Looking for a Course Correction: I’m Not Building My Successful Habits

We all want success.

Whether we seek success in our careers, our finances, our interpersonal relationships, our health, or our ability to play quarters, I think we can safely say we don’t want to fail in reaching your goal.

(Okay, success in playing quarters may depend on your absolute goal rather than your ability to get the quarter into the glass.)

I’m feeling like a faker, a failure. I’ve tried a bunch of things this year (often blogging about them) only to find myself NOT following through. And while I’d love to say I’m not beating myself up about it, that’s exactly what I’m doing.

In so many areas, I haven’t reached my goals because I haven’t reset my habits. I’m boogieing down the road, but I’m not reaching a bunch of my chosen destinations. I won’t say I’m out of control exactly, but I’ve definitely veered off-track.

All the Little Failures of the Year

This year, I’ve kicked off a number of different little projects, only to have many of them drop by the wayside.

  • I started a price book and kept it up for about 3 months. (this is about what I planned, but I didn’t keep it up even after I noted it was successful.)
  • To help keep my grocery budget on track, I tried meal planning. That worked for 2 weeks, but once we finished the two weeks, we forgot about it.
  • Because I was feeling like a couch potato, I deliberately increased the amount of steps I was getting each day to increase my level of activity. I stuck to the plan for about a month, modified the plan, and then let it all fall apart. Every time I made a little progress, I’d get derailed by work, a cold, or general lack of prioritization.
  • I tried to write a post or two ahead on the blog. LOL, I only succeeded right before we went on vacation.
  • Spurred on by Mrs. Groovy’s Positivity Challenge, I tried unplugging from the internet, at least during evenings. Then I tried unplugging from wasteful internet surfing. Nope, back to normal.
  • I tried making a list of everything I needed to get done in a given week.I got everything done that one week, and then got scattered the next week.
  • After telling you guys not to shop on Black Friday, I bought a pair of sneakers and 2 sweaters for myself on Black Friday. Yeah, it meant my mother-in-law’s birthday present went further, but darn it, I did what I told you guys not to do!

Now, that’s not to say I only had failures this year. I kept up our expense tracking, got our bills down to a sustainable but reasonable level, and kept blogging (if not blogging ahead.) My family relationships have stayed strong, and I’ve done more volunteering this year. So, why all the misses?

Finding the Reason

As I list all of these failures, I realized that so many of my goals concerned building new and better habits that would put me on track for more success.

I know I need changes, and that setting positive habits often leads to positive outcomes.

Evidently, I’m crap at setting new habits. Even once I realize that I was off-course, I had trouble making course corrections to reset them. And thanks to a couple of articles over at ChooseBetterLife.com, I may have figured out why I’ve struggled.

I fell victim to the “What the Hell” effect. Once my new, better habit was broken, I stopped trying. Why? Because….I’m not particularly self-motivated. Tell me something’s good for me and even though i know it’s good for me I won’t necessarily do it. If someone else is depending on me to do something, though, and I will get it done come hell or high water.

I’m an obiliger, according to the summary Gretchen Rubin’s Better than Before. Evidently I will follow outward expectations but not inward ones. I don’t find it difficult to keep the family finances in check, work hard, or show up to volunteer commitments. However, I struggle with stepping away from the chocolate and getting off the couch.

I read these two articles and completely identified with both of these scenarios. Now what? How do I move forward from understanding to action?

Looking for a Course Correction: I'm Not Building My Successful Habits


Action Steps for Better Habits

To a large degree, I’ve tried to reset my habits by the equivalent of “Navigation by Approximation.” In other words, I just wing it.

But I’m pretty sure I’ll find success through accountability, and that means more planning and sharing. 

I’ve noticed a lot of bloggers put their goals on their monthly roundups. Maybe I need to start doing some of that.

I also noticed that the to-do list helps tons, yet I haven’t used that powerful tool very often. Maybe the list can provide the external motivation I need.

So, I’ll start with those two items: A to do list for the month to help with prioritization and accountability, and an accountability section in my monthly roundup to start in January. (For December, I’ll just put my to-do list here.)

And maybe, for right now, I need to scale back and not try quite so many different things. I have tons of things I want to do in tons of different areas, but maybe I don’t need to tackle a huge decluttering project right this minute. Maybe I don’t need to do a formal meal plan THIS month. Let’s just stick to what I absolutely need to get done for myself, my family and a successful holiday that won’t completely derail the successes I have reached this year.

December’s To Do List

Blog Goals

  • Write 9 posts.
  • Finish 1 class for blogging improvement.
  • Work the social media plan.

Work Goals

  • Finish all required classes.

Holiday Goals

  • Put up Decorations.
  • Send Christmas cards to family.
  • Finish Christmas shopping.
  • Wrap gifts.
  • Cook Christmas treats for family members.
  • Have fun.

