How to Experiment with Habits and Goals / by Amy DeRosia

CC photo by Sonja Guina

There’s no magic formula- not for ourselves and not for the people around us. We won’t make ourselves more creative and productive by copying other people’s habits, even the habits of geniuses, we must know our own nature, and what habits serve us best.
— Grechen Rubin

We often assume there is only one way to achieve goals or form habits- a skill we're either good at or not. Creating lasting change gets oversimplified- "just make a list and check things off" or "exercise more, eat less." But there is a difference between simple and easy.  The process of forming new habits is an ongoing experiment to figure out how we work best.

Most successful people make their own, personalized systems and rituals to reach their goals. Those of us who are trying to create change in our own lives copy others' methods and get discouraged when they don't work. 

We don't think twice about tweaking recipes until they taste perfect to us. The same thing can be done with systems of organization, goal setting, and building habits.

Ask yourself some questions about your natural tendencies. Such as:

  • What keeps me motivated?
  • How can I create the best environment for success?
  • What times of day do I do my best work?
  • What strengths can I use?
  • What setbacks should I plan for?
  • Do I prefer short bursts of action or slow and steady progress?

Gretchen Rubin writes a lot about using self-knowledge to build habits in her book Better than Before. She has a few free quizzes and resources on the subject as well.

I've been using her Better Than Before journal for a few weeks and loving it. In the past, I've gotten stuck on what I want to commit to for a full year and taken too long to get started. But this journal lets me focus on one week at a time. That feels way less threatening. I'm able to test habits out and see what I want to commit to for a longer period of time. You can measure your progress and adjust what needs to be changed as you go.

The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.
— Carl Rogers

Self-improvement, unfortunately, can feel like a "ways I'm not good enough yet" list. This doesn't have to be true. Remember that we're all doing the best we can and are fine exactly where we are. But part of living a good life is to continue to grow and evolve.  As we try new things, make mistakes, and learn from them, we get better.


What unique quirks have you found help you be successful with your goals?