Published: 18 February 2022. Written by: Evelina Baltrukaityte, Behaviour Change Manager at Vitality.
Whether it’s sticking to a healthy diet, a new exercise routine, waking up early, or even regular teeth flossing. Setting new goals and forming new habits need some effort. Here are some ways you can effectively stick to your goals…
Effective goals are the ones that are:
- A – Achievable
- B – Believable
- C – Committed
Most of the time it’s our will-power that is so difficult to keep up, not the actual goal itself. So, what are some science-backed ways to adapt our behaviours and ultimately ensure we stay on track with those important goals we’ve set?
Planning is the most important step to a successful goal setting. When you are thinking of setting a new goal, no matter how big or small, you should always start with a plan. At Vitality we recommend using the SMART plan method, which is:
Another way to make sure you’re sticking to this method, is actually writing it down – whether in a notebook or on your computer. It’s easy to forget our goals when we keep them in our minds rather than on paper. Always remember: ‘If we fail to plan, we plan to fail’.
Example: Put your SMART plan into practice by writing down that you will go for a 40minute run on a Tuesday and Thursday at 11am. This makes your goal SMART, rather than keeping it vague by telling yourself you’ll simply exercise more next week.
2) Feedback and monitoring
Without constructive feedback it’s difficult to know what’s working, and what’s not. Plus, positive feedback can increase your satisfaction after achieving the target, and boost those motivation levels. So don’t forget to record, track and ask for feedback. Write it down in a handy pocketbook or use technology such as health apps (most phones now have these built in) to log your activity.
Example: You can keep track of your nutrition through various apps to ensure you’re hitting goals such as daily macros. You can also use wearable devices and activity apps to track your daily total number of steps.
3) Social support
Staying motivated is easier when you have a strong support system around you. Let the people in your life know you’re planning on changing particular habits and explain how they can help you. We also tend to perform better when we’re accountable for our actions or someone is helping to keep us on track. Without this support, it can often be easier to not stick to our set goals.
Example: Looking to quit smoking? Find a friend that will go through the process with you – either doing it too, or just there as someone to text when you’re tempted to smoke.
4) Shaping environment
We can be easily distracted by environmental and social stimulus. Most of these signals are subconscious meaning we can process it without logical thinking. Replacing negative distractions with positive ones is a small but effective way that can help us to reach our goals.
Example: Try removing sweets from the house and instead replacing them with your favourite fruit on the worktop. You could pop post-stick notes around the house for friendly reminders to yourself e.g. a reminder to floss your teeth or one on your computer to get out at lunch for a brisk walk.
The key to setting goals and becoming even more successful in your achievements is through knowledge. By educating yourself about subjects that are closely linked to your specific goal can in turn help you to achieve a goal. To start building your knowledge, you can find some expert advice online through podcasts, videos or reading content that comes from trusted resources.
Example: If you’re looking to lose weight, you can look into how controlling your blood sugar level can be pivotal in getting healthier. Start by researching and understanding what high glycarmic foods are, and once you have a handy list, you’ll be more conscious of them when you are choosing what foods to eat.
6) Repetition and forming habits
Habits are formed by repetition and learning, and the good news is that we can build healthy habits at any age. That said, it can take a few months until we start doing these habits automatically, which is why repetition is important. Building a new habit doesn’t solely depend on frequency, with other factors such as attention, self-reporting and even personality playing a part too.
Example: You can start to build a habit through setting a routine for yourself that you can stick to. You can look at setting the same times each day for eating breakfast, lunch and dinner to stay on track with your nutrition goals. If you are trying to sleep more hours at night, try setting the habit of going to bed the same time every night.
Positive psychology teaches us to argue against self-doubt. You can practise this verbally by asserting yourself, and you can mentally practise this by imagining you are performing successfully. As with the other activities, it’s important that this self-assertion exercise is repeated regularly and planned into your schedule as otherwise it might be forgotten as it isn’t yet an automatic behaviour.
Example: If you’re planning out your new routined week, put a positive spin on it and asset your success. Take some time to tell yourself you will success on your goals everyday, and this positively will translate into self-belief.
Begin by thinking about your core values and the personal strengths or attributes that really matter to you. You can take a look at any differences between your ideal-self and your current-self to see what needs to change – but don’t be too critical, changes take time and you should be kind on yourself as you make those changes. However, just having the knowledge of the differences can change your perception and have an effect on your behaviours.
Example: If one of your goals is to eat healthier, you might want to assess the reasons behind this and how it reflects with your values. For instance, you might be trying to encourage your family or children to eat better and therefore can align with your own beliefs and set an example in yourself. This new-self can be a positive change for all.
Rewarding yourself for healthy behaviours can help you to stay on track and motivated when it comes to goals. You can look to reward yourself through a matter of means that make you feel good – treat yourself, right? This is most effective when you reward yourself after seeing considerable progress on a behaviour, habit or goal. Being kind to ourselves through rewards can also help to improve our mental wellbeing.
Example: Smashed your nutrition goals for the month? Treat yourself to a trip to the cinema with a friend for laughs and a dose of relaxation. Completed the majority of your mindfulness sessions in a week? Write yourself a little self-affirmation note that congratulates you on doing great.
Want to know more about habits and how to make them stick? Here we look at how the micro-habit is the best way of achieving your goals this year.
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