Forming Successful Behaviours
Be Accountable with your Intentions
Voicing your intentions or your goals is always a good place to start. By voicing them aloud by either telling a friend, family member or even announcing them on social media platforms (as is so popular these days), you are putting yourself under pressure to achieve them – a good pressure. Furthermore, you become accountable to that person and accountable to your word. If your intentions are vague and you never express them, you are much less likely to follow through. For example, if you tell your friends/family that you are going to the gym before work on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 7am – 8am for a spin class, you are much more likely to follow through with your intention, as you have given a specific date, time and action which you intend to perform. In contrast, if you were to merely express that you ‘’will get to the gym more this week’’, you have little to be accountable to, as you have not specifically said what you will do, how often you will do it or where you will do it. In essence, speaking your intentions into reality can be a strong motivator for following through on them.
Another example would be ‘hoping’ or intending to lose weight without ever voicing your intentions or goals to anyone. How much weight do you want to lose? When do you want to lose it by? Why do you wasn’t to lose it? What are you going to do to lose it? By simply voicing your intentions to a friend, you are creating a positive form of pressure and accountability on yourself to follow through with your plans. If your plans are too vague and your intentions too broad, what have you got to follow through on?
Set Actionable Goals
Your outcome goal or end goal is ultimately what you want to achieve. This process by which you achieve this will be determined by your behaviours and habits. So, instead of setting one outcome goal and leaving it at that, setting numerous, short-term behaviour goals will really provide a structure to the process. Your day-to-day behaviours will all add up and determine whether or not you achieve your long-term outcome goal.
These behaviours should be actionable! Actionable goals are goals which you can actively do or perform, as opposed to goals which involve you stopping doing something. A simple example would be saying ‘’I’m going to walk to work every Monday and Friday’’, as opposed to saying ‘’I’m going to drive less’’. Driving less is not an actionable goal as it involves not doing something, whereas walking more is an actionable goal as it involves you actively doing something – with the knock-on effect being a reduction in driving. Another example would be to set a goal of eating seven portions of fruit or vegetables every day, as opposed to a goal of not eating junk food anymore. The fruit/vegetable goal is something you can go and pursue, whereas the goal of not eating junk food is something that you have to stop and therefore you cannot actively pursue it. Of course, the knock-on effect of eating more fruit and vegetables is that satiety will increase and your cravings or desire to eat junk food will decrease! You are much more likely to achieve a goal which has a tangible target rather than a goal that involves not doing something.
Think about the typical goals of somebody trying to lose weight – don’t eat so much ‘junk’ food, don’t eat too much at every meal, don’t skip the gym again, don’t sit down and watch tv all evening.… This can create a very negative approach to weight loss as their goals involve not doing a lot of things and they can feel quite restricted in their choices. So instead of looking to reduce the ‘bad’ things associated with weight loss or any facet of fitness or nutrition, instead look to increase the number of ‘good’ things and good choices you can make. The above goals can be altered to eating seven portions of fruit and vegetables every day, drinking a glass of water after every meal, going to the gym three days per week, walking the dog when you get home from work – all really easy and actionable goals but all will have a knock-on effect of reducing what you don’t want to do, by increasing what you do want/need to do!
Stack Your Actions
The process of action stacking is a really smart tool to use when trying to implement new actions into your existing lifestyle. It follows a similar approach to habit stacking (read all about habit stacking here) in that you stack an action you want to start doing on top of an action you need to do or already do. For example, you already drive home from work every day (this is an action you already need to do), so stopping off at the gym on the way home could be an action you stack on top of your daily commute. This may be more achievable than going home, changing and leaving the house again to drive to the gym. It's simply easier and more convenient to do when you are already driving and passing by the gym. Another example would be if you already have to bring the kids to training (this is an action you need to do) – so why not stack this action with something you want to start doing such as walking around the park as your kids are training, as opposed to going home and collecting them in an hour. Actions that you already do on a daily basis, provide great opportunity for you to stack another action with them and soon it too will become second nature. If you are struggling to remember to weigh-in every morning to monitor your weight gain or loss, why not place the weighing scales beside the sink where you brush your teeth? Therefore, you can weigh-in literally as you brush your teeth – stacking the action you want to start doing with the action you are already doing.
Track and Reward Progress
Tracking and rewarding progress have been shown to increase compliancy through positive feedback and positive reinforcement. Even tracking the smallest things such as a daily step count or the amount of different coloured vegetables you eat throughout the course of the week can really increase how compliant and consistent you are with your behaviours. If you are trying to implement a new habit, tracking how often you do it can be a good positive reinforcement to keep persisting with it. On the flip side, failure to track some vital behaviours could lead to you regularly missing them and progress diminishes as a result. What gets measured, gets managed. Its easier to fix the problem when you know what the problem is. Furthermore, rewarding yourself for the small wins is another smart idea. Instead of just buying a new dress or a new shirt on a Friday, set yourself a weekly step goal and when you achieve it, you buy yourself the dress/shirt as a reward. Again, these may seem trivial but think of how competitive people can get in the office step challenge with the grand old prize of pride at stake? Why not reward yourself when you are consistent with your behaviours!