What if I told you that is possible to achieve your goals with a 91% success rate?
Would you believe it?
Imagine for a second, there is a goal-setting system that actually WORKS.
A process where you accomplish almost everything you say that you want to do…
Even if you feel lazy and like not doing it on that specific day.
This would change your life forever….
Would you agree with that… right?
Well, today’s article will show you to do exactly just that.
Let’s dive straight into it.
Here you are.
It’s 7pm on a beautiful Friday Evening…
You’re laying on your couch, when something clicked in your head.
This light bulb was sitting on the back of your mind, for some time now…
But TODAY you had the breakthrough…
Today, it lightened up…
You had an epiphany!
The realization that you need to make some changes in your life. Suddenly you know what you need to do, and you even have the motivation to do it.
You sit up and you’re shouting…
“YES! This is it!”
You became aware that you need to eat healthier and exercise more often.
You made the decision that you would start getting on time to the appointments…
…and that you are going to meet all your deadlines.
But is late (7pm) and it’s Friday!
You have to go to sleep, very soon, and you tell yourself that you are going to start this new journey, tomorrow.
You wake up as the same old you…
With no motivation to make the changes you planned to make.
And in the following days and weeks…
…you didn’t reduce fat consumption.
…no progress was made in the business.
…and you still didn’t get things done on time.
You have once again, fallen back into your old bad habits, and failed to do what you said you were going to do.
But don’t worry.
You’re not alone in this.
People always set very ambitious goals and fail at them all the time.
Just look at New Year’s resolutionists…
Everything is possible on this “magical” day.
Many even believe they can Terraform Mars before Elon Musk…
…if they want to.
But we both know the reality is different.
Within 1 month or less, nothing actually changes in their life.
And I’m no exception here.
I don’t manage to do everything I tell myself I’m going to do, either.
But instead of relying on motivation, which comes and goes…
I started applying what psychologists call: Implementation Intentions.
In this study, they took 248 participants and randomly assigned them into 3 different groups to test their capabilities of accomplishing fitness goals.
#1 Control group
They were only asked to track how often they exercised over the next two weeks.
#2 Motivated group
They were told to track their exercise, but in addition they were given a motivational message, along with pamphlets on heart health and why exercise is beneficial.
#3 “When, Where, How” group
They were given the same motivational message as the second group, but they were also told to do one thing differently.
And that was to write down, when, where and how they were going to exercise.
In the first group, 38% of participants exercised at least once per week.
In the second group, 35% of them exercised.
It appears that motivation basically had no effect on their actions. It vanished as soon as they left the research room.
But in the third group, the group that was asked to be specific about when, where and how they were going to exercise…
…91% of the participants managed to work out over the two-week period.
What the third group did differently was they used implementation intentions.
Also known as an “if-then” plan.
Normally when we have a goal, we think about it this way:
“I want to achieve X.”
“I want to exercise 3 times per week.”
The implementation intention is just a small adjustment:
“If situation Y happens, then I will do X”.
“If it’s 5pm on a Monday, then I’ll go to the gym and work out for 1 hour.”
The goal is still to exercise 3 times per week, but notice how it got a lot more practical.
And that’s the basic idea behind implementation intentions. It increases your chances of doing what you want to do, drastically.
Why it works so well?
When we’re not completely sure how to do something, or when to do it…
…we tend to choose the easier option. (not doing it)
Let’s say you just finished a client project and you’re exhausted, but you promised yourself you were going to “exercise more”.
Now you have two options…
Go to the gym or watch some TV shows.
Since you didn’t specify when you were actually going to go to the gym…
You tell yourself you’re going to do it tomorrow or some other time. Therefore, you go for the easier option, which is to watch TV.
The gym workout gets skipped yet again.
This “rational excuse” is used to build the habit of procrastination, indefinitely.
But when you commit in advance, to when, how and where you’re going to do it…
…you start building a habit and create a behavior.
So, your goal should look something like this.
“Every Monday at 5pm, I’ll go to the gym and exercise for 1 hour.”
So if it’s 5pm on a Monday, then you’re going to the gym. You’re not left wondering if you should exercise that day. You’ve already committed to it.
And if it’s 7pm on a Tuesday, you’re also not wondering if now is a convenient time to go, you’ve already determined that you don’t exercise at that day and time.