Family Goals

  • Do 2 fun things with Little Bit each week.
  • Help Little Bit deliver her Girl Scout candy.
  • Have one date with Jon.

Personal Goals

  • Take neighborhood walks 4 times per week.
  • Continue expense tracking, budgeting, etc.
  • Complete 5 “cleaning tasks” per week.
  • Check To-Do List Progress Weekly and adjust behavior accordingly.

Course Correction Ahead: New Habits

Okay, that’s the plan: Get a list, limit the list (for now), work the list and check my course and correct regularly. 

If i can establish this, maybe i can add a few more new habits to try. I have several areas to develop, particularly on the health and productivity fronts. But I’ve found myself vowing to do a bunch of new things only to drop them, and we’ll see if this more limited, task based approach works better than infinite good intentions.

Wish me luck!

How have you reacted when your intentions don’t match your behavior? What approaches work best for you? 

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich. *< and Vickie’s Kitchen and Garden. *

38 thoughts on “Looking for a Course Correction: I’m Not Building My Successful Habits

  1. I can relate. I have failed at a number of personal goals. Like more exercise and losing some weight this year. I just keep putting these things off, but f the wife or kids need something done I take care of it. I like the list idea. Prioritize what needs to be done and if you on’t complete it at least you have a good way of seeing what areas you missed.
    Brian @ Debt Discipline recently posted…Holiday Traditions 2016My Profile

  2. Well, this is a reminder of the goals I set this year and then promptly forgot about. Not that I didn’t still try, but I didn’t make what I’d call a “concerted” effort to make changes and I have, for the most part, failed. I’m not sure exactly what the magic ingredient is. I know I’ve succeeded with goals before, but I can’t tell you how that time was different. I’m going to renew my effort to piggyback onto existing habits. For example, my wife and I plan to go over our goal progress each month when we go over the budget (something we do religiously already). I think limiting the list is also a good idea, so I’ll have to try that as well.
    Gary @ Super Saving Tips recently posted…Start a Blog Now! SiteGround Black Friday/Cyber Monday SaleMy Profile

    • When I was reading a bit for the article, piggybacking on existing habits was one of the suggestions as was not trying to do too much. Not sure what “good habits” I have right this minute, but I can definitely limit what I’m trying. Good luck, Gary!

  3. I think this happens to all of us from time to time. You’re definitely on to something when you say, “And maybe, for right now, I need to scale back and not try quite so many different things.” This is where I tend to get into trouble. When I put too many goals out there (I do this often), I burn out really quickly.

    Accountability is a huge factor in goal attainment. And now, you have clearly written your goals down and shared them with the world. I betcha you’ll conquer each item on that to-do list now! 🙂
    Amanda @ centsiblyrich recently posted…Overwhelmed by Debt? Here’s How to StartMy Profile

    • I certainly hope so, Amanda. We’ll see. I think checking my progress regularly will be the key. Maybe I should change that to be more accountable to “Check progress on Monday mornings.”

  4. You are not alone 😉 I wrote a post called 8 goals for 8/8 and I’ve only met one of them! Life changed and I didn’t adjust the goals to the change – I’ve just let them sit… Limiting is important – changing one habit at a time is probably much more likely to happen. Good luck – we’ll keep watching and encouraging!
    Vicki@MakeSmarterDecisions recently posted…New Series – Smart Travels!My Profile

    • Aw, Vicki, thanks for your encouragement. And it’s well, not nice exactly but comforting that you and Amanda, Gary and Brian have all admitted to struggling too.

      As bloggers, we often present ourselves as having our stuff together all the time in our posts, or at least that we are getting it together now. But I know I don’t. And I think it’s good to pull the curtain up occasionally and admit I’m struggling too, because that’s where my mind was yesterday.

  5. Best of luck, Emily. Those are all wonderful goals.
    I gave up soda this year after writing a blog post about it, and now every time I’m tempted (oh so very tempted) I think back on that post and it helps me to be strong.
    We’re so happy to be your support crew!
    ChooseBetterLife recently posted…The What-The-Hell EffectMy Profile

  6. I’m not sure what an obliger is, but that description of following outward expectations but not inward ones sounds a lot like me. Same with ‘winging it’ – we sound a lot alike! 🙂

    I try to not get discouraged too much by setbacks. Two steps forward and one step back is still progress. You’re still here and blogging so I’d say that’s a big win! Keep it up.

    • The idea is that there are 4 types of people in relation to expectations, based on your reactions to internal and external expectations. Upholders work to satisfy all expectations, whether set by themselves or others. Questioners don’t accept outside expectations unless they believe in them. Obligers need the structure of outside expectations, but have trouble meeting their own expectations. Rebels don’t do expectations whether internally or externally set.

