Right now, I’m leading a month-long Whatever It Takes program designed to foster habits that lead to goal achievement.
Personally, the practices I’m building are: Reading at least two chapters of personal finance books each week to keep my ideas fresh; and to stay healthy, I’ve committed to working out at least three times a week, walking 10,000 steps or more each day and eating no more than 25 grams of sugar daily.
Today’s column is tied to my last one about setting a goal by figuring out your financial priorities.
Regardless of what you’re trying to achieve, habits are at the heart of the matter. In his bestselling book, “The Power of Habit,” Charles Duhigg describes the simple neurological loop at the core of every habit, a loop that consists of three parts:
CueRoutineRewardThink about this simple morning ritual: Cue – I got up and walked into the bathroom. Routine – I brushed my teeth. Reward – fresh breath. We’ll employ this same loop as we build habits to accomplish our goal. If you are trying to break a habit, you must change one of the three:
Stop giving yourself the signal to start.Do something different when you experience the cue.Change the reward.Let’s get started designing the path to your goal:
Decide on your goal. What is the one big thing you want to accomplish?Know why. Why is this accomplishment significant to you?Be clear. Write a SMART goal: Specific; Measurable; Achievable; Realistic; Time-bound.Start small. Break your goal into small steps, preferably what can be completed in less than a week.Make time. Decide what you will need to give up to have time to work on the steps each week and schedule time in your calendar to take action.Change your habits. Examine habits you will need to create or break to support accomplishing your “one big thing.” Pay careful attention to cue, routine and reward.Make it automatic. Where possible, remove willpower from the process through automation.Make it public. You’ll be less likely to quit if you declare to your friends and family your intention to accomplish your goal. Be accountable. Ask a friend if you can check in with them each week to report your progress.Create a streak. Using a calendar, check off each day you made progress on your current step, don’t break your streak. If you do, don’t quit. Simply start again.Hint: This will work for New Year’s resolutions, too.
We often get so focused on our goal that we forget that it’s the small, consistent steps that lead to progress.
By following these 10 steps, you will set in motion the actions necessary to develop the habits to achieve your goal.
Former Durango resident and personal finance coach Matt Kelly owns Momentum: Personal Finance. www.personalfinancecoaching.com.