Habits versus goals

Create Your Own Sunshine, photo credit Kirsten Akens May 2015

Ever since chatting with Gretchen Rubin, and reading her new book Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, I've been thinking differently about habits and goals.

I'm in the second year of my Birthday Lists, and when I constructed my "41 Before 42" list, I decided to remove items that I wanted to be habits in my life, instead of one-time/first-time experiences or activities. So behaviors like "meditate/yoga every day" and "blog a certain number of times a week" are now on a habit list I'll post below in a bit.

The reason for this, as Gretchen says, is that individual goals are meant to have start and stop times. For example, last summer I wanted to climb Pikes Peak. I had a starting point. I researched. I trained. I hiked Pikes Peak. I celebrated. I stopped (aka crashed on the couch). Even though I do want to keep hiking as a regular activity in my life, I summited (ha) that particular goal.

Habits, on the other hand, are behaviors we want to follow indefinitely.




(Always place my keys in the same spot so I stop an unnecessary hunting process each morning.)

Think of habits as behaviors that we want to start, and assuming they are beneficial to our lives, not ever stop.

Habits: commit and do.

Or in other, more famous, words ...

It's worth noting if your habits are not working for you (or you try to instill a new habit into your life and it doesn't take), it's a good idea to spend some time reflecting on why. A certain habit may not actually be beneficial to your life, as I found with making the bed. Or you may need to reframe the habit based on your particular tendency. Or you may need to set up strategies to help you.

Strategies like accountability — which my tendency needs and which I'm going to accomplish by posting for you all the list of new habits I'm cultivating these days. I'll report back on how I'm doing at some point in the future ... (notice I did not give you an end date).


  • Walk Lucy, daily (unless one of us is honest-to-goodness sick, or it's pouring down rain, snowing or icy).
  • Meditate, daily.
  • Review finances, daily.
  • Blog three times a week.
  • Say yes, and thank you, when someone offers help. (Thanks for the suggestion, Judith.)

Let me know in the comments what habits you're looking to add or remove from your life. And, since you're helping me, how I can help you.

My best advice on making writing a habit

Art Is A Dirty Job Paris photo credit Kirsten Akens 2014

Oh wow. It's Wednesday. Day 3 of the Your Turn Challenge.

Here's how my week with YTC has gone.

Day 1: Excitement! A new challenge! Bring it!

Day 2: A good, solid piece popped into place. Thank you muse.

Day 3: Ugh.

Can I say that again? Ugh.

There are different theories on how long it takes for a new habit to stick. 21 days. 30 days. Just one week. And there are theories that debunk each of these theories so who really knows. What works is whatever you can make work for you.

What I do know about forming a habit of writing is some advice I gave a budding future-author just last week. And it has nothing to do with a certain number of days.

At my favorite work-away-from-home coffee shop, the owner brought over a friend of his who had just started working on a memoir. The friend wanted advice on how to go about it.

I said, "Write."

He stared back at me.

Than I laughed a little. Honestly, I told him, the first rule of writing a book is to write it. And to write every day. Five minutes. Ten minutes. Set an alarm. Don't set an alarm. Just write something. Anything.

I went on to explain that the method by which really doesn't matter as long as ... here we go again ... it works for you.

Yes, there are typically two paths people take when writing. Plotting and pantsing.

Plotting involves starting with constructing a partial or full outline of what you're going to write before writing it. Pantsing is the code word for "fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants," writing (mostly) stream of consciousness or, in fiction, by letting the characters who live in your head speak through you.

I'm a pantser. Always have been. I very rarely outline much of anything because I've found if I spend that much time on a outline, by the time I'm done, I have no interest in actually writing the story. Putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard is the art for me. It's the process of full absorption that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi refers to in his book Flow that I love (that's an affiliate link to the book there, just so you know), that keeps me going.

But either way is equally valid — if it works for you.

So here I am. Taking my own advice. Writing.

Writing about writing. Which I get asked about a lot anyway, so it's not totally off board.

And as I re-read my words, they're not half bad either.

Day 3: Done.


(This is my Day 3 contribution to the Your Turn Challenge. Read others' contributions and learn more here.)