Most people have some type of goal they would like to achieve. They may want to improve their health, make more money, have better relationships or develop a skill. They start working on a goal and make some progress. However, they find it difficult to maintain the improvement. Others want to make changes, but they just get frustrated and quit. As a therapist, I am interested in helping people make changes and maintain them.
The American Psychological Association has developed a willpower-fact-sheet that can help people achieve goals. Here are a few strategies that they suggest.
Researchers indicate that it is most effective to focus on a single clear goal rather than taking on a list of goals at the same time. After completing one goal, then we can focus on the next goal. An example of this approach can be seen in doing household chores. Things like doing dishes, vacuuming, and laundry. If you try to do all these tasks at the same time, you might have difficulty completing them and feel very overwhelmed. People do better with one thing at a time, like doing the dishes and then moving on to the laundry, etc. They get the satisfaction of completing a task and then can move on to the next level or goal.
Avoiding distractions is another tactic for achieving goals. It can be helpful to keep tempting items out of sight. For example, it is important to have a study space that is conducive to work with minimal distractions. You might improve concentration by removing cellphone, iPad, internet or television access.
Having a plan in place helps people resist temptation. For example, if you are on a diet and are invited to a birthday party. Chances are pretty good that sweets will be served at the gathering. You may want to say you are trying to eat healthier and avoid sugar. Another option would be to ask for a small piece of cake with no ice cream or say you aren’t hungry after eating dinner. Having a plan in place ahead of time allows people to make better decisions in the moment.
Record your behavior. Research indicates that recording behavior makes people more aware and helps to change that behavior. Make a reasonable plan with small steps toward meeting your goal. For example, if you want to lose 20 pounds, then weighing yourself once a week and recording the results can be helpful.
Reward yourself. When you reach a goal, reward yourself for a job well done. The reward should not interfere with the change you are trying to make, like having a beer because you haven’t taken a drink in a month. Reward yourself with another healthy alternative.
Sleep deprivation can negatively impact performance. When people don’t get enough sleep, their willpower is more likely to fail. Just one night of good sleep can increase self-control.
Research shows that having a support system can help people reach their goals. Surround yourself with people who will help you succeed.
If you are trying to achieve goals, a mental health professional can help. A therapist can help a client identify their strengths and challenges. They can help the person develop a reasonable plan. They can also provide clients with much needed encouragement and support to help them with achieving goals.
American Psychological Association Harnessing Willpower To Meet Your Goals –