently have contribute to the success of where we’re trying to end up or do they hinder our growth?

Big goals, big dreams

One common bad habit when it comes to goal setting is procrastination. Sometimes, when something feels daunting or overwhelming, we often put off starting because it seems like too big of a step. Think about a big task that you have coming up – a deadline you need to meet, a hard conversation you need to have, or anything you’re really not excited about getting started. Whatever the circumstance may be, it often feels much easier to divert our attention than to deal with the task that we really don’t want to do. One of the most common distractions that we use for procrastination in society today is our phones. How easy is it – when you don’t feel like doing something – to pick up your phone and start scrolling. It’s almost a deflection, an attempt to focus on something completely different, and to avoid facing what we have in front of us. We’ve all been there.

However, one helpful tool that we can utilize in order to minimize the time we waste putting off what we need to accomplish by staring at our phones is an app timer. Most smart phones today have a function that allows you to set a timer for how much time we are able to use a specific app. For example, if I only want to allow myself to look at social media for 15 minutes – I can have a timer set such that after 15 minutes, the app will notify me that my time is up and that it is time to get back to work.

Big goals, big dreams (continued) 

 Although this does not eliminate this tendency all together, it does limit the damage this behavior can do to our schedule and our goals, while still allowing some grace for being human, and sometimes needing some flexibility in our level of focus. Such technology allows us to raise the threshold for how easy it is for us to waste endless time procrastinating through social media. If we hold ourselves accountable in this way, this makes it more difficult to waste endless time on social media, allowing us to draw attention back to the task at hand.

Furthermore, we also want to decrease the threshold for those habits/tasks that well facilitate our success and productivity. For example, Dr. White loves to go to the gym early in the morning. However, sometimes right away in the morning, this doesn’t seem to be the most preferable option. So, one helpful tool to ensure that there is follow through on this task is to have all of the components required for this to happen prepped the night before. This greatly minimizes the time and energy required to then follow through. This can be true of any task – if we set ourselves up for success, the more likely we are to then take the next small step toward meeting our goal.

Nonetheless, life happens, and sometimes it can be difficult to always be able to hold to the exact same structure and schedule every day, let alone throughout different phases of life. Again, for Dr. White, his goal/habit of getting to the gym early in the morning is not a behavior that is super compatible with the sleep schedules of his young kids. So, for now, he makes it a priority to workout at different times in his day. This therefore still executes the same end goal of maintaining health and fitness but does so in a way that adapts to the reality of the phase of life of their family.

In summary, big goals, big dreams and consistent habits have a space in every phase of life, even where distraction and procrastination play a role. However, there is still room for flexibility in the day to day execution of the habits that will allow us to end up where we would like to be. As long as we are committed and disciplined enough to follow through, we have an opportunity every day to choose to ‘carry away small stones’ in order to eventually be able to ‘move a mountain.’