Goal setting has long been a mainstay of the work environment and business management training. It presents the idea that all actions and behaviors are motivated by a goal. Internal drivers of action, including the need for accomplishment, achievement and social affiliation, play a key role in changing patterns of behavior.
What if you could take the concept of having goals and apply it to your personal lifestyle, transforming unhealthy eating habits into healthy ones?
The outcome can produce positive results that contribute to long-term benefits.
Goal setting can help change behavior.
Understanding what motivates people and compels them to achieve has been studied extensively.
The main proponents of goal setting theory, were David McClelland and John Atkinson, who asserted that this concept focuses on consciously accessible and controllable internal goals. Researchers Edwin A. Locke, Gary P. Latham continued exploring the theory and identified five goal setting principles that can improve our chances of success:
- Task complexity.
Goal setting and nutrition.
Although goal setting research in workplace settings has proliferated over the past 40 years, it is more recent that nutrition educators have studied its effects on community health promotion initiatives.
A study by Cullen and associates applied the principles of goal setting to food behavior changes. They developed a four-step goal-setting process: (1) recognizing a need for change, (2) establishing a goal, (3) adopting a goal-directed activity and self-monitoring it, and (4) self-rewarding goal attainment.
The authors conclude with this recommendation for nutritionists and dietitians:
Because interventions using goal setting appear to promote dietary change, dietitians should consider incorporating the goal-setting strategies to enhance the behavior change process in nutrition education programs.
Putting goal setting into practice.
You can apply the elements of goal setting to change your lifestyle and eating habits.
Thanks to your smartphone, it is easier than ever before. By downloading an app that let’s you create custom goals, keep them visible 24/7, get reminders about those goals, and connect with others to share your success, you can make positive behavior changes a reality.
The next time you hear yourself say I know I shouldn’t indulge in this, but I will… glance at your app goals before reaching for that piece of cake, bowl of ice cream, soda or bag of chips.
Those foods are hard to resist but if you have planned for this moment by setting goals, you can (with practice) distract yourself before entering the craving vortex.
In time you will learn to mindfully take control of your food choices and in doing so change bad eating habits into good ones.