Habitually Creating Goals and then Habitually Breaking Them

I know, I know. Everyone and their mother’s cute Christmas puppy is posting on goal setting and resolutions right now. Forgive me as I throw in my two cents also. Truly though, this post is about systems, so basically it is a science lesson. I also promise that I won’t ask you to share your resolution! So it might be worth the read.

During the month of December the Innovative Teaching Academy focus was on habits. (This is an online course offered by A.J. Juliani that I’ve been taking and the impetus behind this blog.) Before delving into the subject, I hadn’t really given much thought to habits, except that sometimes I need to break a bad one. To be perfectly honest, I’ve never given a whole ton of thought to goals either. I truly never know how to answer when someone asks me where I would like to be in the future. Let me think – someplace better than where I am now? Goals for work – please. I write them and forget them. Goals for life – don’t make me laugh! I basically have fallen backward into life.  I am generally a content person and love where I am so far. Obviously, my plan of halfhearted goal making is working!

What resonated with me was the concept that goals aren’t what we should spend our time on – instead we should actually spend time looking at our habits. Creating the goal is all well and good – but if there isn’t a system in place to reach the goal, it will just hang out there making me feel bad about never reaching it. This was a light bulb moment for me – I don’t like goals because I don’t like to feel bad when I don’t reach them, and I’ve never truly broken down a goal to figure out what I need to do habitually to reach it, so I didn’t reach the goals and then I felt bad and then I quit making goals. Follow all that? I had a bad system. The light bulb was that I need to focus on habits. The goal should drive me to create habits that will nurture my ability to reach the goal. I needed to create a good system!

Here’s an example. I’ve made a goal to blog once a week. So Sunday night I stare at my computer screen. I know that all week I’ve thought to myself – “Sunshine, this would make a great blog post!” (I call myself Sunshine, no big deal.) What I have I done with that thought though? NOTHING. My brain is the exact opposite of a steel trap, more like a bucket with no bottom, so that thought was gone instantly. What habit could I create that would help me on Sunday nights? Write down the thoughts. That will work most of the time, but often I’m in a situation where writing down my thoughts doesn’t work (shower revelations are the best – which come to think of it is why I need Alexa in my bathroom!). What else could I do? Daily reflection. Slow down for 5 minutes or less every night and look at the calendar and to-do list and think about where I’ve been that day, and write one sentence about the day. Just to cement that day in my mind. Two habits to help me reach my goal. Two easy habits. Bite-sized and painless.

Let’s take this to the classroom. Would it be fair to say that 90% of educators have asked their students to make goals this year – and/or think about their resolutions for the new year? I think so. My question is then what? I asked my students to make goals for everything – math, science, social, life – but then I never followed through, and certainly never asked them to follow through. Not once did I look at a student and say, “Yay! You have a goal. Now what habit should we put in place to make sure that you can reach the goal.” Not once did I set aside time in the day for the student to make their habit a reality. I never created a system to help my students reach their goals. I wonder how many of my student’s reached their goal? I wouldn’t know because we never. EVER. revisited their goals. EVER!!! I had the goal to teach them the power of goals, and I didn’t have a habit in place to help me be successful in helping them be successful. {Cue sad trombone.} Create the goals friends – I’m not discouraging that, but then take the next step. This year, ask your students to create at least one habit to help them reach their goals. Then follow through – don’t let the red tape weigh you down! Give them time to nurture and grow their little seedling habits. (More science!)

I’m going to make my habit public. I have a Facebook page that I created along with this blog that is sad, sad, sad. I’m going to post my daily reflections there. You can check them out if you want! https://www.facebook.com/weisskedu/. You know I love to hear what you are doing too – so join me! Let’s make it a movement. 🙂