I’ve lived in California for 20 years and have heard about a thousand times motivational and goal setting advice like this:
“You can do it if you just put your mind to it.”
“Yes you can!”
“Set clear goals in your life and they will manifest.”
If you’ve heard it too and tried to use goal setting and willpower to achieve your dreams then I would like to ask you to look back and consider how well this worked for you!
Because what I am realizing now (and research is confirming it) is that setting goals is important and necessary. But it also requires lots of energy, attention, and willpower to make them happen. You can easily lose your goals by getting sidetracked, lacking enough willpower to follow through, or don’t feed it with “energy and attention” … oops!
Establishing habits is way more powerful.
Habits are like the automated tasks our smartphone does without us knowing. It’s being done. Just think of all the wonderful apps helping you to stay in touch with family, manage finances, reminders, calendars, etc. It’s all pretty much automated and we love it and benefit from it.
The same is true for our bodies.
Healthy habits make our body “run” in a productive and high performance kinda way. We don’t have to think at all that we drink water instead of soda, we grab healthy snacks or eat mostly vegetables not because we have set that daily goal or because we used tons of our willpower energy to do it.
NO. It’s fully automated running in our background (our subconscious mind).
Our breathing, blood flow, digestion, sensory input, brain activity, etc…. the majority of our bodily functions are unconscious “habits” (if that is what we decide to call them).
Symptoms are habits!
Ok. I said it. This might be a totally new perspective for you. But start considering symptoms as habits and not as something being wrong with you.
Because your symptoms are biological reactions based on what you eat, how you react to stress, how you process emotions, how your unconscious automated thoughts, e.g. beliefs, affect you and how you perceive your environment, your relationships and your connections with others and the universe, presence or God.
Your symptoms are the results of your unconscious habits and when you change that “symptom-producing habit” you’ll notice that your body will automatically – sometimes instantaneously, sometimes over time – adjust and the symptoms disappear.
In Lifestyle Medicine and especially in our upcoming Lifestyle Prescriptions® Boot-Camp we are using the power of habits in a conscious way to transform our body-mind into a well-oiled “bio-machine” that produces empowering emotions, thoughts, and results.
Seth Godin says it perfectly: “Your audacious life goals are fabulous. We’re proud of you for having them. But it’s possible that those goals are designed to distract you from the thing that’s really frightening you — the shift in daily habits that would mean a re-invention of how you see yourself.”
“Habits are powerful but delicate. They can emerge outside our consciousness or can be deliberately designed. They often occur without our permission but can be reshaped by fiddling with their parts. They shape our lives far more than we realize—they are so strong, in fact, that they cause our brains to cling to them at the exclusion of all else, including common sense.” states Charles Duhigg.
William James said: “All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits – practical, emotional, and intellectual – systematically organized for our weal or woe, and bearing us irresistibly toward our destiny, whatever the latter maybe.”
The big question for you right now is: Do you want to continue to struggle using willpower to improve your health and your life?
Or are you ready to use the power of micro-habit change and Lifestyle Prescriptions to consciously automate your unconscious habits and let your body’s intelligence do the work? Once you set up healthy habits, they become part of your identity, they can last all your life and require very little or no willpower to maintain them.
It’s your choice.
So who’s the winner: Goals or Habits?
I guess there is really no winner, both have their purpose.
But one thing is for sure true: Creating habits in a conscious manner is extremely powerful and will free up your willpower and energy and help you automate tasks in your life that you used to struggle with.