So it’s pretty clear…
If you want to accomplish your goal, you should use implementation intentions.
But what will increase your chances even further, is incorporating coping plans.
Coping plans are a specific strategy you follow, whenever you encounter an obstacle.
They act as your plan B, and they look like this:
“If obstacle Y occurs, when I want to do X, then I will do Z to overcome it.”
Let’s go back to our exercise example.
It’s 5pm on a Monday and your implementation intention says you need to go to the gym and exercise for 1 hour.
However, you just had an important meeting to attend… and you finished at 6pm.
Do you train or you delay it for “tomorrow”?
Your plan has just encountered an obstacle and you can’t follow through.
But because you were smart… you anticipated potential overtime in advance.
Here’s the two coping plans you came up with, for this exact situation:
Plan B | Situation #1
“If I have to work till 6pm, then I’ll go to the gym at 6:30 pm.”
Plan B | Situation #2
“If I have to work past 6:30 pm, then I’ll go to the gym the next day.”
Again, you’re not left wondering…
…if you should go to the gym.
…if you should skip it.
…or if you should go “tomorrow”.
You’ve already figured it out in advance, and in this case, you know that today you’re going to the gym at 6:30.
Just to show you how powerful coping plans actually are, let me introduce you to another research.
Participants of this study were all patients with heart problems.
They were just finishing up their rehab, and after their rehab was over…
The researchers decided to split the participants into three groups. Each group was given different instructions on how to proceed with their exercise.
#1 Tracking their exercise (control)
#2 Use implementation intention (action planning)
#3 Use implementation intention and coping plan (combined planned)
First graph represents the participant’s activity during rehab.
Second graph represents the participant’s activity after two-month period.
The difference is pretty noticeable!
Remember, all participants were motivated and had a compelling reason to exercise.
They all wanted to be healthier, due to their hearth problems.
If that’s not enough “motivation”, then I don’t know what something else needs to happen to a person to get “motivated”.
But ultimately it was the implementation intentions and coping plans, that made them follow through.
Sure, motivation can make things easier.
But if you always wait for motivation to strike, whenever you decide to do something, then you probably won’t get as much done.
There will be days when you’re tired, your back hurts or you’re not in the mood.
These days are normal and you shouldn’t beat yourself up if you can’t push through.
And what happens…
When you don’t do something you tell yourself you’re going to do?
You end up feeling guilty.
And this guilt then ruins other parts of your day, such as relax time.
Let’s say that you should be reading a book to polish your entrepreneurial skills, but you’re not in the mood…
…so you go watch a Netflix series instead.
What will probably end up happening is, you’re not going to enjoy watching it as much as you normally would.
Instead, that “little voice” behind your conscious brain will start beating you up…
…for not doing what you should be doing. (improving your skills)
So, how we fix this?
Do the thing, you said you’re going to do, but in a smaller amount.
So for example, your coping plan might be:
Plan B | Situation #1
“If I’m not in the mood to read the book, then I’ll only try to read 1 page.”
Plan B | Situation #2
“If I’m too tired to read, then I’ll only listen to an audiobook for 10mins.”
Here’s what it will happen.
You overcome the initial obstacle of starting.
It is much harder to begin something, than it is to continue doing it.
“It’s much harder to put your shoes on,
Then running a marathon.”
I use this exact same tactic to write my blog articles, when I have NO inspiration.
I simply tell myself I’m going to make a quick draft and take notes from my last 3-days experience, using the format from a Book, Study or Video that is illustrating already my idea.
And often it results into a full article. (as this one)
After all, I’m taking notes, and I’m already writing, so it’s easier to continue.
Even if you only listen 10 minutes to an audiobook, or read 1 page from the book…
…you’ve still doing better than nothing.
…you’ve followed your coping plan successfully, which helps you to build slowly, but surely, better habits and accomplish your goals.
…and the best of all, the guilt disappears.
In a perfect world, we would all do what we tell ourselves we’re going to do.
But we’re not living on a perfect world…
And sadly that’s simply not how it is.
However, I hope you now have a better idea on how to actually make it easier for yourself, to do the things you want to do.
Life will throw obstacles your way, no matter what.
Are you going to wait for motivation to strike, before you try to overcome them?
Are you going to incorporate implementation intentions, along with coping plans?
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