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What You Need to Know to Reach Your Goals

We set goals every day. Although we may not think of them as goals, that’s what they are: the goal to get to work on time, the goal to keep our cool when our teenage child challenges us, the goal to reach 30 sales calls by the end of the week, the goal to reduce anxiety, or perhaps the goal to drop 10 pounds by the end of the month. Because we don’t treat these as goals, we struggle with them being unachieved, thus leaving ourselves frustrated, stressed, disappointed and sometimes feeling shame or self-loathing.

So how can we go about setting and achieving goals in a way that leads to more positive outcomes? How can we support ourselves and our employees to achieve the very things they strive for, and which companies can benefit from? There is a science behind goal attainment that is important to know.

Having the right tools

There are seven tools to dramatically increase your chances of following through with your action plan to achieve your goal. The more of these that you utilize, the greater the chance of success. Here are some of the most powerful tactics:

1. Willpower and energy

When you want to achieve a goal, maximize the amount of willpower and energy you have and minimize the amount that you need. Increase energy boosters like sleep, exercise, good nutrition and things that give you positive emotions, like laughter. Simultaneously, reduce the need for willpower by doing those hard things when you have more energy, thus avoiding a vulnerable situation. For example, take the bakery off your walking route.

2. Rules to Live By

If we constantly need to make decisions related to our goal, this saps energy and means we have the opportunity to thwart our success. Instead, establish rules to live by that reduce the need for willpower. For example, “I go to the gym every morning before work,” or “I write my blog first thing in the day before I check email.”

3. Visualization

In competition sports, visualization is used to increase the chance of executing an action in a specific way. This powerful process of imagining puts you in a state of readiness and has a number of positive outcomes, including lowered anxiety, increased self-efficacy, confidence and success rates. Spend some time each day visualizing yourself, in detail, carrying out the goals you have committed to doing.

4. Understanding Habit Formation

We all have habits, and seldom do we analyze why we do what we do each day. Every habitual action is part of a process. There is a cue that initiates the process — the routine — and the reward, the reason we continue the routine. To start a new habit, establish the cue and the reward. To break a habit, either eliminate the cue (the reminder) or associate a new routine with that cue. Just by changing up that routine, a more beneficial reward can occur, and the cue may be eliminated altogether.

5. Primers

Primers are essentially cues or actions that remind us to do an activity. If you are trying to exercise daily, for example, leave your running shoes by the door.

6. Accountability

When you tell someone about your commitments, you are up to 243% more likely to follow through, according The Triangle Model of Responsibility, a model developed by psychologist Britt Schlenker. Shout out your commitment, put it on social media, tell your colleagues and write it down.

7. Plan for Pitfalls

Nobody anticipates failure or setbacks, but it is helpful to have an “if, then” plan. For example, if you are trying to quit smoking, what will you say to a colleague who asks you to go out for a smoke? What will you do instead during break time that you can look forward to?

From the minor everyday goals to the major dreams that you have, use these tools to increase your chances of success.

Join Nicole at the 2019 Imagine Your Workplace Conference for her talk about the power of focusing on strengths to enhance the work environment, employee engagement and health.

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Nicole Cairns
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