Process Goals

In a recent blog post I discussed the identity level of the Three Levels of Change from Atomic Habits by James Clear. The next level is process change. This is our habits, our systems, and the things we do. 

Often times we have an outcome goal (a number on the scale, a place in a race, a lifting PR), which is the third level of change, but fail to think about the process it will take to get there. We put so much pressure on getting a certain result, we lose sight of the daily tasks and don’t celebrate all the small wins. This in turn makes it easy to lose motivation. We also don’t have full control over our outcome goals. For example, if you want to win a race, you only have control over what you did in preparation for the race, you do not have control over the other racers. If we change our focus to creating the systems or habits that will move us closer to our goal, our outcome goal becomes more attainable.

Choose a process goal that will have an impact on your outcome goal and that you are motivated to do. It can be a challenge to decide what habit you want to focus on first. It can even be tempting to choose multiple habits to work on at the same time. Only choose one. The success rate for multiple habits is drastically lower than if you were to only choose one. In the book Tiny Habits, BJ Fogg helps people choose their habit by having them draw a graph. On the y-axis write “Big Impact” at the top and “No Impact” at the bottom. On the x-axis “Highly Motivated” goes on the right side and “Low Motivation” goes on the left. Write out habits you are thinking about starting on sicky notes or individual pieces of paper. Place them on the x-axis according to how motivated you are to do the habit. Once you have all the habits placed, move them up or down depending on how much impact it will have on your outcome goal. Look to see which habits are in the upper right quadrant of the graph. These are habits that will make and impact on your outcome goal and you are motivated to do.  Choose one from there. 

Create a system and set your environment up for success. Once you have the process or habit that you want to work on, think about how you can make it as easy as possible. For example, if your goal is to eat breakfast, having breakfast food in the house is important. You also need to determine what breakfast items you will eat and have to time to make or reheat. Maybe you need to have a plate and utensils on the counter the night before to make it easier. Be detailed in creating your system and brainstorm any obstacles. For each obstacle write out a solution. 

Stack your habits. Stacking your new habit on top of an existing one makes it easier to remember. For example, if your habit it to drink more water in the morning, you could stack drinking a glass of water immediately following your existing habit of pressing brew on the coffee maker.

Check in with yourself. Make it a part of your day to check in to see if you completed your habit that day. It could be as easy as marking it off in your planner. This will allow you to know if you are successful with your new habit or if you keep missing days. Never miss twice in a row!

Adjust your system. Sometimes what we think will work doesn’t. That’s okay. Change your system. What do you need to adjust to be successful? For example, if you miss your workouts because you keep oversleeping, either change your workout time to later in the day, go to bed earlier, or move your alarm clock across the room. You can also make your habit smaller. For example, if running 3 miles is too much, change your goal to run for 10 minutes. 

Celebrate small wins. By doing a little celebration when you do your new habit, you are reinforcing it and helping to keep your motivation high. It can be as simple as a smile. It could be a fist pump, a literal pat on the back, a nice job… Whatever it is it needs to be authentic and it needs to happen immediately after you do your habit. 

What process goal will you focus on next?!

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