From Purpose to Habits


The idea behind this site is that I share tips around mental and physical health, including tips related to mindfulness, exercise, productivity, habits and goal setting, but with the caveat that I don’t believe there is one way that is right for everyone. I’ve never been a fan of anything that supposedly is one-size-fits-all.  

While I’ve learned a lot over the past decade or so from books, podcasts, and other materials related to the above mentioned topics, no one person or method has been the be-all-to-end-all for me. I try to avoid people who think they are. I like much of what I’ve learned from Brendon Burchard, David Allen, Brené Brown, Glennon Doyle, James Clear, Todd Henry, Elizabeth Gilbert, Mel Robbins, Simon Sinek, Elizabeth Day, and more. I’ve written about each of them on this blog. I hope to, at some point, interview some of them on the podcast, but I don’t practice absolutely everything any of them talk about (who can remember it all!). 

Nobody has all the answers, which is not a revelation.

In my most recent prior blog post, I talked about Simon Sinek’s book Infinite Game and the idea of a Just Cause. The The Infinite Game overall is about the fact that successful businesses and movements aren’t finite, but rather infinite. They have no clear end point because they’re about an idea, not a product. Businesses and movements are more likely to fail if they stick to finite thinking (thinking about the near future instead of the long-game).

This got me thinking about goals (he has some choice words for goals that businesses set because they’re often focussed exclusively on making money for shareholders). A few months ago I wrote about Brendon Burchard’s idea of DUMB goals – goals that are Dream driven, Uplifting, Method friendly, and Behaviour triggered. 

Then I read this piece Shane Parrish wrote back in 2017 about habits vs. goals and was reminded of what Charles Duhigg and James Clear have written about habits. And then, suddenly, I started to see how this all fit together for me, again for me, maybe not for you.

Note: If you’re starting to glaze over, stick with me, I think I’m on to something here.

If I think of my life as an infinite game — not in the sense that I’ll live forever, but that I want the life I live, the work I do, the influence I have, to carry on beyond my life — then my purpose statement, which I keep taped to the mirror in the our ensuite and the wall in my office, is my ultimate Just Cause. My Manifesto (got this idea from Todd Henry) is an explanation of the values behind my purpose statement.

In Infinte Game, Sinek says this of a Just Cause and goals – “A Just Cause is the context for all of our other goals, big and small, and all of our finite achievements must help to advance the Just Cause.” I think that what Brendon Burchard describes as DUMB goals create the framework for what my purpose statement and Manifesto, my infinite game, looks like in action. I say framework, because I don’t want what say in the next bit to seem hierarchical to either myself or anyone else.

Looking at the framework of DUMB goals I see that “Dream-driven” and “Uplifting” fit well into my purpose statement. “Dream-driven” is a long-game idea, while “Uplifting” for me has to mean that I’m doing something for the greater good. My purpose and these goals get broken into smaller pieces, which are my actions. For me to act I have to have or obtain the skills and knowledge to do so (“Method-friendly”) and I need to be consistent (“Behaviour Driven”).  

This entire exercise gave me a fresh perspective on how I’m planning my time and my habits. I need to make sure that the things I’m doing are in alignment with my DUMB goals, which need to be in-line with my purpose. 

When it comes to planning my days, weeks, and month, it’s easier for me to look through the lens of my purpose to decide what I want to work on, who I want to spend time with, what fun I want to have. And when there’s something that I have to do that I don’t really want to do, I need to figure out how it fits. For example, I hate doing dishes, but lately I’ve focused on the fact that my wife appreciates when I do them, which has made it a better experience (“Uplifting”).

Habits are equally important. 

Former UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden said “If you do enough small things right, big things can happen.

Gretchen Rubin more recently said, “What we do every day matters more than what we do once in a while.”

This is where “Behaviour-driven” comes in and, while I’m trying to avoid hierarchy, habits may be the most important part of pursuing a “Just Cause”, a purpose. How we behave on a daily basis over the long-term is who we are. Some habits are good for us and others, some are not. Eating healthy is a good habit. Smoking is a bad one. Writing in a journal every day may be a good habit, but sitting on the couch every night and binge watching Netflix probably isn’t. 

While we tend to think of our habits as being about us, they’re often not. You smoking is bad for those around you, but so is littering and being rude to checkers at the grocery store. On the flip side, saying please and thank you, asking your spouse and children about their days every evening, or even tucking your face into the crook of your arm to cough are all good habits that benefit others.

When you think about your habits and goals, do they align with what you think your purpose is? Is what you think your purpose is aligned with your values?  Is it a “Just Cause”?

As I planned this week and as I go through my days, I’m  looking at my agenda and my actions through this new lens, which is giving me a new, well, sense of purpose. Given the times we’re living in, it feels like a good development.

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