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Three Tips For Setting The Right Goals

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By: Kim DeMattia

We’ve all had the experience of setting ambitious New Year’s Resolutions with the idea that “this will be the year!”… only to feel defeated by mid-January. Why does this happen? It’s not because we’re bad people or we’re totally lacking in willpower… according to psychologist Dayna Lee-Baggley, it’s because we set the wrong goals in the first place. 

It turns out that succeeding with our goals depends a lot on the kind of goals we set… and on a recent episode of My Weight live (watch it here), Dr. Lee-Baggley shared three simple tips for setting goals that will set us up for success. Here they are:

1) Choose a behavior

Dr. Lee-Baggley says the first thing someone should think about when setting a goal is to choose a behavior. She explains, “a behavior is something that someone else can see you do. Behaviors do not include feelings– it’s not whether you want to do it or even whether you enjoyed it” but rather a concrete action. 

Some examples of behaviors include 30 minutes of walking around your neighborhood three times a week, choosing to drink water instead of soda while out with friends, or making a healthy breakfast each morning. Behaviors are not “lose 5 pounds this week” or “feel really excited to go to the gym.” They are actions that you can track and cross off of a to-do list…  positive reinforcement that will help keep you motivated.

2) Pick a 90% goal

The second tip is to pick a 90% goal. Dr. Lee-Baggley explains that “picking something that you’re 90% sure you’re going to succeed at is critical because when we feel like we’re succeeding at something we want to keep going. If we feel like we’re failing we want to stop. That’s just human nature.”

If you already walk two days a week, a 90% goal might be planning to walk 30 minutes a day three days a week. You’re starting with something realistic which enables you to succeed and then build on your success by making the next goal a little bigger. The key here is to pick something you know you can do, do it, allow yourself to feel successful and then build on your momentum and choose a slightly more ambitious goal (that you now know that you can do). It becomes a super-positive and self-affirming cycle…

3) Focus on a “do instead” goal

Dr. Lee-Baggley’s third tip is to pick a “do instead” goal. People often choose a goal around food that is very restrictive. For example, “I’m going to stop eating junk food.” Instead, Dr. Lee-Baggley encourages you to ask yourself, “‘What am I going to do instead of eating junk food?’ and focus on adding healthy things into your diet rather than taking unhealthy things out. This will help you feel less deprived. 

She explains that restrictive goals “create something known as the thought suppression effect: the more you try to not think about something, the more you’ll think about it, and this will make your goal that much harder to accomplish.”

Examples of “do instead” goals are “I will replace my soda at lunch with sparkling water during the work week,” or “I will start enjoying ‘meatless Mondays.’”  Notice that these goals are not “I will give up soda” or “I am not eating meat anymore.”

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Incorporating these three tips when setting goals for yourself will increase your likelihood of success, make you feel great about yourself, and help you reach your long-term goals. Try them out and let us know how it goes! Leave a comment for us on this My Weight Live episode and keep us posted on your progress! 🙂

In this fantastic video, Dr. Lee-Baggley talks more about goal setting:

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