Tips to Help Today’s Habits Accomplish Tomorrow’s Goals

This time in 19__ I was gearing up for my senior year of high school. George Michael was no longer with Wham! and his first solo album (yes, I said album) was at the top of the charts.

Fifteen years old with no idea of where I was going for college, but thrilled about the idea of finally being a senior. Excited to reach the milestone, but no plan to carry me beyond that day.

I didn’t have the good sense back then to worry about all the things I didn’t know. Big dreams stared me in the face, but my biggest fear was tripping as I walked out with the homecoming court.

My worst habit back then was my nonchalant approach to studying and grades. School work came easy early on, so I never developed good study habits. I could “get by” without much effort, so I put all my energy into splits and pyramids. Yep. A cheerleader. (Don’t you dare judge me.)

Thankfully, a friend’s parents couldn’t afford to let me derail their brilliant non-cheering daughter, so they began to talk to me about college. After a few well-timed conversations, I decided to see what would happen if I put some effort into note taking and studying.

Welp. I ended up getting straight A’s (except one quarter when a student teacher had something to prove) the whole year. Like, ALL A’s and one B. My freshman counselor later told me that those A’s were the reason I was accepted into Oberlin. I met some of the brightest, most interesting people during those four years, and Oberlin proved to be a significant part of my life journey. Had I not had the conversations that influenced a change in my habits, that part of my journey would’ve been very different.

Looking back, my first step to turnaround was getting the right input and advice. Secondly, I had to make some significant habit changes. In this case, a few weeks worth of change wouldn’t have cut it. My next four years required nearly a year of habit shifting.

If only I carried that forward thinking mindset beyond Oberlin. Truth is, somewhere in that four year span, I stopped focusing on who I wanted to become and became consumed with just graduating. Like that 15-year-old senior, I just wanted to be free of the classes and exams, plus the financial pressure of tuition and dreaded loans. No plan B. All my energy pointed toward “pass.” (And I had good reason to be concerned that I may not pass!)

Fast forward to this year when I self published my first book. Unfortunately, I hadn’t fully unpacked this lesson about aligning my habits. So, once the book was complete and edited, it took me nearly 6 months to publish. Why? Because my energy and habits lended themselves to finishing a book, not publishing a book.

Therefore, I humbly offer you 3 tips to lining up your habits with your long-term goals:

  1. Always remember your WHY.

    Your why will point you to your goal and beyond. Initially, I went to college in order to become a doctor. Somewhere in the middle I began to fear that I wouldn’t graduate. When my focus shifted, my short-term goal of graduating took over and after I graduated, I had no plan to move me toward medical school. Don’t do that!
  2. Be realistic about your current direction.

    The habits you engage in today are taking you somewhere. Could be toward the desired destination…or not. Mine took me to finishing a book, but I had no investment in getting that book into the hands of readers. It took time and work to shift my thinking and efforts toward my ultimate destination. Ask yourself, Where are my current habits taking me?
  3. Don’t just walk it out, TALK it out!

    There are benefits of sharing your thoughts, plans, and ideas with someone else. As you share, you may discover holes in your plan that you didn’t notice before. Also, feedback is priceless! Even if they disagree, you get the opportunity to test whether your idea(s) hold water.

Do you have suggestions on how to be sure our habits lead us where we want to go? Share in the comments!

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