Turning Ideas into Goals into Reality

By Julia Rahn, Ph.D.

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

  • You hate when your boss constantly points out mistakes you have made and you know what you could do different but for unbeknown reasons you don’t make these changes.

  • On many a night, you vow to yourself you will exercise in the morning, eat healthier foods the next day, and/or not have that alcoholic beverage when you get home from work. It is now morning, your alarm clock sounds and you decide to hit the snooze button six times making you rush to get to work on time, eat a pop tart for breakfast, and open a bottle of wine right after walking into your home at night.

  • There is a networking function at 7 p.m. downtown.   You have been working diligently since 9 a.m. and now it is 4:30 p.m. You are tired but know that networking is one of your keys to your success.   Even though you know this and have personal data to prove networking works, you get in your car at 5 p.m. and drive home.

If the above situations happen on occasion, that is one thing. But if this is a regular pattern, something needs to change. Of course most people already know this, but the actual steps of how to change are not well known. Individuals are often under the illusion that if one possesses a great desire and intent to change, one will make these wanted changes.   As said, this is often just an illusion. Wanting and intending to change are necessary mental states to reach a personal goal but additional thought and active behavioral steps are needed before real change can happen. Here are some suggestions that can help you make the changes in your life that you truly feel you want, are willing to apply some personal effort, and dedicate some real time to reach your goals.

Suggestion #1: Set positive goals. You don’t have to see the world in a positive Pollyannaish light all of the time, but you are advised to structure your goals as to what you are going to do and not what you are not going to do anymore. Human brains are wired to accomplish tasks, thus setting a course of what you are going to do is much easier to achieve than figuring out your next step when you are attempting to not do something.   For example, you are far more likely to be successful in reaching the goal of making three new outreach phone calls one day rather than setting a goal of not surfing the Internet on a particular day.  

Suggestion #2:  Spend 5 minutes each day visualizing in your mind what your life looks like after you have made your desired changes. Your boss is constantly praising your work in front of your coworkers. You feel stronger, are standing taller, and have more energy each day now that you are exercising regularly, eating better, and drinking less alcohol. You are writing a new contract that accounts for 10% of your job position’s monthly financial goal.

Suggestion #3:  Figure out what you can do and start there. Asking yourself to exercise 60 minutes a day, seven days a week when you haven’t even broken a sweat in the last month is an unreasonable request of yourself. But if you know you can get to an exercise class 1-2 times this next week, this is where you should start. Or what about staying an extra hour at work this next week and responding via email to everyone in your inbox? You could also ask your friend that you have been meaning to meet up with to meet you at the next networking event, and then together meet three new people at the event who you plan to follow up with the next workday, and then go out to dinner, just you and your friend.    

Suggestion #4:  The more data you collect, the better. Keep a personal journal or log of the behavior you are trying to change. Research shows that recording your behavior, even if you don’t actively try to modify your behavior, leads to positive behavior change. Individuals, who record their sales calls, their eating and exercise behaviors, and their attempts at being more assertive in meetings, are all more likely to yield positive results than those who have not monitored and recorded these behaviors.   Furthermore, changing a pattern of behavior requires one to know their behavior patterns. Knowing what environmental, emotional, and/or physical stimulus contributes to continuing patterns of unwanted behavior provides understanding into why you continue to act out problematic behaviors. This knowledge allows you to intervene on many levels such as modifying your environment and/or managing your internal emotions to create behavior changes that positively affect your external world.

There is plenty of scientific data to show that the above four suggestions are just what you need to be successful in making desired behavioral changes happen in your life. As you can see, these suggestions to changing actual behavior can be rather simple. Furthermore, you already have the desire and intent to change, you now need to take action to make change happen in your life. To begin, start with just one of the above suggestions or try all four at once.   You can make change happen.

Read other articles and learn more about Julia Rahn.

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