Most of us have experienced a surge of motivation that comes with the desire to make positive changes in our lives, whether that’s waking up earlier, exercising regularly, eating better or pursuing a passion project. But relying on motivation alone isn’t sufficient to help us reach our goals. The good news is that we achieve long-term behaviour change by setting effective goals and learning how to create habits that stick.
Here are 9 science-backed ways to help you reach your goals.
Did you know that simply writing down your goals gives you a better chance of achieving them?
Writing down our goals can increase clarity, commitment and motivation towards working on goals. It also gives us time to focus on what we want to achieve and visualise the road to get there.
Creating specific goals provides a clear roadmap to achieving them. For example, having a general goal such as, “I want to be healthy”, doesn’t make it clear how to achieve it. Instead, setting a specific goal, such as “adding an extra vegetable to every meal”, provides clear direction.
Sometimes we simply forget the goals we are working towards. So, it can be helpful to find ways to remind ourselves by making our goals more visible. You could keep a list of your goals on your bedside table, create a vision board that you see frequently, or schedule time in your calendar to work towards your goals each week.
When we feel inspired to make lifestyle changes, it can be easy to get carried away and set multiple goals. However, creating new habits often requires a great deal of discipline, time and energy. Attempting to work on multiple goals at once can undermine goal achievement. So instead, why not try working towards building one or two new habits before adding more to the mix! Starting small is a great way to help you build momentum and confidence too.
The key to creating habits that stick is to focus on consistency. The more we perform a behaviour, the more likely that behaviour will turn into a habit. If you’re having trouble maintaining consistency ask yourself: what can I still commit to when I’m at capacity?
We are more likely to commit to a behaviour when it’s easy to do. For example, if you want to go on walks more often, you could leave your sneakers by the door, or take them with you to work. This can serve as a visual cue and make it more convenient for you to go for walks. Similarly, placing your fruits and veggies at the front of the fridge can make them easier to get to, helping your efforts to healthier eating.
How can you design your environment in ways that will make goal achievement easier?
We are more likely to continue working towards goals when we’re having fun! When you set goals for yourself, consider how you can make the pursuit of your goals more enjoyable.
If your goal is to exercise more, why not find a workout buddy? If you want to eat healthier, why not add some vegetables to your favourite fruit smoothie?
Another way to make goal pursuit more enjoyable is to join a community. Whether it's a book club or a running group, being part of a community can provide a sense of camaraderie, support and accountability.
Tracking the progress of our goals can help us stay focused, motivated and accountable.
An important part of the goal-setting process is evaluating and adjusting our goals. We might discover that we have been too ambitious at the goal-setting phase, or have forgotten to take into account current lifestyle factors. The goals we set at one stage in our lives, may not be realistic at another.
If you’re finding it hard to meet your goals, remind yourself that it's better to start small and focus on consistency!
What goals are you working towards?