Goals don’t determine our success, habits do. This shocks me. All the experts, gurus, specialist, masters tell us to set goals. We’re even told goals written down have a better chance of being achieved. But the heinous truth is, “You don’t rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems.” James Clear demonstrates that to us in his book Atomic Habits.

Our systems are the daily automatic actions we habitually perform. Teeth brushing, driving the same route to work, paying the bills on Monday are examples of things we do by rote. Because they have become habits, we no longer have to think about them. They simply get done.

Stephen Covey wrote the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People : Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. The first habit he mentions is focus and act on what you can control and influence instead of what you can’t. Think: your habits.

Paying off your credit card debt is a noble goal. We would all agree it’s the best thing to do to save paying outrageous interest rates. The problem with this goal is if you don’t change the habit that got you into credit card debt, the goal of paying it off will never be realized.

Now you are starting to see the necessity of developing habits that support where you want to go in life.

We all have similar goals. All athletes want to win the championship. All relationships desire to thrive. All business owners expect to make money. If our goals are similar and only some of us reach the goal, it can’t be the goal that determines the success. That leaves us admitting success is based on the habits in which we engage.

I spent a decade sucking down 64 ounces of Dr. Pepper every day. It was so automatic I’d have one in my hand and not know how it got there. I could repeat, “I’m not drinking a Dr. Pepper today. It’s not good for me” three-hundred times while walking to the soda machine. This habit derailed my health. My habits took me to a place I didn’t want to go. It didn’t matter that my goal was to be healthy.

Every big achievement in life is the sum of our small wise habits. Too often we don’t see immediate results from small habits, so we decide small little habits don’t matter that much. We also don’t see immediate destruction when we partake in small unwise habits like drinking Dr. Pepper every day or running up charges on our credit card. Because of this, we decide small unwise habits don’t matter that much. Not seeing immediate results doesn’t change the long-term outcome.

James Clear tells us small habits can unlock the improvements we need to get the results we want. Our life today is essentially the sum of our habits. What we repeatedly do ultimately forms the person we are.

Where are your habits taking you?