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To Achieve Big Goals, Start with Small Habits

Dr Henriette Smith.

May 2021

· Micro Habits

Every new year, people sit down to write out their goals or make big resolutions. The big resolutions ultimately fail as they are based on emotion, and the bar is set too high. For example, you will hear someone state that they will lose 50 kilograms in January, so it will be okay to eat as much as possible in December. With a mindset like this, they set themselves up for failure.   It is better to think like a stonemason when you have big goals. The stonemason has the job of building a floor to ceiling fireplace from a particular type of rock. They know the end goal, and to meet it, they must prepare and lay one stone at a time, with precise measurements.   Having big goals or what is called hairy audacious goals is something you should strive for. However, you need to chunk it down into some small changes to your habits and grow at the proper speed. These changes are called micro habits as they are one habit broken into smaller, achievable bits.   Let's look at an example of micro habits now. A person who joins a martial arts club with the 100% conviction of earning a black belt needs to develop great habits. To chunk things into a micro habit, the person could prepare their uniform the night before. This means perhaps washing it and folding it before putting it in the kit bag. Then they would add in the other items they need for the class the next day. An hour before the class begins, the person would stretch at home. This would give them a boost over the stretching exercises at the start of the class. They could do 10 minutes of hand conditioning, also known as stretching and striking the hands, to prepare for any sparring sessions fully. These micro habits build the bigger habit of showing up for each class on time and ready to work on the next belt level.   Getting into micro habits means that you must prepare for the change in routine.    A) Work on designing the micro habits. Think of it as if you had to look into a microscope to see it for yourself. For example, you decide that you want to meditate for 30 minutes every day, but you have tried and failed to be consistent. Your first micro habit would be learning to watch how your chest rises and falls with each breath. You focus just on how the air comes into your body and at what speed. Concentrate on seeing your chest and stomach area expand, then go down as you expel the air. This micro habit by itself is extremely relaxing, and you can practice it for a few days before adding in a new micro habit.  B) Micro habits should be so small that the thought of not doing the action never enters your mind. If you think of doing a micro habit and start looking for excuses not to, it means you need to adjust and break that micro habit into an even smaller size. Pick the same time and place to perform your habit. In the example of the breathing for meditation, you could do it in your study every night at 10 pm sharp. You should journal and use the journal to mark off your success when you perform the micro habit. If you do not want to journal, grab a small notebook and make yourself a checklist, you can tick off with your pen. This accountability checklist takes no time to complete, so it is a no brainer. It will help to motivate you when the checkmarks start adding up. Motivation is great but do not get over-excited and then start doubling up on your micro habits, or you will find yourself giving up. When you try to reach your goals too fast, you get overwhelmed, and then it is back to the very beginning.  C) Don’t feel embarrassed if you need to get someone to hold you accountable for your daily micro habit. There may be so much going on in your daily life that it is just too easy to forget the micro habit until someone reminds you. It is better to stay on course, no matter how you have to do it.

This post is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered therapy. This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental Health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.

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This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.