To Achieve Big Goals, Start with Small Habits


Have you set lofty behavior change goals year after year only to find yourself in the same place? Do you feel daunted by achieving and sustaining such big changes? Instead of “going big or going home,” try breaking your giant goal into smaller more realizable “micro habits.” In this HBR article, Sabina Nawaz, a global CEO coach, encourages you to identify “ridiculously small” micro habits that you can sustain before building on.

The Learning Upshot

After completing the work on this page, you will be able to:

  • Know what a micro habit is and how it relates to a larger goal
  • Realize the importance of accountability partners
  • Attempt a micro habit of your own

Read the Article

Make It Actionable

Now it’s time to personalize it. Give this concept some momentum in the workplace and your own life by completing the following:

Micro Habit Worksheet

Complete the following Micro Habit Worksheet:

  1. Topic or Competency (Name which one you are working on):
  2. My Micro Habit (Identify a “ridiculously small” micro habit):
  3. Drivers (Identify 1-2 rewards. What does your future self look like upon accomplishing this micro habit?):
  4. Challenges (Identify 1-2 detractors. What might keep you from accomplishing your micro habit?):
  5. Identify and Reappraise Any Negative Self-Talk (What are you telling yourself about this change? If it’s negative, how can you frame it in a positive light?) For more on how to do this, check out “Negative Reappraisal: Definition, Examples, and Activity” | Berkley Wellbeing Institute article):
  6. Accountability (What methods are you using to keep yourself accountable?):
  7. Reflect (To what degree did you accomplish your goal? How do you see this as part of your personal change process?):

Sample of a Completed Micro Habit Worksheet

  1. Topic or Competency: Punctuality
  2. My Micro Habit: Arrive 2-minutes early (at 8:58 am) to my next Tuesday meeting.
  3. Drivers: Stop letting down my colleagues by making them wait for me. Establish my reputation as a dependable and consistent coworker.
  4. Challenges: I’m working on important tasks right up until this meeting happens. Getting these things done is important to me. Also, my coworkers don’t seem to mind so it’s easy to be late.
  5. Identify and Reappraise Any Negative Self-Talk: Okay, I’m not a failure because of this one thing. I am punctual to a lot of my family obligations and I’m confident that I can do the same at work.  
  6. Accountability: Set a reminder alarm. Inform my colleagues who attend the same meeting that I will arrive 2 minutes early to the next meeting and ask them to hold me to my word.
  7. Reflect: I showed up on time (not two minutes early like I wanted), but at least I wasn’t late. I feel more aware of the situation (my obstacles) and want to try this again for the next meeting.

Note: Harvard Business Review (HBR) has a limit of 2 articles per month for guest users and 4 articles per month for users who register their email. Subscribers have unlimited access.

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