This time of year many of us have goal setting on the mind.
Just as we finish up one holiday season, it seems like new messages are everywhere shouting, “Goals, Goals, Goals!”
Setting goals for the new year is a great way to get clarity around your career. But setting those goals is just step one.
To make goals happen, we need to build habits. And building new habits is hard.
When we don’t work on the processes (read: the habits) that help us move forward on our goals, we often find ourselves right back at square one. And when we fail in achieving the goals we set for ourselves, a sort of low-level despair can set in.
It’s a feeling that there are natural limits to who we can be, because we’re not disciplined enough or not determined enough to make the changes we want in our lives.
But I’ve been learning a lot about the “growth mindset” this year.
This mindset has taught me that we don’t have to get stuck in the same rut with goal setting that we usually do. Instead, we can choose to believe that we don’t have a fixed potential for anything we put ourselves up to.
We can actually grow and change in our ability to do things that are hard by changing the way we work.
How do we change the way that we work? That’s what habits are for.
In 2018 I developed three new habits that have helped me stick to my goals, and they’ve made me healthier and wealthier.
They’ve made me more connected, knowledgeable and made my life richer in so many ways.
And strangely, I built each of the three in a different way.
As one year comes to a close and another begins, I decided to break each one of these successful habits down and share exactly how it got built, and how I got it to stick.
Goal #1: I wanted to read 100 books in 2018.
Yes, 100 books.
This would have been a tough goal to reach if I didn’t build a strong reading habit over the year. But I’m happy to report that I made it all the way to 100, and I’m so proud of this success!
(To be fair, I read a lot of graphic novels – anyone out there a Saga fan? But I also read embarrassingly long epic fantasy novels. I usually read them on my Kindle so I don’t have to really process how long they are. Or drag those bricks around.)
At the end of 2017 Karen Robichaud, Director of Creative Engagement at Payette and a friend of Build Yourself, challenged me to read 100 books in 2018. I was already a big reader, and it sounded like a good challenge, so I said yes.
Reaching this goal was hard at times. I always felt 1-2 books behind, and I had to strategize (and sometimes stress) about the next book I needed to read.
But the experience was also amazing.
Seeing all my effort for a seemingly arbitrary goal, my partner once asked if the work was worth it.
“I’ve read at least ten life changing books this year,” I told him. “Ten books that changed the way I live my life, and have influenced my coaching and my students’ lives.”
Life-changing books are usually hard to find, but by reading so much I discovered more great books than ever before. The number of truly incredible books that I’m now familiar with has increased dramatically.
(PS – check out my list of the top books of 2018 here)
Before setting my 100 book goal, I would hear about a great book and think, “how will I ever have time to read that, when the stack on my nightstand is already so thick?”
But with this challenge I approached learning with a spirit of generosity.
I chose to believe that I had time to learn whatever I wanted. I had to read 100 books, so why not?
Today, my standards for books have become higher. I now read so much that I’ve developed a sixth sense for well-structured arguments and authors who really break down and share concepts in ways that feel generous to me as a reader.
As someone who teaches and coaches for a living, I know how difficult it can be to share your knowledge in ways that are relatable and accessible to others. I now read – and I suspect create – with a more critical and learned eye.
So what made this goal happen? For one thing, accountability.
I did not want to face Karen on January 1st and be at 97 or 98. No way no how.
I also have a pre-existing habit that made it easier.
While I struggle to read nonfiction (and most of the life-changing books I’ve read have been nonfiction) at night when I’m tired, I already take off every Saturday from electronics, work, and errands. Instead I spend the day with family and friends, read, and stay connected to my spiritual life.
It is often on a Saturday – in bed with a coffee, reading with the afternoon light coming into the room in just the right way – that I feel a moment of transcendence in my life. I attribute many of those moments to the book in my hand, and the author who put this gift into the world.
And finally, I tracked what I read to help me remember the brilliant ideas I learned.
I’m more apt to remember the lessons of these books (like Twyla Tharp’s amazing frameworks for creativity) and how to apply them to my work with clients because I’ve written them down.
Will I go for it again in 2019?
Yes and no. While I definitely plan to stick to the habit of reading, I’m considering reading fewer books and focusing more on implementing what I learn from those books.
My copy of Dare to Lead by Brené Brown is so stuffed with Post-Its that it looks like a ruffled parrot. Each of those ideas is a seed that can be brought into action in my life and work.
While I don’t know exactly how to structure it yet, next year I may read less but apply more.