Goals vs Habits: This Simple Difference Is The Key To Your Success

Birthday Girl

One of the biggest mistakes we make when trying to make a life change is to confuse goals and habits. More often than not, we set a goal when what we really want is a new habit.

All habits that stick are usually easy to start. No one forces themselves to start biting their nails or crack their knuckles. No small child decides to start sucking their thumb by saying, “Ok, it totally grosses me out, but I’m just going to go ahead and do this for thirty minutes today and then up it to an hour tomorrow.”

That’s absurd.

We start bad habits because they are easy, simple, and we find some kind of a benefit to them. Good habits shouldn’t start any differently.

Habits Are Easy. Goals Are Hard.

Army 10-Miler - 2010 - AUSA - FMWRC - United States Army - 101024

But usually we try to start a goal instead of a habit, and that is a recipe for disaster.


Because a goal inherently has an end point. Run a marathon. Lose 50 pounds. We work very hard to achieve these goals and feel that once we succeed we deserve a little break. And rightly so.
But if we set those goals because our ultimate desire is to live healthier, very small incremental simple changes as part of a detailed overall plan are much more likely to bring long term life change.

Setting goals requires us to push things temporarily out of our lives that will find their way back in. it’s like trying to keep your house clean by just tidying up after your kids. The house will get clean, but it is also certainly going to get messy again.

Creating a habit is like actually teaching your children to clean up after themselves. It takes longer. It must be done more slowly, and its much more of a commitment. But the reward is priceless.

Creating a habit requires us to eliminate an old one and fill it slowly with the new one. The faster we try to make this exchange the more painful and difficult it is.

So as you work to Maximize Your Mornings, remember that you’re creating a habit. O’dark thirty isn’t your goal, connecting with Him is.

Leave a Comment



  • LisaE says:

    This totally resonated with me today! Thank you for the inspiration. 🙂

  • Amanda says:

    Thanks Kat. Your blog is at the very top of my list. I always leave here challenged and inspired. So many of the post you’ve written have become a part of my thinking. Thank you for pouring yourself into this work. Truly you are a Godly woman who seeks to glorify Him in all things. Keep up the awesome work! This mom of two boys is grateful for your words.

  • Alexandra says:

    Day four of waking up at 5:30… new habit in the making.

  • I’m not a morning person by nature….I’m a night owl. I do my best work at night, feeling refreshed and energized, and am more productive,etc. – especially after the kids go to bed.

    However, I have been considering waking up earlier (at least sometime earlier than my kids currently wake me). Proverbs 31 has started me thinking this, and now you with this post is starting to convict me. Perhaps starting the day off when my mind is fresh & empty, allowing “His” agenda to direct my day might just be the change I’m really needing.

  • trudy says:

    Habits lead the way to goal achieving though! 🙂

  • Tracy says:

    Yes! Love this! I actually just revamped our chore system to emphasize habits. My four year old has done VERY well with the new system, and I feel like I’m actually teaching him rather than simply nagging. You can see what we are doing with it here: http://homekeepers.wordpress.com/2011/06/14/making-habits-an-update-on-our-chore-system/

  • Danielle says:

    Great post! Excellent observation. I think goals are great but I think habits are sometimes better. I don’t want my goal to be “waking up at 5:30am” and then when the MYM Challanege is over I go back to sleeping till whenever b/c I hit my goal. I want to form the habit of getting up at a decent (for me) hour and starting my day in the rigtht way. I want that to stick for a lifetime.

    thanks so much for the time and effort you have put into this this blog and MYM.

  • So true, and yet such an easy concept to not understand until it’s pointed out to you. Thanks for the reminder to build habits over goals.
    Starting my day with Him is changing my life radically, and you inspired that in me with MYM. I can’t thank you enough.
    That, and your recommending the ‘THINGS’ app are transforming my life in the best ways. I owe you a giant hug at Relevant!

  • MamaDove says:

    This is EXCELLENT stuff! Thank you!

  • Janis says:

    Excellent information. I’d never thought of it this way, but you are so right. I have a had time breaking a habit, but never reach that weight goal. Great information!

  • M-Line says:

    good stuff -recommend checking out the habit factor app and/or book
    thehabitfactor.com free template too. the book is all about the important relationship (and difference) between goals and habits.. thank you.

  • Great post. I’m working on a writing myself about goals and habits. Thanks for the insight.