Set goals that are measurable.
One of the most important things to remember when setting a goal is to make it measurable. It can be hard to stay motivated and engaged when you don’t see any progress.
Maybe your goal is to read more. Rather than just setting a goal to “read more”, get specific—aim for a certain number of books, or set a time frame. By saying “I want to read four books this year” or “I want to read for 20 minutes every weekday,” you’re giving yourself a chance to track your success. It’s like building milestones into your goals.
Focus on the process, not the outcome.
When you set goals that only focus on the big dream outcome, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. You’re far more likely to reach success if you break your goal down into achievable, measurable actions.
If your ultimate outcome is to lose weight, don’t just set a goal to “lose 20 pounds.” That becomes daunting and doesn’t help you figure out how to achieve it. Instead, focus on the smaller steps you can take and start your goals there. Try something like “I’m going to exercise three days a week” or “I’m going to have fruit for dessert.” This keeps you focused and allows you to make changes that will add up to a bigger difference.
Make it tiny.
If your goal includes adding a behavior that’s completely new to you, try to make it so small that it’s easy to do even on your busiest days.
Say you want to meditate every day. If you’ve never meditated before, set a goal to simply take three deep breaths each morning. It can feel counterproductive to shrink your goal, but Stanford-based behavioral scientist BJ Fogg believes it’s the key to changing behavior.1 While it’s great to think big, at first, starting small helps you gain traction. This allows you to plant what Fogg calls “habit seeds” or tiny versions of your goal behavior. These habit seeds allow you to be consistent with the new behavior long enough that it becomes second nature. Once it’s automatic, then it’s easier to expand the habit closer to your ideal.
Try habit stacking.
In habit stacking, you use an existing habit as the prompt (or trigger) for your new goal behavior.
Let’s imagine your goal is to drink more water. First, decide at what point in your day this new habit could fit. Next, brainstorm your existing habits around that time period. For example, if you decide to focus on the morning you may think about existing habits like turning off your alarm, brushing your teeth, or taking a shower. If you pick brushing your teeth, your new habit formula could be, after I brush my teeth in the morning, I will then drink a full glass of water. By coupling your goal to a behavior that is already habitual, you’ve just drastically increased your odds of success. Nice work!
Don’t forget to celebrate.
Celebrating immediately after you complete your goal behavior leverages your brain chemistry to make your behavior stick. When you celebrate, your brain releases a little bit of dopamine, which programs your brain to keep coming back to that habit.
The way you choose to celebrate is up to you. This can be as simple as telling yourself, “good job!” or doing a little happy dance. Whatever it is, make sure it gives you a positive feeling!
A MOBE Guide can help you maintain the mindset and motivation to reach toward your health goals. Get started today.