How to Achieve Your Goals Using Meta-Habits
I love systems. A system is a set of principles or procedures according to which something is one; it's an organized framework or method. But I'm not talking about a school system or public health. I'm talking about systems surrounding your life, your habits. Habits are a component of the system of compound growth. James Clear's book Atomic Habits discusses the importance of systems and habits. One of my favorite quotes from him is:
"If you want better results, then forget about setting goals. Focus on your systems instead. You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems."
You can view my book notes on Atomic Habits here.
I believe in the importance of systems. But I also find the value of setting goals. It's a metric, a standard of measurement. Goals are an easy way to determine if you're accomplishing what you've set out to do. It's either pass or fail. There's a way I've found to make sure I'm achieving my goals. It doesn't have to do with your habits to accomplish your goal. By this I mean if you're trying to exercise more, it's not about establishing habits like "walk daily" or "workout three times a week". It's the level above that habit. It's the meta-habit, a habit that helps you form habits. It's the habit needed before your habit of walking daily.
The two meta-habits are:
First, is to establish a habit of reviewing your goals and habits. This lets you go back and make sure you are sticking with your goals and tasks. Most people see goals as "set it and forget it". If you don't regularly revisit your goals you'll let it slip by. By consistently reviewing your goals (through a regular interval like once a week, every two weeks, etc.) you're seeing if you're on track or not. For me I review my goals weekly on Friday's when I do my weekly review (based on the GTD method). I have a list of the goals organized by type: Personal, Health, Work, etc.
The second meta-habit is tracking data. If you're consistently tracking data you'll begin to notice patterns. For example I track a lot of my health and fitness data. I track not only my steps, calorie intake (from food), and lifts. Once I had enough data (around a month or so), I started paying attention to what days I take the most steps. Then I reflected on the reason behind it (walking Luna). Or what days I drink the most water (weekdays), not the weekends. I also noticed days when I would slip up.
By reviewing my data I was able to pinpoint why or why not I was achieving my goal. I can adjust my routine and make sure I'm sticking to my goals. Making it more likely that I'll actually accomplish my goals. For instance I have a goal of walking 10,000 steps everyday. Every week during my review I look at data points (days) where my steps are high or low. If they're low I want to understand the reason why, maybe it's because I didn't walk my dog as much, or because it was cold so I didn't go outside. By doing this I can make a plan to ensure I'm meeting my goal. Either by walking during warmer temperatures, making sure to walk my dog at least twice day, or even walk around my house to get my steps in.