Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Goals & Resolutions - Achievements vs Habits

Part 3 in a series.  I've written about Consistency Counts and Quitting vs Achieving previously.

goals and resolutions

When setting goals, it's important to realize the difference between achievements and habits.  They're going to require different strategies and motivations, and you'll be more successful if you approach your new goal with the best possible game plan.


Achievements are one-time events you're trying to accomplish.  Most of us are willing to endure some pain in order to get what something we want.  (Heck, even my 4 year-old will eat his vegetables if he thinks he has a chance at getting dessert!)  This concept can help us achieve greatness - by setting a goal for something we desire greatly, and then subverting everything else we do to that goal.

Examples of Achievement Goals include:

  • Running a marathon

  • Losing 20 pounds

  • Saving money for a specific purpose (taking a vacation, buying a computer, paying off a credit card)

  • Writing a book

  • Learning a new language

  • Learning to play guitar

Once accomplished, you will always have that ability or experience.  30 years from now you can tell your grandkids about the marathon you ran, or you can pick up a guitar and strum a few chords.

Because these goals come with an endpoint, I'd encourage you to set them high, and then to go after them with passion - don't let anything stand in your way from achieving your goal!


Habits are changes to your lifestyle - your very being, who you are.  Habits don't have a specific endpoint; they're for the rest of your life!  This concept helps us to become better people.

Examples of Habit Goals include:

  • Exercising 3 times per week

  • Eating healthier

  • Saving money (either for retirement, or simply being thriftier)

  • Reading, writing, or otherwise learning - rather than watching TV

  • Being friendlier to strangers

  • Quitting smoking or drinking

Because these goals don't have an endpoint, it can feel like you never get to "win".  This causes frustration and leads many people to give up.  I recommend not setting these goals as high as your achievement goals, and then modifying them as you develop the habits.  Over time you'll make gigantic changes in your life, but there will always be room for improvement.  For example:

  • Maybe start by exercising for only 10 minutes 3 times per week.  Once you get into the habit of actually doing the work, you can increase to 15 minutes, then 20 minutes, etc.

  • Start by cutting back (not eliminating) your worst-offending foods.  Then wean yourself down to one or two bites of that cheesecake.  Then start working on the next type of food.

This becomes a process of continuous improvement, so no matter how far you've come there's always room to go further.  In addition, it's ok to have setbacks once in awhile - just pick yourself up and keep moving forward.

Achievements Become Habits

What you'll find is that once you work so hard to achieve something, you won't want to give it up completely.  Who wants to get soft again after getting into rock-belly shape?  Or start smoking after quitting?  Or get back into debt after paying everything off?

Once you complete a major achievement, which you did with fanatical devotion, you can scale back on your intensity and continue to do it for the rest of your life.  You don't have to run 14 miles today to train for an upcoming marathon, but you can still run 3 miles to be physically fit!

So go ahead and do it.  Set yourself a major Achievement Goal and then go for it!  Set yourself a modest Habit Goal and then do it.  You're on your way to becoming a better you!

Your working on one Achievement Goal and a few Habit Goals (slowly but surely) Realtor,

Chris Butterworth