As we approach the end of the year and begin reflecting on our achievements and milestones over the year, let me remind of you of a lesson that helped me achieve more this year than ever before.
This year, I defaulted to soft goals and hard habits. Let me explain.
There is a common understanding that in order to move anything forwards whether that’s a business, career, or personal aspiration, we need to set goals. But, the easy mistake that then arises from hard goal-setting is that we attach all of our motivation to these hard goals. However, it is much better to attach our motivation to hard habits instead, whilst keeping soft goals.
Now, don’t get me wrong, goals are fantastic. They give us a sense of direction and allow us to see where we are heading. But, alone they are ineffective.
Let me introduce this excerpt from Atomic Habits:
Winners and losers have the same goals:
Every Olympian wants to win a gold medal. Every candidate wants to get the job. And if successful and unsuccessful people share the same goals, then the goal cannot be what differentiates the winners from the losers. It wasn’t the goal of winning the Tour de France that propelled the British Cyclists to the top of the sport. Presumably, they had wanted to win the race every year before—just like every other professional team. The goal had always been there. It was only when they implemented a system of continuous small improvements that they achieved a different outcome.
The exponential Motivation Curve is directly linked to this notion, leveraging soft goals and hard habits to build increasing amounts of motivation over time as opposed to depleting motivation overtime by fixating on a static goal.
For every goal, there is most likely a habit that would lead you to it. For example, I want to grow this newsletter in the future into a community where I can connect and interact with our growing family, much like Nesslabs. But, if I were to remain fixated on this goal, I’d never reach it. Instead, I’m fixated on one habit: one article, every week that improves with feedback.
This way, I’m more likely to reach it. Why? I’m more motivated to write an article each week because I can visually see how I’m improving and the habit itself of regular writing has made the process faster and more efficient. Six months ago, this same article would take me 4-5 hours, now it takes me 2-hours. As a result, my motivation is much higher.
New habits are hard. So, to begin with, motivation is low.
Then they become easier, motivation rises. Now your goal doesn’t seem so distant.
So, the lesson I implemented this year was this: to attach motivation to the right vector, which is almost always the habit, that eventually leads to the goal.
The Action Plan:
Don’t set hard goals backed by weak habits. Set soft goals backed by hard habits.