Tips for Setting and Achieving Goals
A Few Tips for Setting Goals and Achieving Them
In the book “How Children Succeed”, Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character the author, Paul Tough mentioned a study about setting and achieving our goals. Gabriele Oettingen, an NYU psychologist discovered that people tend to use three strategies when they are setting goals and two of those strategies don’t work very well.
Optimists use a strategy they call indulging, which means imagining the future they would like to achieve and vividly envisioning all the good things that will go along with it. He found that indulging feels really good when you’re doing it but it does not correlate at all with actual achievement.
Pessimists tend to use a strategy he calls dwelling, which involves thinking about all the things that will get in the way of their accomplishing their goals. Not surprisingly, dwelling does not correlate well with achievement either.
The third method is called mental contrasting, and it combines elements of the other two methods. It means concentrating on a positive outcome and simultaneously concentrating on the obstacles in the way. Oettingen wrote in a recent paper that “doing both creates a strong association between future and reality that signals the need to overcome the obstacles in order to attain the desired future.” He explains that in order to get a successful outcome one more step is needed. A person must create “implementation intentions” – specific plans in the form of if/then statements that link the obstacles with ways to overcome them. Positive fantasizing about achievement alone will not work, without first listing the obstacles that might get in your way of achievements.
The key message I took from this is that without a plan and a written list of what might be a barrier to completing your plan you will have a difficult time accomplishing your stated goals. I find that it forces you to make small changes in your routine to get the job done. In order to succeed you need to create specific rules for yourself. As David Kessler notes in his recent book “The End of Overeating”, rules are not the same as willpower. When you make yourself a rule you can sidestep the internal conflict between your desires for foods that will make you gain weight and your willful determination to resist them. Kessler explains that rules “provide structure preparing us for encounters with tempting stimuli and redirecting our attention elsewhere.” Before long the rules have become as automatic as the appetites they are deflecting.
Here are some of my favorite rules for losing weight and keeping it off.
1. Eat Less Sugar – Limit yourself to no more than 72 grams per day.
2. When eating out – Ask for sauces and salad dressings on the side.
3. The 20 minute Rule – Wait 20 minutes before going for seconds. You most likely will not want it.
4. Do intervals – Burns fat much faster when you alternate sprints with steady cardio.
5. Work out with Your Partner – Couples who train together are 34% more likely to stick to their workouts. Schedule it and keep it. No Exceptions.
6. Skip the elevator – Take the stairs and burn 100 calories for every 10 minutes of climbing.