Three Simple Steps To Keep Your Goals On Track

When we think of the New Year, we tend to think of New Year’s resolutions, giving ourselves the golden opportunity to start making the changes we vowed we’d make throughout the year.

The New Year is a wonderful time for indulging in a spot of retrospection and reevaluating some of our life choices. We tend to want to get in shape, eat healthier, be more pro-active, take more risks, get a new job, move house and become settled. We make ourselves accountable as we publicly announce to the world our promises to fulfil our identified goals for the year ahead. Having made our resolutions public, we then don’t want to be seen to fail or to let others down.

Making a New Year’s resolution doesn’t guarantee goal achievement. It takes time and energy to develop new habits and repetition is the key. For some of us, no matter how public our intention, the best-laid plans go out the window by February.

In the 1980s, a New York University researcher named Peter Gollwitzer carried out hundreds of tests on why people fail to stick to their long-term goals. He identified that for most people, the most challenging thing wasn’t willpower or motivation, but their ability to manage the short-term urges that could knock them off track and hinder their progress. You might plan to eat healthy food all week, but it’s hard to refuse a slice of your work colleague’s birthday cake, especially when it’s your favourite coffee and walnut slice. To help that happen less, Gollwitzer began testing a technique he called ‘implementation intentions’, also known as the ‘if/then’ tactics. If ‘X’ happens, then I’ll do ‘Y’. The results of hundreds of studies found that no matter the goal, anticipating obstacles is what helps people stick with their plans. When people envision the pitfalls that can happen and put ideas in place on how to move past those setbacks, they’re more likely to meet their goals.

You can do this in three simple steps: –

  1. Take the time out to ask yourself the question, ‘What are the obstacles to my achieving this goal?’ List your obstacles.
  2. If ‘X’ happens, then I’ll do ‘Y’. List your plan of action.
  3. Then envision yourself taking action, this is key to your success. Doing so helps keep you strong in your resolve and better able to stick to your goal.

I gave up sugar for over two years, during which time I always ensured I brought a sugar-free alternative to any social gatherings I attended. Doing so meant I wouldn’t weaken my resolve when the puddings were served.

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