Balance: The #1 reason you don’t reach your goals

We’re starting right back at the beginning of good intentions – goal setting to reach your goals.

It’s not an uncommon story – you set New Year’s resolutions then in a couple of weeks you’ve fallen off the wagon already. The fitness gym industry relies on this and data shows that while January accounts for 12% of new gym sign ups, many stop turning up as soon as the third week of January. I’m not surprised – let alone when you add in parenting. You hardly have any time or sleep for yourself parenting tricky children.

According to James Clear’s Atomic Habits and B.J Foggs’ Tiny Habits, it’s because we’re focusing on the wrong thing when setting goals. 

reach your goals find your balance

The right way to reach your goals

When you want to lose weight, don’t hop on the scales everyday to measure your weight and see if you’ve met your goal. Instead, focus on measuring and rewarding the actions (or habits) that will help you reach your goal. Track if you exercise everyday and reward a full 7 days of physical activity. These habits are what will help you meet your goal, not the goal itself.

In a week, taking out a good 9 hours sleep every night, we have 105 hours of awake time each. Can we find time to make good habits? What about making it easier through automation to get those good habits to stick?

Automating habits to make it easy

So how can we make it even easier to meet goals through automation? 

Say you want to lose weight by eating healthier as a goal.

The goal is to lose weight. The action is to eat healthier.

Step 1. Make the action easy

First, make the action easy. Remove any barriers to healthy eating like having junk food in the house. Give away the junk food so all you have is healthy choices for eating. 

Step 2. Make the action a routine

Second, make the action a habit. Stack habits onto things you already do. For example, if you normally have a cup of tea mid-morning, make this a trigger for cutting up a piece of fruit and eating it. Set routines with pre planning such as meal planning or meal prep. When you’re tired at the end of the day and have little will-power then having a dinner plan and all ingredients ready will reduce the effort required to make healthy eating happen.

Step 3. Make the action automated

Third, automate the action so it happens even if you don’t think about it. This works particularly well for things like money management and digital wellbeing. You can set up digital actions and reminders that will happen regardless of what you’re doing, taking you out of the daily decision making. But for this example you could pack up all your healthy food for the day in a lunchbox and when you’re hungry, attack the lunchbox rather than the pantry. Order the same healthy groceries every week and have them delivered so you don’t get distracted by other foods in the supermarket. Automation could come from one environmental change that makes the bad habit impossible. This could be from alarms and reminders, from changing your environment (like putting out exercise clothes so when you wake up they’re right there, getting a dog, using smaller plates, deleting apps and social media from the phone ), by creating templates or schedules for repeated tasks.

Step 4. Make yourself accountable for the action

Fourth, recruit an accountability partner. Tell someone else and ask them to keep you accountable or have someone join you in your habit forming.

The best way to break a bad habit is to make it impossible to do. And the best way to create a good habit is to automate it so you never have to think about it again.


Recommended reading

Atomic Habits by James Clear

Tiny Habits by B.J Foggs

Get more in the 21 day Find Your Balance series, from reach your goals to morning routines.

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