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Why Your Goals Need An Implementation Intention

Do you ever decide to tackle a goal knowing full well that you’re unlikely to stick with it?

Maybe you set your goals like…

“I’m going to try to work out every day. We’ll see how it goes.”

“I’m planning to eat healthy this week.”

“I want to start working on my business.”

When you state a goal but leave it at that, it’s more like a desire or wish than a goal, right? Because there’s something missing here. Where’s the action plan?

If you don’t have an action plan or some kind of strategy, you’re leaving it up to chance. And then you blame yourself, feel guilty, and believe that you’re not capable of making your goals happen.

But really, it’s not about an inability to achieve them at all. It’s the system at which you’re going about achieving them – which in this case, you’re not currently even using one.

Isn’t there a saying by Benjamin Franklin that goes: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”?

We definitely want to set ourselves up to succeed, not fail.

So, how can we plan and structure our goals to make them more achievable? How can we create systems in order to make our goals work for us?

That’s where implementation intentions come in.

You need an “if-then” plan. By using specifics like where, when, and how you’re going to do something, you have a much greater chance of making it happen.

Implementation intentions were first presented by psychologist Peter Gollwitzer in 1999, based on studies from a couple of years prior, showing that people had improved likeliness of achieving their goals when pairing it with the specifics of how it was going to happen.

It makes sense that we struggle to take action when we don’t know how we’re going to do something. We have jobs, to-do lists, social lives, and a rhythm that our life follows and we can struggle to figure out or even remember what we’re working toward when we’re in the thick of our everyday routines – even when the goals are important to us.

When you map out the time and place that you’re going to do something, it stimulates a behavior without you having to think about it. That’s where we get into the habit mode when we don’t even have to think about our actions – we’re just making it happen on blissful autopilot.

So, here are some implementation intention examples:

If I hear my alarm go off, then I make my bed.

If I receive an email and it takes less than 3 minutes to respond, I’ll do that right then.

If I wake up in a bad mood, I will take the morning to reset with journaling and meditation.

If I get onto Instagram, I’ll reply to all my unread DMs right away.

If I land a new client, I will tell a friend and celebrate the small win.

If I hit publish on a new blog post, I will schedule social posts.

If I finish my work before 5 pm, I will take a walk outside.

If I feel upset, I will go for a run before reacting.

If I buy something new, I will donate one new item.

If I brush my teeth, I will floss right after.

If I receive a homework assignment, I will get started on it right away.

If I go grocery shopping, I will eat before I go.

If I wake up before 8 am, I will get outside for a workout.

If it’s 9 pm, I will turn off my technology and start reading.

If I receive negative feedback, I will remember to not take it personally.

If the clock turns to 5 pm, I will start my shut-down work routine.

If I eat breakfast, I will make a healthy smoothie with kale.

If I’m shopping, I will seek out the best, budget-friendly options instead of impulse buying.

If I eat breakfast, I’ll take my daily vitamins.

What would be on your list?

Implementation intentions can be beneficial if you struggle with procrastination because instead of relying on motivation and willpower, you have a cue that signals your action step.

You know exactly what to do, and all you have to do is follow the rule you set for yourself to act on.

We’re all about just taking action to start working toward your goal, even if the action step is small – because all of them are moving you forward.

Create implementation intentions that feel doable to you, and pair them with activities that you are already doing.

If you’re already eating breakfast, taking vitamins right before breakfast is a simple action step.

It may require you to put vitamins out where you can see them, or creating a sticky note reminder.

But the most important reminder is the trigger of taking them with your breakfast. Pair the two in your mind, create reminders to signal the action step and your goals will suddenly feel a whole lot more achievable.

Instead of beating yourself up over failed habits, don’t forget that a lot of things you want in life can become steps that you don’t even think about. Whether it’s working out regularly, eating healthy, or taking steps to work on your business, all of it is doable, no matter what your level of willpower is.

Make those dreams happen, girl. We’re here to support you.

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