Posted by: bluesyemre | November 22, 2020

How to focus on chaging your behavior and not your goals

Photo by Tom Pottiger

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. Your goal is your desired outcome. Your system is the collection of daily habits that will get you there.” – James Clear

“First we make our habits, then our habits make us.” – Charles C. Noble

I can see why goals get all the glory. They’re aspirational and sexy. Goals can give us hope, the feeling of progress, and they can provide the aimless sense of direction. Reaching a goal is social media worthy, an opportunity for attention and recognition. In our current vernacular, if you give someone props, you can do it by just saying, “Goals.” And sometimes, when you achieve your goals, it can feel good – incredible, even. But I think they get more attention and focus than warranted.

Being too focused on an outcome in every situation is limiting and rigid. It’s a one-dimensional perspective. It’s inflexible; it kills the possibility of a different result. Deviating from the path or the goal might be considered a failure. And this is the flaw in the system.

I stayed at a job that made me miserable and didn’t pay me enough because I thought I needed to reach a goal. I couldn’t see another path. The goals I had for my business paralyzed me. I didn’t take any action for months or sometimes years because I didn’t want to head in the wrong direction. Now I see any direction would have been the right direction because I just needed to start. Sometimes you can’t even know the eventual goal unless you start moving towards one. And there have been countless times where I’ve achieved my goals and have felt the same. It took a lot of these empty moments for me to realize what I was chasing with my goals. I was trying to become someone else. I was trying to feel different about myself. I was using them to get respect or recognition.

There is nothing inherently wrong with goals. But, in my experience, once I shifted my focus on the behaviors that preceded the goal, I got more out of the process, whether or not I achieved my goal. When I focused on my behaviors, there were fewer rules about the outcome. The fewer rules there are, the more ways there are to win. I could feel peace and joy in the present moment and avoid disappointment for things outside of my control.

If you want to transform something in your life, you have to be present to it

A lot of our daily behaviors are automatic; some studies cite that 40% of the things we do every day are unconscious habits. When you look at change and transformation through this lens, it’s easy to see why attempting to change can be hard at first. In a lot of cases, you’re battling against your unconscious mind, your internal programming. Transformation starts with being present and observing your behavior.

How to observe your behavior and change it

The Four Classes of Human Experiences is a tool that I learned about from various coaches. The concept behind the Four Classes of Human Experience is that we can categorize all of our experiences into four different classes. In the interest of applying this to finances, I’m going to refer to this as the Four Classes of Human Behaviors.

* Class 4 – A behavior that doesn’t feel good, is not good for you, is not good for others, and does not serve the greater good. An example of a class four behavior is letting your stress about your finances create more needless anxiety in your life, which can put you on edge and damage your health over time. Taking out your anger on others or losing your temper is another example of a class four behavior.

* Class 3 – A behavior that feels good (at least in the moment), is not good for you, is not good for others, and does not serve the greater good. Any form of escapism that you use to avoid your finances instead of facing them is an example of class three behavior. Binge-watching television, drinking too much, or infinitely scrolling your social media platform of choice are all ways that we can feel good at the moment, but it’s not good for us or others in the long run.

* Class 2 – A behavior that does not feel good, is good for you, is good for others, and serves the greater good. When you first start saving money, it might not feel good in the short-term, but it’s good for you. Making a budget or reviewing your credit card and bank accounts are probably not the most pleasurable things, but these behaviors are good for you and ultimately for those around you because you’re taking responsibility. Taking responsibility for your actions and decisions can be tough, but doing this kind of work will allow you to change your class two behaviors into class one behaviors.

* Class 1 – A behavior that feels good, is good for you, is good for others, and serves the greater good. Teaching someone about a financial concept or a strategy you use is a class one behavior. Donating money or time (or both) to a charitable cause is also a class one experience. Over time, saving money can feel like a class one experience. Very recently, my dog got quite sick. There were multiple trips to the vet and hospitalization costs. I’m grateful that we could tap our emergency fund and focus all our attention on our dog. After this experience, instead of feeling annoyed about saving money, I feel happy doing it. For me, saving money has finally moved from a class two behavior to a class one behavior.

By taking inventory of your own daily experiences and behaviors, you’ll be able to have a benchmark for where you are in your life and what you need to do to change it. If you’re not used to looking at yourself like this, it can be uncomfortable. Try not to be so judgmental.

Transformation is hard

When people struggle to change, more often than not, they’re probably stuck in class three or class two behaviors. Which means you’re living a class two or class three life.

Changing your life to a class one life requires you to choose behaviors and experiences that don’t feel good but are good for you. You can start small. If you partake in a lot of class three experiences, decide to implement at least one more class two behaviors into your everyday life. The devil is in the details. Change and transformation are the minutiae of everyday life.

Your life isn’t an outcome. It’s not a goal. It’s what happens from day to day. Learning to be detached from the outcome lets you embrace this fantastic and unremarkable aspect of our human experience.

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