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holly ransom design your habits

Holly Ransom Teaches How To Design Your Habits for Success

Cement your Atomic Habits with these tools and techniques

holly ransom design your habits


How thoughtful and intentional are you when it comes to setting your goals?  

Are your goals sharp enough to achieve what you’re aiming for? 


Delegates were asked these questions by Holly Ransom in our Design Your Habits for Success masterclass, a follow-on event to Atomic Habits – James Clear LIVE.


More than 500 participants attended the session live, and a replay can be accessed by Growth Faculty members in the On Demand library.

Here’s a summary of some of the main points about reaching goals in Holly’s masterclass.


Goal Setting Theory


Holly introduced the Goal Setting Theory (Locke & Latham 1990) to participants. When setting a goal, ensure it contains:

·       Clarity – Goals should be clear and specific so you know where to channel your energy.

·       Challenge – Goals should be challenging enough to be motivating. You should be excited about accomplishing it.

·       Commitment – You should be committed to it, and it should be worth sticking at.

·       Feedback – Friends or colleagues, or a habit tracker, can help you make and celebrate progress.

·       Complexity – Must be achievable. Move within your sphere of influence. 

In other words, is your goal clear enough, and challenging enough to be motivating (but not so hard as to be unattainable)?


What vs Why


Holly says that when participants put forward their goals, many named “what” they wanted to do. “I want to drink more water” “….become more structured and efficient” “…be a better husband”, “…..do my physio exercises,” “….transition to a leadership role.”


She referred to Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why” concept to encourage participants to think about “why” they wanted to make this habit change. And to reflect on how emotional they felt about it when they wrote down their ‘why.’


Holly shared her personal story about taking up the challenge to do an Iron Man competition, and her “why” for doing so – a promise to herself to ensure that a period of depression “...didn’t break me, but went on to make me.”


She asked participants: Is your WHY greater than your WHY NOT? And, she encouraged people to put their written-down WHY in a place where they can collide with it (on the office wall, as a screensaver on their phone etc.)


Why Now?


Holly reminded the masterclass that humans have deep loss aversion – we are twice as sensitive to loss as we are to gain.

It can help, therefore, to reframe our gaols as: “If I don’t do it, then I’ll lose the opportunity to………….”


She says she writes “If not now, when?” in whiteboard marker on her mirror.

Sometimes we wait for the end of a year, start of a year – we don’t need those natural book markers to make a start,” says Holly.


“Today – that’s where you’re shaping your future.” she says.


Structure for Success


Building on James Clear’s advice in Atomic Habits, Holly reiterated how we need to break down goals into smaller chunks to tap into the main human source of motivation, namely, a sense of progress.


She cited the “Goal Gradient Effect” experiments, proving that the closer you feel you are towards your goal, how much faster you will follow through to achieve it. Loyalty cards that are pre-stamped can kickstart action far better than an unstamped card. 





Focus on the Activity


Holly recommended participants focus on the activity to get results. She gave an example of an executive who set himself a goal to reach out and have conversations with 50 key people who could progress his goal. He keeps 50 marbles, and puts a marble into a jar after every conversation.


It works, because it is VISUAL. As James Clear said at our event, progress often takes time to show results, so think about how to make it visual. Use habit trackers and other tools.


Delegates offered up their recommendations: Strava, the bullet journalling method, setting alarms every 3 minutes until you take action, Daylio, The Fabulous, reading ‘The 4 Disciplines of Execution’ by Chris McChesney, Jim Huling, and Sean Covey, the Apple Watch activity tracker. Holly says she uses Habitat, and we remind delgates that James Clear has a habit tracker on his website.


A Means of Getting Started

Holly likes the “Ulysses pact” – a pact you make that helps bind you to achieving your goal (as Ulysses did when he ordered his crew to lash him to the ship’s mast so he wouldn’t jump into the sea to answer the enticing call of the Sirens). She suggests ways to do this:

·       Pre-commit yourself to a presentation date to motivate you to work on your new business idea and limit your procrastination.

·       Write a commitment contract and pledge money to a friend or cause (more powerful is a cause you DON’T want to support) if you don’t do what you say you’re going to do.

·       Make a declaration of your intended new habit to people who you care about to tap into positive social motivation. 


Remember, goals aren't easy to achieve. You will need these tools and supportive people (or a habit tracker) along the way to help you push through to get there.



cartoon about reaching goal


Design for Sustainability


Holly shared how she and her friend Charlie stuck at a challenge where they did something each day for 365 days they were afraid of. Given it was uncomfortable, they needed to design their year so that they kept going, even when they might have wanted to give up.


They ensured they had:

·       A clear activity – It had to be out of their comfort zone, but was not spelled out.

·       A tracking device – They used an app called Make Me, but Holly now uses the Habitat app.

·       Consequences – Holly would have lost a week of watching and playing sport for a week if she failed to complete her challenge, Charlie would have had to have given up coffee for a week.

·       Accountability Buddy – By far the most motivating tool was having someone you didn’t want to let down.


Importance of Social Environment


Holly recommended the importance of those around you when trying to keep motivated to complete activities. She suggested participants find themselves:

·       A supporter – who is encouraging

·       A supporter sage – who has done it/ been there before

·       A sparring partner – who challenges you, pushes you.

It can be one person, or it can be three.


How do we start?


We are busier than we’ve ever been, but that is not an excuse for neglecting goal-setting. Holly recommended we adopt the 24/7/1 method for doing so:

·       24 hours – Take a small bite-size action towards your goal. Make it so small it is inexcusable if you fail to achieve it within 24 hours. You might get your notes in order, or put a note to yourself on the wall.

·       7 days – Your next commitment. You might write out your ‘WHY’ and your ‘WHY NOW?’ statements, or break down your goal into small actions: I’m going to reach out to a supporter/sage/sparring partner.

·       1 month – This is a bigger action step. You might try a new habit tracking app. Or try a new form of nudging to get you to take more action towards your goal.

Then, roll the system forward to the next 24/7/1. You can then show these 24/7/1 plans to your supporter/sage/sparring partner. “Here’s what I’m going to do in the next…[day, week, month]…….”


A Future Date With Yourself


Finally, Holly recommended you set a future date with yourself. Pick a date that is roughly 3 months from today, and put it in your calendar.

Choose your favourite café or park, and take yourself on a date to step back, reflect on your WHY, and your goal. Perhaps you need to restructure your goal to bring the brackets in a bit (to make the goal a bit more achievable).

As Holly says, reflection is one of the best ways to build motivation. 


Recommended TED Talks


Holly recommended Jane McGonigal’s TED Talk “Gaming Can Make a Better World” and Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why” 


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