How I build my Habits – System over Goal

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“We don’t rise to the level of our goal; we fall to the level of our system.”

-James Clear, Atomic Habits

Do you always wait for New year to have a resolution or build a good habit? For me, building a good habit depends on the value that I put on my goal. Well, that’s how I saw it before not until I came across the Atomic Habits that was written by James Clear. I realized after reading the book that building a system of good habits is important in achieving a goal.

Everyone has a goal, but not all can achieve it. This difference is because of the system of good habits that they build while taking the journey towards the end.

Building System Atomic Habits
From the book The Atomic Habits of James Clear

What is the system? It is the habits you build to get to the result you want. On the other hand, the goal is set to give you a direction of where you are going, but it is the system that will get you there.

“Fix the input, and the output will fix itself”

James Clear

I have always been trying to keep my things organized. I like placing them in each specific place so it’ll be easy for me to find them. Simple things like this are easy to do. The easier the task is, the more I do it. This is an example of a good habit system that I have successfully implemented in my life. This has saved me time because I don’t have to go around the room to search for my keys or my wallet.

“Habits that are immediately satisfying are more likely to be repeated.”

James Clear

The challenge comes when I want to build a new good habit in my life that I don’t normally do but I know it will be good for me. A great example and is very common is exercise. Exercise for me is a necessity to keep a human body healthy. For the past years, I haven’t thought of intentionally doing it because of the nature of my work which demands so much of my physical energy, until this year.

This year I made it a point to be more health-conscious since age is starting not to favor me. Hehe (not that old though). But the thought of exercising is daunting. Like I have to exert so much effort, time yet I don’t even see the result right away.

Good habits take time to develop because the result is not immediate, unlike bad habits that can satisfy right away but the result is unfavorable. For us to continually do good habits, I recommend these 2 things that I learned from James Clear:

Break down good habits into 2-minute action that can jump-start you.

In my case, this 2-minute action is changing into workout clothes and putting socks. Yes, socks, not shoes. I only do 30 minute home work out because of the idea that I need to spend 15-20mins of travel to the gym doesn’t excite me. Honestly, it makes exercise less appealing to me. So I eliminate excuses and make exercise accessible for me. Again, the easier it is, the more I do it.

Building System Atomic Habits
From the book The Atomic Habits of James Clear

Pull the reward immediately so it will enforce you.

During the exercise, I’ll be honest here, it’s still not as enjoyable as relaxing on the bed with my favorite Netflix show. However, it starts to become easier as soon as I start to sweat and build momentum.

Around 20 minutes after, I usually get tired, but my goal is 30 minutes! So instead of forcing myself to push for an extra 10minutes, this is the time to rest, drink water and take my reward.

What I mean is I recognize my effort for doing exercise for that day and envision my future self being fit and healthy. This is called Identity based habits – the ultimate form of gratification is the reinforcement of your desired identity.

You want reinforcements that will align with your value and identity.  And it somehow fuels me to continue my exercise.

After the short break, I continue to exercise for 10 minutes and stretch to cool down.

Building System Atomic Habits
From the book The Atomic Habits of James Clear

This might not be enough for those who spend an hour or 2 sweating inside the gym thrice a week. But what I do now, I can confidently say is sustainable for me. Imagine doing 6 times a week for years for sure will have a good result. The result of being physically fit might get a little delay compared to others,  but my intention here is to build a habit that I can surely incorporate with my lifestyle.

“Habits are a lifestyle, not something you have to overcome.”

James Clear

Most of us focus on our goal that we forget to enjoy the process. We chase our goals with strong will and enthusiasm, but we fail to prepare for the daily grind that we have to do to reach our goal.

According to Atomic Habit, here is the two-step change process:

  1. Decide the type of person you want to be.
  2. Prove it to yourself with small wins.  
Building System Atomic Habits
From the book The Atomic Habits of James Clear

I hope this has helped you to shift your energy in building your system instead of focusing too much on your goals.

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