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Change Your Goal or Improve Your Focus?

wifa vox Aug 01, 2022

Change Your Goal or Improve Your Focus? 
By Stacey Mann, CES, CPT

With the start of each new year, most people set goals. Declaring on social media that you will lose ten pounds and live a healthier lifestyle. You feel energized by setting a goal and telling peers to hold you accountable, but what happens when that energy fades? You find yourself adjusting, moving the mark, making the goal seem easier or simply give up. Avoid this common pitfall by discovering your why, and creating a better roadmap to focus on achieving your goal. 

Have a Strong Why

Once you have set your goal of losing ten pounds and living a healthier lifestyle (or whatever your goal may be), you need a strong reason for why you want to achieve that goal. Aligning your core values with your goal will motivate you to stick to your plan and see slip-ups as temporary setbacks, not failures (Erez, 1986). Using the example of losing ten pounds, a powerful ‘why’ may be to lower cholesterol levels, reduce cardiovascular risks and therefore being healthier for your family. A strong why or deep meaning behind the goal keeps you on the right path, allowing you to stay focused despite obstacles. 

Create a Daily Action Plan

If your goal is your destination, then your daily action plan (DAP) is your roadmap. Create your DAP each Sunday, making a specific plan for every day of the week and review it each morning  In 2008, researchers in Great Britain found 91% of study participants followed through with their goal when adhering to a specific written plan. They were given this sentence to complete each week, “During the next week, I will exercise vigorously for 20 minutes on [Day] at [Time] in [Place].” By having a written plan, the vague goal of losing weight becomes specific and allows it to come into better focus. Reviewing that plan each day, keeps you on track and reinforces your why. 

Be the Person You Want to Be

When you were younger, you may have role played a career you thought sounded fun. Through pretend play, you imagined the person you wanted to become. A great way to support your goal of becoming a healthier person is to imagine that you already are healthier. When you have choices to make, ask yourself, what choice would a healthy person make? Or, to remind yourself of your why, you might ask, what choice would align best with my values? 

Changing the way you see yourself also means changing what influences your daily choices. James Clear, author and habit coach states in his book “Atomic Habits” that many of the decisions we make in our personal and professional lives are influenced by the options that surround us. Therefore, if your goal is weight loss and a part of your DAP is to replace soda with water, eliminate soda from the house. Richard Thaler, a scholar, called this the Nudge Theory (Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, 2008). Optimizing your environment and visualizing yourself as someone who has accomplished your goal might be just the nudge you need to attain that goal. 

Put Focus into Practice

Now that you’ve written down your goal, discovered your why, created a daily action plan, and visualized achievement, it’s time to put it all into practice. Place your DAP with your goal written at the top in a prominent place, like your bedside table or next to the coffee machine. Each morning, review your DAP to understand your priorities for the day and as you accomplish each task, check it off your list. At the end of the day, reflect on what steps you took towards your goal, evaluate how effective they were, and make changes where necessary.  Soon, those tasks on your DAP will become habits. You will be closer to that goal you almost gave up on, and you will be that person that you wanted to become. Is it easy? No - It’s challenging. But if a goal doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you. Be the change you want to make through focus and action.