linchpin habits: the keys to making goals stick

LinchpinHabitsKeysToMakingGoalsStickAs we set our intentions for our lives, more often than not, we desire quality habits more than static goals like running a personal best at the marathon. We want to have an active lifestyle, we want to continue to challenge ourselves in our careers, we want to foster deeper levels of intimacy with our partners.

These intentions are ongoing habits that require care and continuous attention in order to prosper.

However, we can get so caught up in the measuring and executing of the specific habit we are trying to achieve, that we lose sight of the linchpin habit beneath the habit in question.

For example, this summer Mr. Lively and I developed a consistent habit of doing our private victory each morning. In doing so, we naturally started to go to bed earlier in order to have the energy needed to get up earlier.

As we continued to dedicate ourselves to this private victory, other positive things like watching more wholesome television and budgeting wisely came into our lives as a result. One good habit birthed other good habits.

However, for the past week or two, we worked later than normal. As we worked until 8-11 pm, it became harder to go to bed early. It was easier to unwind from the long day of work by watching tv after we were done working, than to go to bed immediately.

Going to bed closer to 11 or 12 made it much more difficult to wake up at 6am and complete our private victory. It lessened our commitment to quality reading and exercise. Things started to get delayed, pushed aside, and phoned in.

We started to do the bare minimum. And as a result, we got bare minimum results.

Though the habit and intention in focus was the daily private victory, the habit of going to bed early was the linchpin that allowed it all to happen.

Instead of focusing our attention exclusively on the private victory, we could have been more diligent about the linchpin habit of going to bed around 10pm. 

I believe that this linchpin habit concept also applies to other intentions we have in our lives. For example, if we want to increase our intimacy with our partner, the linchpin habit that might make that possible could be more honest communication, or maybe it is about having more one-on-one time.

If we want to lower our debt or increase our savings, the linchpin habit more be tracking where our money is going on a daily basis.

If we strive to complain less at work, maybe we need to recognize that the linchpin habit of spending time with specific co-workers enables us to complain more.

Perhaps we need to focus more on the linchpin habits that allow our intentional habits to thrive.

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  1. Jess, this is great advice.
    It’s very interesting though, I’m not quite sure how you figure out the linchpin habit until you malfunction or veer away from your goal in some way.

    1. Exactly. I think it takes some reflection on what ‘sets you up’ to accomplish your habit vs. what often derails you. Do you have a habit in mind that you are working on? Maybe we can identify some linchpin habits underneath it all.

      1. HAHA! I have many habits I’m working on. 🙂
        This month I am focused on being healthier (i.e., eating healthy foods and exercising daily). So far I’m exercising every day… and eating healthy… but I hate everything. It hasn’t been enjoyable and I feel more punished than fulfilled.

        1. Gotcha. Maybe there is a way to include more of what you like with less ego / a bit more inspired action? (

          Also, I would check out this post too about how setting intentions can be a bit more flexible than traditional goal setting

          Other than that, maybe there habits that can help you move to the next level with less force? Those habits, if you can find them, could be your linchpins.

  2. PL

    This is such a timely post for me. I was always constantly motivated during college but now in grad school I am just doing the ‘bare minimum’, and settingup linchpin habits as simple as going to bed early are downright impossible. I feel lost and destructive of my own future. Your posts always pump me up, but then I don’t really do anything about it. It’s really, really hard for some reason right now.

    1. Thank you for sharing, PL! I can hear you. I went through a similar phase of life in college, too. Everything felt hard and I really struggled. Beyond books like the ones mentioned here,, you might want to get help one-on-one.

      Maybe working with an accountability partner, mentor, or coach might help you work through what is going on.

      (And of course, I’m always available for this sort of thing too, if your gut tells you I’m the right fit. : )

  3. Lisa

    This so very true. I have found over the past week that I keep looking at my blog stats as I move forward. Your post is a timely reminder to remember why I am doing what I do because I ENJOY IT! Lisa xo

    1. That is SO crazy! I just decided to stop looking at my blog stats as of yesterday and it has already been so freeing for me, too! It helps me be more present in the now, have you found that in your life, too?

      1. Lisa

        I hope so… but day one didn’t get off to a great start! I am hopeful tho. Lisa xo

        1. Didn’t get off to a great start in your mindset, or that you checked the stats anyways?

          1. Lisa

            That I checked the stats. Day 2 is off to a good start – no peeking. Lisa xo

          2. Jess Lively

            Gotcha. So far I haven’t looked. I logged out so that it would deter me from just automatically going to the site without realizing it and seeing them. I am LOVING the newfound freedom that I feel. It’s crazy, but I feel more present in my life because of that one simple action and from reading The Power of Now. You might want to check it out, too!

  4. I love this perspective Jess! You’re absolutely right, it’s the linchpin habits that really determine whether or not we’ll be successful at achieving a goal. I’m going to be so much more mindful of this from now on – thank you!

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