We all have behaviors in our life we’d like to change.
Personally, I’d like to eat healthier, exercise more, and to stay on top of my inbox – and not just for a couple of days.
I need lasting behavior change and it relies on goal setting.
Behavior change requires determination and practice, but most of all, you need to know how to set goals that work for you and that you’re invested in.
I know for a fact that if I set myself a goal of going to the gym at 5 am every morning that I would fail. I know I would struggle to keep that habit and most likely hate every minute of it.
However, I do love to take walks, especially when I listen to my favorite podcast, so setting myself a realistic goal of walking would more likely lead to a lasting habit.
Setting Goals for Behavior Change
To give you the best chance of success and to prevent possible relapse, your goals should:
- Represent clear plans or concrete actions and not wishful thinking. I wish I spent less time on social media vs. I will only check my social media once a day.
- Incorporate your interests. Eating healthier, for instance, could be made more attainable if you prepared the food with a friend or partner, or while listening to your favorite music.
SMART Goal Setting
In addition to the above, lasting behavior change is supported by creating SMART goals. SMART goals are:
- Specific – your goal should say exactly what you want to achieve. Eg. I want to be more focused at work vs. I will set and complete my most important task first each day.
- Measurable – you must be able to verify and measure whether you have achieved your goal.
Eg. I will exercise more vs. I will walk for 30 minutes, five times a week.
- Actionable – goals should be worded so they imply action.
Eg. Be more appreciative vs. Tell my partner I appreciate them every day.
- Realistic – you shouldn’t make your goal too easy to achieve, but it should be achievable.
Eg. I will never eat pizza again vs. I will only eat pizza once a month as a treat.
- Time-bound – it’s important to set a deadline for your goal but to maintain motivation, make the timeframe as soon as practicable. Long-term goals should have shorter-term milestones attached to them.
Eg. I will quit smoking vs. I will quit smoking by the end of this year.
For the best chance of creating and maintaining a new habit, document your goals and limit their number.
Tracking Your Goals
You should track your goals frequently to identify progress and any potential issues that may hinder your success so they can be quickly rectified.
Get Help with Behavior Change
Depending on the behavior you wish to change, and your personal circumstances you may wish to try some individual counseling who to collaborate and set realistic goals to help you stay on track.