We have all heard of this heart-breaking scenario where you can Take an addict that has been clean for months, years even and suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, they relapse. But did you know it can help you with goal-setting?
And often it is a seemingly perfectly innocuous situation that launched an addict headlong into their worst nightmare. How can this be possible we ask ourselves? Yet the addict is just as baffled by the case as everyone else.
There are usually clear psychological triggers for this very human behaviour (we all have it – stay with me here) — a set of circumstances that lead up to the event, so subtle that it went by unnoticed.
Let’s say you wanted to give up chocolate (perhaps a new-year resolution). Usually, you might stroll down to catch the bus every morning, and your route would lead you past the newsagents where you always pop in for a newspaper and a bar of choccy. Then you catch your bus and go about your day. At the office, there is a vending machine in the canteen near where you always sit. You grab a quick bite from it on your late afternoon tea break to give you a boost past the ‘3-o-clock slump.’
Maybe you have a challenging job and like nothing better than to relax in the evening. Then pop the telly on (before treating yourself to a fruit and nut).
The weird thing is with behaviour – we do not consciously make a choice EVERY time we do something. We have programmed ourselves into a kind of ‘auto-pilot’ It’s surprising just how much we respond to the external circumstances we have built around us.
Your goal could be to stop eating chocolate, and you pass the newsagents, sit by the vending machine and fiddle with your hands in front of the telly after a stressful shift, telling yourself “I will not eat chocolate, I will not eat chocolate.”
There will come a day when you didn’t get enough sleep, you are run down, you laddered your tights in the loo, and your boss is monstrous, you will just simply no longer have the will-power to keep it up. So you will pop in the shop on your way home ad tell yourself “Just one bar won’t hurt, I’ll start again tomorrow.”
Real and long-lasting change can NOT be achieved by merely changing your desire to halt a particular behaviour on will-power alone. You need to address the newsagent, the canteen table, the rotten boss. You need a goal.
Successful goal setting acknowledges the behaviours around what supported harmful behaviour in the first place.
Take a different bus stop, pop out and get some fresh air on your break, arrange a meeting with your boss about clearing things up.
You can apply the same idea to your business and creative/holistic work.
Your current work habits will have a particular structure, triggers and support network (I always forget to send the post because I leave it in the ‘send’ drawer on my desk).
So how to transform the goals you tend to struggle with into real chances at success?
Just complete the following:
- Here is the thing I keep on doing, instead of the stuff I want to do:
- What do I currently have in place that is supporting this behaviour?
- How can I address these things?
I want to complete the online course I downloaded last month (and paid for), but I haven’t even looked at yet.
A. Here is the thing I keep on doing, instead of the item I want to do:
‘I get sat down on the sofa and instead spend the evening binge-watching on Netflix or Scrolling mindlessly on Facebook’.
B. What do I currently have in place that is supporting this behaviour?
‘Well, its been a long day, getting the kids ready for school, working hard at my business, attending meetings and once the kids are asleep its MY time. I’m knackered, and I want to veg out to my favourite program’.
Carry on, what else supports you being ‘knackered’?
‘Well, I get going on the TV, and it’s excellent, I cannot stand the cliff-hanger to I watch one more, then one more and before I know it it’s gone 1 am and I’m nodding-off into my cuppa. I have to get up early and can’t seem to see when I will be able to fit it all in’.
C. How can I address these things?
‘My goal is to watch the first instalment of the online course. So for me to achieve it, I will set a bed-time of say 11 pm. I’ll set a reminder on my phone 15 min before-hand, and I am going to do this for three days in the week. The rest of the week is entirely up to me. Before I make dinner, I will turn on my computer, leave the study door open and not go back downstairs once I have done the little ones bed-time routines. All I then have to do is walk into the study, sit at the desk and start watching’.
This way, you are not forcing yourself to rely on willpower in the evenings to get your studying done. You are building-in time to properly rest and time to enjoy your programmes.
It seems silly, but it shuns the brain into changing the regular auto-pilot routine you have taught it.
Using this technique, you can set all your goals – both business and personal, to support your new behaviours and achieve success.
Whatever it is you want to accomplish if it’s more comfortable to succeed and more uncomfortable do nothing then don’t continue what you have always done!
Are you sitting reading this and filling with anxiety over whether you can commit to making life changes?
I will reply to every comment so if you need some advice or creative ideas, or even just a virtual hug, leave me a quick note in the comment section :)
I look forward to hearing how you have applied this technique.