How to Make Your Goals Stick

How to Make Your Goals Stick

Contributed by
Dr. Alicia La Hoz

“A dream without a plan is a wish.”  In the past two blogs about change we’ve spent some time breaking down the foundations that help people change: Self-awareness and the decision to change.  Now, once you make a goal, how do you make sure to succeed in achieving it? After all, an admirable feat is not just about our launch, but how we finish. Below are some tips on finishing well.

  1. Pair your end-goal with something enjoyable.  Small rewards help provide a boost of motivation, and they don’t have to be exotic or expensive! Things you truly enjoy, like a steaming cup of coffee in the morning, music, or spending time with friends can be paired up with habits that you are trying to build. For example, if your goal is to journal everyday, create a routine of journaling with your favorite drink. This will increase the likelihood of you beginning to crave the activity. Brainstorm ways that you can incorporate your new goals with things that you naturally enjoy.
  2. Define Option B. If your goal is to stop damaging behaviors, identify the triggers that cause you to lurch towards the harmful activity. If your goal is to stop binging on junk food, keep healthy alternatives in your kitchen or make a habit of going outside for a walk when the urge to binge kicks in. If you are trying to stop chewing your nails, think of an alternative activity to occupy your hands when you are feeling anxious. If your alternative plan is too lofty or is something that you hate it, your heart won’t be in it and you will give up. You are more likely to succeed in lasting change when your alternative option is something you like to do and easy to do.
  3. Hold yourself accountable to another.  Find accountability by joining forces with a buddy or a group that is interested in pursuing a similar goal. For example, if you want to run a marathon, join a local running club. Those who hold themselves accountable to one another are most likely to succeed in the goals they set for themselves.
  4. Recalibrate. Oftentimes, circumstances like sickness, job loss, etc. can interrupt established routines. Accept that there will be bad days, days when you feel down, or days when your schedule seems out of control. Instead of having the expectation that these things should never get in the way of your plans, come to terms with life’s unpredictability. Schedule a few times throughout the year where your sole purpose is to evaluate your goals. As you evaluate them, think about what is helping you make progress and what roadblocks get in your way. Adjust your plan based on what you learn.
  5. Celebrate.  Recognize the milestones that you have achieved and celebrate them. Give yourself credit for the progress that you have made. Take the time to relish the goodness that comes with moments of success.

Go ahead and embrace a growth mindset, a mindset that seeks to grow and to learn.  As you do so, you will be a better student, parent, spouse, and employee/employer.

Your turn.  In the comment below, share what are some of the things you have found that have been helpful in helping you stick to your goals.

For more resources on personal and professional development,  you can follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges.

Creating Winning Habits

Creating Winning Habits

Contributed by
Dr. Alicia La Hoz

This is part two of the second blog in our resolution series, “How Do You Convince Yourself to Change?,” which you can read here. Once you have decided that you want to change and commit to measurable goals, the next step is creating winning habits that will take you to the finish line!

Create Habits that Work for You:

Once you have defined specific goals, build a routine that works for your schedule. If you plan to go to the gym in the morning three days a week, establish a routine that ensures your greatest success in the morning (i.e, put gym clothes on  immediately after waking up, set the alarm clock, have breakfast ready to go).  If your goal is to spend 10 minutes a day with your spouse to talk, figure out when that time will be, and create rituals that will help  facilitate that time. Brew tea, make a cup of coffee, get a notebook where you and your spouse and jot down stories that you want to share or remember.  Once you have established routines, and you work the routine out for a couple of months, the activity and mindset will begin to become part of who you are.

Remember the 3:00 o’clock coffee story I shared in my last blog post? Once the habit is established, you no longer have to decide each day to be grateful, to exercise or to eat healthier. Once you become habituated into the pattern, your brain will begin to expect the routine. Just like I anticipated the coffee, you will find yourself anticipating eating the healthy apple during a break at work, you will crave the hugs you receive and give from your loved ones before bolting out the door.  And just like every day you automatically seem to brush your teeth or drive yourself to work without thinking about it, your good habits will take over your poor ones and these will ultimately be folded into the very fabric of who you are.

Celebrate the Small Wins:

Success is a series of small wins. Celebrate each day you follow through with your goal. Celebrate after you succeed and celebrate while you are engaging in the activity. You can also create reinforcing activities that motivate you to keep the course when you pair an activity with another enjoyable activity. For example, if your goal is to get on an elliptical 30 minutes a day/3-days a week after work, stream your favorite show only during this time. Or if you love coffee, make sure you have the coffee ready when you spend your distraction-free 10 minutes talking with your spouse. If your goal is play with your kids 15 minutes a day, find an activity you both enjoy doing. Pushing towards a goal will be less of a grind if you find enjoyment in the process.