  7. Maybe you are trying to conquer too many things all at once. I would suggest a maximum of two big goals at any given time. The more things I try to accomplish at one time, the less I get done. I have a certain order about household chores – make the bed the minute I get up (or my husband), never leave dishes in the sink at night (yes, I load the dishwasher at 11:00 PM sometimes). Run the sweeper and mop the kitchen and bathrooms at least one time every two weeks. Do lawn work at least once a month. Laundry done “on demand.” This may not sound like a lot, but there are only two of us (we are both in our 70’s) and we really don’t mess things up much. I try to work on my writing several hours a day, but this is flexible. Sometimes doctor appointments and shopping (do the BYGO thing regularly at Winn Dixie) interfere. I try to only go thrift store/estate sale shopping once a month. I buy very little retail, but most is from Amazon, where we have Prime and get great deals and no shipping. This is not a rigid schedule with unrealistic goals, but it works for me.

    • I think sticking to my list should work okay. Most of my goals there are pretty flexible in when I do them …the walks (for exercise) are 4 days a week for now, to allow for busyness/bad weather. The cleaning is a low bar (yesterday i picked up after Little Bit and folded 4 loads of laundry.) So I’ll work this THIS coming month, and worry about January in January.

  8. There is nothing harder than forming a bunch of optimized habits. We all fail some of the time. It is always going to be a work in progress. I read a great book on willpower that talks about how we scientifically only have a limited amount. Once we use it up, say in a given day, we don’t have any left. If you are using all of your cells to keep up with one goal, it is very hard to then also use them for all your other goals. Not because you are not good enough, but because you are human. I fail at my goals constantly – cooking, spending, working out, being online too much. But I think the keys are to try to avoid the “I already blew it, so why not keep going” mentality (which is another proven scientific fact of human existence, especially with food), to just be mindful and aware as much as possible of what is happening and to take your small victories. I totally spent a ton of money this weekend, I am sure I blew everyone out of the water with that! I have historically had a big willpower problem with Christmas spending floodgates being opened after a period of abstinence. (I blew it, so why not keep going!) But this time I stopped the hemorrhage, and that does count for something. Being online too often without being productive is another one we all struggle with. Even those small moments of mentally checking in, asking myself what I am accomplishing and putting down the iPad – those are small wins that you can take to the bank. We are not robots – we will never be perfect. It’s ok!
    Linda @ Brooklyn Bread recently posted…Shopping is not your Civic DutyMy Profile

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Linda. I do have an issue with “Getting back on the horse” after I fall, and sometimes even remembering that my goal existed when I haven’t really set the habit yet. We’ll see how my little list goes.

  9. I’m with several of the other people who have commented in saying that you’re right about the “too many goals” recognition. I think one changed habit at a time is all I can handle. Have you read The Power of Habit? It mentions keystone habits – and these are habits that, once changed, have a positive ripple effect into other habit areas. One keystone habit is to exercise every day. That on its own ripples out to better sleep, better eating, better time management and financial management . . . If it’s any comfort, I have blown my 2016 New Year’s resolution of doing a plank every day. BUT, I would have to say that I’ve done more planks this year than I’ve ever done before, and I can hold a plank longer than I have ever been able to before. So progress has been made – even though it’s far from perfect.
    Fruclassity (Ruth) recently posted…Financial Freedom At 92 Years Old: Desire & ContentmentMy Profile

    • Congrats that your planks are longer and better. But it sounds like when you miss a day, you’re going back to it, so your fulfillment is still there in spirit if not in letter.

      I definitely struggle with exercise more than most other areas. I’m bad for letting things derail me…illness, bad weather, Netflix marathons…I know I should prioritize it, and do for a week or two, and then just don’t again. Maybe by writing it down on the list I’ll do better. Next step will be an exercise calendar, maybe.

  10. Thanks for the interesting update. It’s impressive that you’re willing to bear it all in the open here. I admire your transparency. Personally, I always have trouble building more than one habit at a time. Otherwise I become overwhelmed, lose focus and fall back into my old routines. I imagine your written goals for the upcoming month should help you stay on track. Good luck! 🙂
    Jay recently posted…Why Technical Traders Shouldn’t Ignore Fundamental AnalysisMy Profile

    • Yeah, I kind of like admitting the screw ups. It’s strangely cleansing, and I’ve found a number of other benefits. 1) Others are struggling with the same things and I think it helps connect to them. 2) The commenters often have good suggestions or help highlight my more useful ideas (like paring down the list and writing stuff down, on this one.) 3) Less guilt. I tend to feel pretty guilty when I think I’ve fallen into “Do what I say, not what I do.”

  11. +1 on too many goals. And you didn’t pick easy ones. That was my issue as well – and thanks for the shout-out.

    The other part for me, and maybe for you too, is that I can’t always turn off the demanding, perfectionist task-master inside. So when I fall off the horse it’s easy to succumb to Julie’s “what-the-he’ll effect”. I practically go in the opposite direction because now that I’m not perfect, I may as well be a screw-up.

