Most of us don’t have a problem setting goals for ourselves. So, why do we have so much trouble keeping them? It’s not that we don’t want to. Check out these tips on how to keep goals if you fall into that category.
Setting goals and relying on willpower are conscious activities but research tells us that a big portion of our brain-power is unconscious and the information and thoughts that reach our unconscious mind are the ones responsible for automatic behavior.
In fact, some believe that 95-percent of our behaviors are unconscious and automatic or what we simply call habits. How easy it is to change a habit? Yeah…NOT. So let’s try this approach.
TIP #1: Post your goals where you will see them all the time; repeat them out loud, re-write them daily and visualize them in a positive way. Those who achieve their goals have usually written them down first. So, just because you say you will eat healthier doesn’t mean you will, but if you reinforce your goal with post-it notes, pictures, phrases and the targeted action, you can change your behavior a little each day so your mind starts to re-program itself with new patterns, new automatic behavior and new habits. For example, every time you start to say “OMG, I look fat,” replace it with “My body is strong and I’m getting healthier and leaner every day with better nutrition.” The “I look fat” leads to “I might as well eat since I’m fat,” and that will consistently derail your efforts.
TIP #2: You need three to four weeks to re-program your non-conscious mind and develop a new automatic habit. It takes at least three weeks to change an old habit and create a new one because new patterns in your brain need to get stronger to become permanently programmed. If you don’t reinforce your efforts, you won’t be able to form new neural connections. Lasting changes in behavior occur from repetition. For example, for the next 30 days, say your goal first thing in the morning and right before bed. Every time you reach for the wrong stuff, drink a glass of water and grab an apple first and/or take a 5-minute walk or just walk away from the kitchen. Glass of water, apple, walk, journal, whatever. Do it, every time.
TIP #3: Goals created with emotion are scientifically stronger than without. Heart attacks, deaths in the family; seeing a not-so-complimentary photo of yourself or feeling rejected or humiliated. The list goes on and on. We decide it’s finally time to change. On the contrary, what happens around New Year’s Eve, besides being bloated and disgusted from too much over indulgence? We decide to “start anew” on January 1st. Out of the two scenarios, which one has a better chance of happening? The first one, of course. We’ve discovered that the number and strength of neural connections associated with a behavior or thought increase and last longer when they’re formed in a highly emotional state so think carefully about your goals and select one or two that are connected to strong emotions. For example, skipping a social gathering or not being able to hang with your kids at amusement parks; embarrassing your kids because of your size; family history of illness, etc. The thought of what you missed, could miss again and how your health negatively affects those you love will better drive your goals.
Don’t rely on willpower. New habits have to join the “auto-pilot” behaviors in order to stick, but the old unconscious programming will battle and oppose your new conscious desires. This is a battle, my friends. Equip yourself with more than willpower and you won’t have to get out the white flag.