Goals are important to have so you know what direction you are heading in. But some goal strategies are better than others.

Here’s a transcript of our conversation:

Emma: Hi, Brittany.

Brittany: Hi, Emma.

Emma: So I have been rereading a book that I love and that I think I’m gonna start working into maybe like a yearly or every other yearly habit of revisiting, just because it has so much good information in it. And the book is called Atomic Habits by James Claire. I actually have my copy sitting in front of me right now.

Brittany: Well, It’s funny listeners, cause right before we started this, I was like, oh, I’m reading this book. And I was like, oh my goodness.

Emma: Yes. So we’re reading the book at the same time, which is kind of fun. It is an awesome book. And basically, it was written by this guy who had some crazy stuff happen to him in his life. I don’t know if you read in the Forward Brittany, or maybe it was the Introduction.

Brittany: Yes, yeah.

Emma: But he had this crazy injury. He was a baseball player in high school, and he had to have some really crazy, habits to get back on track and be a college baseball player after having this horrible brain injury when he was in high school. So it’s an amazing book. There’s a lot of great information that can be gleaned from it. But basically what he does is he lays out, the kind of framework of what makes a habit a good habit or a bad habit, and talks about how we can actually use our brain and the way that it works to our advantage. And one of the things that I really like that he talks about in this book is incremental success. And kind of what that means is this idea that rather than trying to completely transform our lives overnight and, you know, have these, you know, I’m gonna work out for one month so I can get in really good shape and then I’m done, or I’m gonna run a marathon and then I’ll never run again.   he kind of talks about how powerful it is to rather than, you know, have these huge goals in mind. Goals are helpful and you know, little sidebar goals are very helpful and goals are good to have, but the way that you set them and the way that you think about them can really impact how successful you’re going to be. And I think that the sort of this idea of this 1% better a day, that’s a big thing. He talks about in this book just getting 1% better today than you were yesterday. And then that 1% is gonna compound on itself, which we’ve talked about interest on here and compounding interest. But, you know, as you go on and you get 1% better each day, you’re gonna start getting, you’re gonna hit a point where you’re getting better much faster. And maybe you wanna get better about, you know, reading instead of watching tv or you wanna get better about exercising and having healthy habits. Or, you know, maybe it’s something school-related or sports related. There are all sorts of things in our life that we can improve on. And it’s a great habit to be in. But I know that I’ve certainly overwhelmed myself in the past trying to bite off, you know, these huge goals, and then I get discouraged and I don’t quite get there. And then I’m like, ah, I don’t know if I can do this at all, and I’ll kind of fall off the wagon, so to speak. But this idea of just fixing 1% of yourself every day is so powerful. And in the book, he has a graph where he talks about a 1% improvement versus a 1% decline. And I’ll try to find a way to attach the graph in the show notes. I may or may not be able to, but it’s pretty crazy to just look at, on a line what happens when you improve versus, you know, decline by 1%. So one cool example that he had in the book about how just a little 1% improvement or a 1% change in your course can impact your life. I loved this example was he talks about an airplane flying from Los Angeles and California to New York City, which is a super long flight. It’s all the way across the country and he talked about how if the plane was off by just 1%, when it took off from LA it would land in DC instead of New York City. Which is just a crazy example. Yeah, that’s crazy because oh, it’s 1%, it’s, you know, thousands of miles. Why would that even matter? But you’ll end up in a completely different city. And he had a line that was something to the effect of, you know, a small change in your direction can completely change your destination. And the thing that I love about this book is that he talks about all of these things the same, whether you’re thinking of a good habit or a bad habit where it’s, you know, maybe you have a bad habit that you’re trying to quit, you’re trying not to chew your nails or whatever it may be. it, your brain works the same whether you’re trying to break or form a new habit. So, Brittany, I don’t know if you have any thoughts on sort of this incremental goal setting, as you’re reading your way through the book, do you have anything that stuck out to you so far?

Brittany: Yeah, well, it was a really interesting time that I started reading it because this is the first year in my life I’ve been just achieving goals. And nobody is more shocked than me. I always feel like I’m being boastful saying this, but it’s just this year something clicked and I was like, all right, you’re gonna do what you say you’re gonna do. But, so, this book was really interesting. Thing, so I’ll go into the incremental part. First is, the 1% a day. I love that because when I go running, I’m trying to beat, I’m trying to get down to an eight-minute mile. And I started the year off at like 13 and I’m now at eight minutes and 46 seconds. So, I’ve been beating it. I just, my goal is to beat it just a teeny bit every single day. You know, even if that’s like a second or two seconds, but I can see that really paying off. Like it’s crazy to me ’cause it seems like such a little thing, but one second or two seconds, and I always end up going a little bit more than that, but it’s crazy how much that can help you. Another thing I really like about the book is the difference between habits and what he calls habits and systems. No, is it No, Or is it goals and systems? Goals and systems. Yeah. And this, and it’s, I started reading it a month ago and then I just got distracted because there’s so many podcasts to listen to that every time I’m ready to listen to an audiobook, I’m like, oh, another podcast. But, so one thing I really said is it’s not about, he’s not, it’s not about goal setting. So he used it in a really cool way. If you want to, if your goal is like, I’m going to get better at the guitar. Well, what’s your real goal? Your goal is to be a musician, right? The actual goal is to be a musician and you have to change your system of doing that to become that musician. Do you remember? Can you, because you were more familiar with it than I am and I’m still reading it. What does he mean by the system, if you can?

