We all have goals. And what’s the first thing most of us think about when we consider how to achieve them? “I need to get motivated.” The surprising thing? Motivation is exactly what you don’t need. Today, I’m going to share a surprising study that reveals why motivation isn’t the key to helping you achieve your goals and offers a simple strategy that actually works. The best part? This highly practical strategy has been proven to double or even triple your chances for success. Here’s what you need to know and how you can apply it to your life… Simply by writing down a plan that says exactly when and where– you’re much more likely to actually follow through.
Words like motivation, willpower and desire get tossed around a lot. But the truth is, we all have these things to some degree. If you want to make a change at all, then you have some level of “desire.” The researchers discovered that what pulls that desire out of you and turns it into real-world action isn’t your level of motivation, but rather your plan for implementation.
The cues that can trigger a habit come in a wide range of forms—the feel of your phone buzzing in your pocket, the smell of chocolate chip cookies, the sound of ambulance sirens—but the two most common cues are time and location. Implementation intentions leverage both of these cues.
Broadly speaking, the format for creating an implementation intention is: “When situation X arises, I will perform response Y.”
Implementation intentions are effective for sticking to our goals, whether it’s writing down the exact time and date of when you will get your hair cut or recording the time of your dental appointment. They increase the odds that people will stick with habits like recycling, studying, going to sleep early, and stopping smoking.
How to Follow Through With Your Goals
The punch line is clear: people who make a specific plan for when and where they will perform a new habit are more likely to follow through. Too many people try to change their habits without these basic details figured out. We tell ourselves, “I’m going to eat healthier” or “I’m going to write more,” but we never say when and where these habits are going to happen. We leave it up to chance and hope that we will “just remember to do it” or feel motivated at the right time. An implementation intention sweeps away foggy notions like “I want to work out more” “I want to be more productive” or “I should call my mom” and transforms them into a concrete plan of action.
Many people think they lack motivation when what they really lack is clarity. It is not always obvious when and where to take action. Some people spend their entire lives waiting for the time to be right to make an improvement. Once an implementation intention has been set, you don’t have to wait for inspiration to strike. Do I write a chapter today or not? Do I meditate this morning or at lunch? When the moment of action occurs, there is no need to make a decision. Simply follow your predetermined plan.
The simple way to apply this strategy to your habits is to fill out this sentence:
I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].
- I will meditate for one minute at 7 a.m. in my kitchen.
- I will study Spanish for twenty minutes at 6 p.m. in my bedroom.
- I will exercise for one hour at 5 p.m. in my local gym.
- I will make my partner a cup of tea at 8 a.m. in the kitchen.
Give your habits a time and a space to live in the world. The goal is to make the time and location so obvious that, with enough repetition, you get an urge to do the right thing at the right time, even if you can’t say why.
What to Do When Plans Fall Apart
The best-laid plans of mice and men often go astray.– Robert Burns
Sometimes you won’t be able to implement a new behavior — no matter how perfect your plan. In situations like these, it’s great to use the “if–then” version of this strategy. You’re still stating your intention to perform a particular behavior, so the basic idea is the same. This time, however, you simply plan for unexpected situations by using the phrase, “If ____, then ____.”
- If I eat fast food for lunch, then I’ll stop by the store and buy some vegetables for dinner.
- If I haven’t called my mom back by 7pm, then I won’t turn on the TV until I do.
- If my meeting runs over and I don’t have time to workout this afternoon, then I’ll wake up early tomorrow and run.
The “if–then” strategy gives you a clear plan for overcoming the unexpected stuff, which means it’s less likely that you’ll be swept away by the urgencies of life. You can’t control when little emergencies happen to you, but you don’t have to be a victim of them either.
Use This Strategy to Achieve Your Goals
If you don’t plan out your behaviors, then you rely on your willpower and motivation to inspire you to act. But if you do plan out when and where you are going to perform a new behavior, your goal has a time and a space to live in the real world. This shift in perspective allows your environment to act as a cue for your new behavior. To put it simply: planning out when and where you will perform a specific behavior turns your environment into a trigger for action. The time and place triggers your behavior, not your level of motivation.
So what’s the moral of this story? Motivation is short-lived and doesn’t lead to consistent action. If you want to achieve your goals, then you need a plan for exactly when and how you’re going to execute them.
Article Credit: https://jamesclear.com/implementation-intentions