Habits over Results

The best way to achieve long-term results is to build and maintain short-term habits.

It’s important to set long-term goals, such as competing in a tournament, winning a championship, being promoted to a new rank, or attaining a level of fitness. But ironically, the best path to long-term success is by focusing on the short-term.

Rather than being overly focused on a long-term goal or specific result, you’re better off figuring out the habits that will get you there and focusing on those every day.

The plan to long-term success is easy to understand, but hard to implement:

  1. Define your long-term goals
  2. Define the short-term habits and routines that will get you there
  3. Relentlessly focus on the short-term habits and routines.

Focusing exclusively on your long-term goal can be demotivating because progress is not always immediate or observable. That’s why it’s so easy to abandon diets and health plans. Rather than measuring your distance from the goal, focus on cultivating good habits and adhering to them.

If you’re only thinking about the result and not about the habits that will get you through the journey, you could encounter the following pitfalls:

  • Your long-term goal is so huge and daunting that you’ll never start
  • You won’t have an actionable plan to get you where you want to go
  • You fall off the bandwagon because it takes a long time to see observable results
  • You have difficulty pivoting and adjusting your goal if the situation changes
  • You struggle, and might give up, if you don’t get the results you’re looking for.

Prioritizing habits over results is related to mindfulness: the concept of training your focus on the present moment, rather than being caught up in the past or hypothetical futures. We focus on what we can do now.

Some suggestions for cultivating good habits:

  • Identify keystone habits: the primary habits that lead to other good habits. Examples include eating well, exercising, being mindful, and getting the right amount of sleep.
  • Create daily/weekly/monthly checklists to ensure you’re following your habit routine.
  • Define consequences for yourself if you fail to adhere to a habit.
  • Have an accountability buddy: someone you check in with who is aware of your goals and habit plan. The best accountability buddies have habit plans similar to yours.
  • Ensure your short-term habits will actually move you toward your long-term goals. Consider eliminating habits that serve no purpose or move you away from your goals.

As a coach, it’s important to prioritize habits over results with your students. Praise or criticize your students based on their habits, not their competition record.

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