Emma: Yeah. Basically what he means is that it’s your lifestyle. That’s right. So rather than saying, I need to practice guitar every night, you say, I’m the kind of person who practices guitar every night. This is just a part of my lifestyle. Or maybe it’s, you know, I go for a walk every morning before I go to work. I’m the kind of person who loves, you know, going for a walk before work. And he talks a lot about the way that you frame things in your mind and the way that you think about things, which I love because he talks about having a system that’s conducive and that makes sense with reaching your goals. And that’s something that I’ve failed on so many times where I’m trying to, he actually brought up this example and I read it out loud to my husband because obviously he sees the state of my messy closet because he has to share it with me. And it’s just this constant battle for me to try to keep my closet clean. And he has this portion in the book where he talks about if you are goal-oriented, I need to clean my room, I need to organize my clothes, you’ll get it done. When you have this big burst of energy and then when you know when life gets crazy again, your stuff’s gonna get messy.

Brittany: Yep. So that’s so me.

Emma: Yes, exactly. I’m like, oh man, that is too close to home. But he says, if you have a system that makes sense and you have habits that are conducive to, you know, staying in touch with those goals that you have, like being a tiny person, it’s not gonna be as easy to just completely have your goals fall apart and go back to square one. So that was a pretty funny thing for me to read. I’m like, oh wow, that’s, you really hit the nail on the head, but.

Brittany: Well, and I like, oh, sorry, go on.

Emma: No, go ahead. I was gonna say, I have to have a system where, you know, the way that my clothes are put away makes sense for even like the way that I get dressed and like the order of operations that I go in, it’s like those little things really do make such a huge difference.

Brittany: No, you’re absolutely right. And I really like, cause I, this used to happen to me all the time, especially with eating healthy is you mess up once if that’s your thing like I’m gonna eat healthy and you mess up once, then your whole thing is ruined. And it’s like, well, I ate one cookie, I may as well just eat the whole bag and, you know, give up on everything. And so that’s why I think the systems are so important is it’s not about like, it’s about your lifestyle, changing your lifestyle to meet that, you know, running for example, running has just become so second nature to me that I have it in my, I have my life now arranged where that’s going to be a part of it where it’s not like I’ve gotta be like, okay, I’ve gotta find time to do this, or yes, oh, I guess I’ll do this ’cause I have nothing else to do. So I really like the idea of making it, of making these things you want to achieve. I don’t even like calling ’em the goals anymore, is making it your lifestyle.

Emma: Yeah, exactly. I think that’s such a huge thing too, is just like, you know, finding room in your life for the things that are important for you and building those systems around it. So maybe if your goal is to read more every day, maybe you set a timer or you even write it on your calendar that this is the time I’m going to read. And, you know, if something comes up at that time, just say, Hey, I’m sorry, I can’t get this done. I have something planned. And like you setting up those structures that make it possible for you to reach your goals. Because that’s the thing that I have found in life is as soon as you set out to try and like improve yourself in some way, there’s gonna be a million things that pop up that.

Brittany: Oh my goodness, yes.

Emma: Can derail you. Yeah. It’s kind of like Murphy’s Law, like anything that can go wrong, will, that’s kind of how it is when you’re trying to make progress on a goal. So I guess kind of to answer the question in this podcast, how can we set better goals? This is also something Jordan Peterson talks about, by the way, as setting smaller goals than you think you should have. These are long-term goals for sure.

Brittany: Yes. That has been my favorite thing. Yes.

Emma: Yes. Day by day set, small, tangible goals because they will pile up. You will reach a point where you can tell a difference. And by that point, they’re probably going to be enough of a habit for you that you don’t have to think about them as much as you did when you started. So that’s my parting advice as we wrap it up today, guys. Set small tangible goals that put you on the path that you want to be on, and you’ll be amazed at where that takes you. Thank you, Brittany, for chatting with me about this. We will wrap it up here today. Guys, thank you so much for listening and we’ll talk to you all again soon.

Brittany: Talk to you soon.