Everyone knows the benefits of exercise so why is it that so few people bother? One study found that 75% of people barely exercise at all. We also know that a healthy diet is important but more than a third of adults are overweight. Why is there a mismatch between what we know and what we actually do?
Translating information into action is only part of the challenge. Even if we make a change, how do we maintain motivation?
Rethinking how we set goals offers a key insight into effective behavior change. According to researchers at Harvard:
Setting goals can help you think more clearly and stay motivated, yet for many people, this approach does not work. A recent study provided an explanation for why this may be. Beyond your conscious goals, there are many unconscious goals also competing for attention. For example, while weight loss may be your conscious goal, stress relief may be your unconscious goal. While healthy eating may be your conscious goal, this may take a back seat to resolving relationship difficulties. All around, goals are selfish. It’s every goal for itself in the human brain. If your health-related goal doesn’t have a special preference, it may fail you.
So what can you do? According to the researchers at Harvard, the solution is to clarify priorities:
It helps to attach a “priority tag” to the goals that are most important to you. To do this, you need to delve a little more deeply — that is, ask yourself why your goal matters to you.
In other words, think long and hard about what you really want and put that goal front and center.
To make changes for the better, your health-related goals should be the goals above all other goals. When you elevate their importance by thinking of them in ways like these, they will beat out other goals in your brain.
I love the idea of attaching a “priority tag” to the goals that are most important to you. It will remind you to make choices that are consistent with what you say you want to achieve.
As Mahatma Gandhi said:
Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.