    Your list looks pretty reasonable now. I’d suggest if you feel your willpower waning, select the one most important goal of the day and get that one done. That will insure you feel a sense of accomplishment.
    Mrs Groovy recently posted…I Dropped the Ball on Thanksgiving! (Luckily My Friends Picked it Up)My Profile

    • My inner perfectionist is less of a problem than guilt. Guilt that I let a goal down, guilt that I said “Aww, screw it.” Guilt that I feel I might be presenting myself in a way that’s less than transparent. So, yeah, maybe that is an inner perfectionist, because there’s definitely a sense that “I could and should have done better.” (despite evidence to the contrary.)

      ok, so it is my inner perfectionist after all. In the meantime, I’ll work to satisfy this low bar before moving on to more challenging goals, at least for now.

  12. I feel for you – and my half-written post that was supposed to go up on Monday features similar themes. Life has become so busy all of a sudden. I have all of these goals and feel pulled in a million different directions that all of my endeavors feel half-a$$ed. I’m trying to find a way to reset, simplify, and reshaping my priorities.
    Harmony@CreatingMyKaleidoscope recently posted…Frugal and Festive: How To Keep Spending Under Control This ChristmasMy Profile

    • Harmony, with twins on the way, I think giving yourself a break and simplifying are going to be key for you, just as it seems to be for me. One of the things I’m getting is we’re all struggling with trying to do too much. And, as I remember back to the earlier part of last month, we were at our church stewardship meeting and when we were asked to share “What are you struggling with in your life?” almost everyone said “I can’t do it all” or “I’m exhausted.”

      I need to do a little less. Maybe you do too. Hang in there and good luck. You have our support.

  13. You’re definitely not the only one, Emily. I simply can only do certain things for a short period of time before I move on to the next thing that I think is worth my attention. The one thing I have remained consistent with is blogging, but that’s only because I have an end goal in mind, but I can certainly say that I have fell of the wagon with a few things related to blogging though.
    Latoya | Femme Frugality recently posted…DIY Christmas Gifts FTW!My Profile

    • Maybe the time span is something I need to think about too, Latoya. Sometimes it can be a lot easier to say “I’ll do this for one month.” Or even “I’ll try this THIS week.” and maybe if i can do that and then regularly revisit my list and progress, I’ll be more successful. hmmm…I may think about monthly resolutions instead of New Year’s resolutions this year…Life changes and maybe i can make better progress with interval goals instead of life goals.

    • I think I know some things I want to do, Hannah. But I think lack of direction is another issue I struggle with, and that makes some of the other things not fall in line. Good luck with your own journey.

  14. Good for you for changing things up and trying to find a solution. I struggle with keeping my habits as well. It can be very hard when you’re used to doing something one way to switch it up and get used to something else. I really like the idea of posting some of your goals to keep yourself accountable. Maybe that’s something I should try as well. Great tips thank you!
    Nicole | The Professional Mom Project recently posted…5 Tips for a Successful Parent Teacher ConferenceMy Profile

    • It’s strange that the struggle can feel so very isolating, but when you admit it you realize that so many people are going through the same thing. Thanks for coming by, Nicole.

  15. I am far from an echelon of perfection on this topic, but keeping my goals visible does help me stay on track, remembering that those inconvenient habits actually get me closer to what I actually want. I use the fridge recently, but keeping it on the blog where it’s visible is the same type of thing, I feel like!
    FF @ Femme Frugality recently posted…How to Claim Your Unclaimed Money and Avoid ScamsMy Profile

    • I hope putting it here will help, Femme. I may need to put it in a physical place too to keep it in mind. Out of sight out of mind is a big problem for me.

  16. The accountability of setting my goals out for the world to see has been tremendous in helping me accomplish more of them. But I definitely get overwhelmed when I focus on too many different things, so I try to focus on a couple of bigger goals at a time. I find that mine are rarely so established that I don’t have to be purposeful about fulfilling them, unfortunately.
    Jamie @ Medium Sized Family recently posted…5 Ways We’ve Saved Money This Week 59My Profile

    • Yeah, I’ve really tried to pare down to the necessities for December, and that’s probably a better approach. Thanks for coming by, Jamie.

    • I’m glad it helped. Certainly, reading about all the other folks who are struggling with similar issues helps me. When i fail to meet my goals, I tend to feel isolated. The solidarity folks have shown in the comments has lifted me out of the blahs.

    • Diets are so hard, Vickie. I know that the best thing is to slowly change my eating habits, but gosh, there’s so much saying no only to give in and feel like a failure. I guess if you can keep starting over, you make progress, albeit slow progress. Eventually, maybe something sticks…giving up soda, or drinking more water, or adding more veggies. They’re all good steps, even if they are only small ones.

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