I had this discussion in a goal review session recently.   This discussion happened because, at first glance, an item on my client’s plan looked like a goal.  Yet, when we talked about it, it became clear it was a habit.  

In my workshop, I discuss habits.  I make it a practice to improve or add a new habit each quarter.  I choose the habit I want to improve, change or create based on what I have experienced in the last quarter, what I will need to make my goals a success, or what I want to improve.  

Sometimes, though, a habit sneaks its way into a goal position.  

So how do you know when something is a goal or a habit?  

It starts first by understanding the difference between a goal and a habit:  A goal is expected at some time to finish, and it is a one-time activity. In comparison, a habit is something that you will do often and regularly, and you will do the habit in an ideal state without even thinking of it.  

I believe that to be successful, you need BOTH goals and habits.  I explained this in my blog “goals set the direction, but how do you get to the destination?”  The goals give you a destination.  However, a habit ensures you do what is necessary to move towards that goal.   In my case, it’s a systematic process of setting up my month, week, and day, to ensure I work on the right activities for my business.  This includes working on the activities to move my goals forward.  

However, the habits that usually sneak their way into a goal position are built to help you improve overall.  

On its own, a goal to complete a specific book looks like a goal.  However, it’s a habit if the desire is to read a little every day.  A goal to run a 5K race is a habit if you want to increase your physical activity by running regularly.   

 The goal might be to read that book or do that 5K race, but it is just a measurement/milestone of the real purpose of creating a habit.  

You can often see a habit vs. a goal if you build a map because it appears as something you want to do each week.  When you see a weekly task on your map, check-in with yourself and find out if it is a goal, a habit, or a success activity (this is a subject for a future blog).   

When I’m working on one-time tasks, I use my habit/process of planning my month/week/day to ensure these tasks happen.  Once done, it is over.   I mark it off and likely never repeat that task again.   If it is something I want to happen regularly, I need to approach this differently. 

When will I do this repeating task?  The more consistent and specific I can make it, the more I can build the habit.   How can I set up my environment, so I make achieving this task easy?  What friction is there that makes it challenging to accomplish the task?  What can you do to remove or reduce the friction?  

Here is a quick example:  My goal is to finish a specific book.  I set the goal when really I want to develop a habit of reading every day.  Once I realize it is a habit, then I make some changes. 

Initially, the goal was:   I am celebrating completing the book “Profit First” by June 30th, 2022, or sooner.  But then I change it to:  I will read for 10 minutes every morning before eating my breakfast.  I will also set up my environment to make it easy to do this.  For example, I will leave the book on the counter, so I see it before I make/eat breakfast.  I will put an app on my phone or set an alarm that I can launch when I start reading.   I may even ensure that I purchase things that will make breakfast easy in the morning so I’m not tempted to pass on the reading to make a big breakfast.  

Do you see how it shifts?  The goal is just a set of tasks, and I could map out when I would have chapter 1 done, chapter 2, etc., and then schedule this in my plans.  However, as a habit, I try to build it into my lifestyle by giving it a spot in my day and making it easy to do. 

Take a look at your goals and map.  Do you have habits disguised as goals? 

It’s all about momentum. You have to have great habits and a big vision.

Hannah Hoffman