Turning Ideas into Goals
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.
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.
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.
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 ½ 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.
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
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.
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