How To Stick to Any Goal in 2010 (or Now)

I wrote this for a local gym and thought I’d post it here too.

The examples are related to eating and exercising but the info is just as relevant for other types of goals.

How to Stick to Any Goal in 2010

1. Understand the emotional reasons your goal is important to you.

For example, your personal emotional reasons for wanting to be become a regular exerciser might be:

– To set an example for your children that looking after your body is important.
– To feel attractive and sexy.
– To reduce your stress so that you don’t bring work stress home and can enjoy your life more.
– To feel physically strong and powerful.
– To reduce your blood pressure so you can feel less anxious that you might have a stroke or heart attack in the future.

2. Ask yourself how important your goal is to you, on a scale from 0 = not at all important, to 10 = extremely important
If you answered at least an “8” move to the next question. If you didn’t rate the goal as at least an 8, how could you redefine the goal so it is at least an 8 on the importance scale?

3. When choosing the specifics of how you’re going to go about pursuing a particular goal, ask yourself whether, in reality, your plan will lead you to fulfill each of the emotional reasons for pursuing the goal you identified above. Pick a path to your goal that will provide the emotional benefits you desire.

4. Write yourself a reminder card that states your intended behaviour and lists the most important emotional reasons for sticking with your plan. Put it somewhere that will be accessible when you need reminding e.g. on your car dashboard so you’ll see it when you’re deciding whether or not to go to the gym on the way home from work.

5. Ask yourself how confident you are of achieving your goal (0 = not at all confident, 10 = completely confident)?

If you answered less than a “10”, what could get in the way of you carrying out your intended behaviour?

Factors that commonly get in the way of people following through on the goals that are important to them include: poor planning, unmanaged stress and emotions, lack of support, and “dysfunctional thoughts”. Some examples of dysfunctional thoughts related to exercise and eating goals are: “I work hard and I deserve to drink as many beers as I want to unwind after work” or “I’ve always failed at losing weight before so there’s no chance of me being successful this time” or “I can’t refuse food or alcohol if its offered”. You can catch your dysfunctional thoughts by recognizing what thoughts you’re having when you feel like deviating from your intended behaviour. You can read more about how to identify your dysfunctional thoughts and how to replace dysfunctional thoughts with balanced thoughts here (The examples are related to healthy eating but the info is just as useful for other types of goals)

6. Problem solve how you’re going to overcome the potential pitfalls you identified above. Get help to do this if you need to. Work on deciding how you’re going to manage the factors that might cause you to get off track until your confidence that you’ll achieve your goal is at least an 8.

For example, if you sometimes eat to feel better, your problem solving should include deciding what alternative coping methods you’ll try.

– When I feel stressed, I’ll try… instead of eating or drinking alcohol.

– When I feel like a failure, I’ll try…

– When I feel bored, I’ll try…

– When I feel lonely, I’ll try…

If you need to work on alternative coping for regulating your emotions, as in the above examples, match your alternative coping ideas to the specific emotion you’re trying to target. Always write down your ideas.

7. Have a plan for dealing with lapses. You can read more about this here (Again, the examples are related to dieting lapses but the info is useful for other types of goals).

Dr Alice Boyes is a Social and Clinical psychology PhD, writer, speaker, therapist, relationships expert, and internationally published author of original psychology research. Her research on relationships, body image, and dieting has been published in leading international journals, and her latest study about weight and relationships got widespread coverage in traditional media and the blogosphere.
This year she’s written for or been quoted in, for example: The NZ Herald, Mindfood, Fitness Life, Emigrate, and Women’s Health Magazine.

She writes a free blog at about varied topics including happiness, self-esteem, relationships, and weight. In her psychology practice, she works with people to overcome depression, anxiety, relationship problems and eating problems.