Write down your goals and achievements. Journal your progress and make a mental note of emotional and/or physical changes that you have experienced. As you savor the small positive changes that take place, you will feel more encouraged to stay on the course.

You can be the biggest obstacle to your own success. Convince yourself to change, and you will have won half the battle.

For more resources on personal and professional development,  you can follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges.

How do You Convince Yourself to Change?

How do You Convince Yourself to Change?

Contributed by
Dr. Alicia La Hoz

The strong aroma of coffee would begin to perk me up before I even had my first sip of espresso. I worked as Director of Financial Aid while at completing my graduate work at TIU, and everyday at 3 pm, gracious coworkers would bring us a cup of cuban espresso. The experience became such an ingrained routine that the first memory that comes to mind when I think of my time at the University is the rich taste of the coffee. In the midst of sluggish afternoons, my coworkers and I would being to anticipate the arrival of the espresso.

Around 2:30 pm, those in the office would already begin to experience “the espresso joy,” knowing that we only had to wait a little longer until we received the caffeinated comfort that we had become accustomed to.

This experience of anticipation, of feeling the joy that something brings before we even receive it, is something studied by researchers when looking at the role of habit and routine. When you want to change, when you know what you want to change and when you have made a decision to change, you need to create habits and routines that allow the change to stick.

In this second blog in our resolutions series, we will explore the second component of change: making the decision to change.

 

Deciding to Change:

Self-awareness is like an internal mirror – it’s reflection reveals patterns that create either chaos or order in your life. When you have a problem such as explosive anger, binge eating, or impulsive shopping, you need to identify the circumstances and events that precipitate the problem that you want to correct. Once you reflect on what motivates your actions, you need to feel a sense of urgency and conviction to spur you on to make the needed changes.

Self-awareness without conviction can lead to a dangerous mindset consisting of complacency, self-pity, and even shame. And these forces can lead to a feeling of helplessness – an enemy that prevents change from happening. So, how can you persuade yourself to change?

 

    1. Write down a list of reasons why you should change. Write down the pros and cons of changing. For example, what would be the benefit of not exploding in anger around your family and co-workers? Make sure that your reasons are personal.
    2. What will happen if you don’t change? What is the worst thing that can happen if you continue living the way you are today?  What do you want to be like 5, 10, 15 years from now? Frame a picture in your mind of the worst and best version of yourself.
    3. Remember a time you were successful. Think about a previous effort you made to reach a goal, to do something different and think about how it felt to succeed. Dream about what your life would look like if you were able to forgive your spouse, if you managed your anger better, if you handled your impulses better.
    4. Go ahead and list all of your excuses. Write down all of the reasons why you have not changed already, or why previous attempts to change have failed. Highlight each excuse and be honest with yourself. What do you gain by not changing? What do you lose?

 

  • Find a hero. Is there a figure who shared a similar struggle and succeeded in achieving their goals? Watch a movie or read a book about such a person to gain inspiration and encouragement.
  • Choose one thing. When many faults come to the surface, it is easy to come up with a list of 100 things to change. Choose one thing that you can wrap your energy around. Break this one thing down into simple micro-moments.  For example, decide to greet your spouse with a kiss and hug everyday after work, instead of rattling off a list of complaints. This simple micro-moment will ultimately lead to a stronger relationship. A broad relationship goal such as “be happier in my marriage” may be frustrating because of the many factors thatcome into play. Instead, choose one thing to do and hone in on the micro-moments. Eventually, all of the micro-moments will add up and make a significant difference.
  • Make a commitment. Write down, “I am going to…”  Share your decision with someone you trust. When you share a commitment you have made, you are more likely to follow-through on your decision. You are more likely to stay true to your commitment if you have a friend or family member holding you accountable.

Define the Goal. Now that you have decided to change, the work begins. You should define goals that are SMART(Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reasonable, and Timed). For example, “I will share one reason a day I am grateful to my spouse,”  Or “I will eat healthy snacks at work and will stock my lunch bag with healthy options so that I follow through on my goal.” Specifically identify what you want to do differently – the less vague your goal is, the more attainable it will be.

For more resources on personal and professional development,  you can follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges.