Creating Lasting Change: ‘Boosters’ increase odds of meeting health, wellness goals

We all have desires and ideals for the person we’d like to become.

Sometimes these desires lead us to accomplish great feats that far exceed our wildest dreams. Other times we’re left feeling more like failures for coming up short of our expectations. Over and over throughout our lives, we continue to set these goals into motion and strive to meet new opportunities head on.

But what if I said there were ways to increase your chances of success? Would your next goal be something new or something you could not obtain before?

Below, I’ll share with you three psychological “boosters” based on research to help increase your future odds of creating lifelong changes that make the most of your health and wellness.


Mike Howard

First, we need to understand what already drives us to achieve what matters most to us in life. Rich Ryan and Ed Deci (2000) have found that when we have a sense of choice in our decisions, we feel more motivated to stick with our goals and get through challenges when things start to get tough. This is called the Self-Determination Theory.

So, what’s one way that we can start to feel more in control over our choices? Well, we can make our values the most important factor in our decisions.

Here’s an example: Say you believe that family is the most important thing in life. Next time you consider giving up on going to the gym or walking around the block for exercise, think of your value of “family.” You’ll be much more inclined to remind yourself, “Meeting my goal today means that my family will be better off with me in the long run.” This concept applies mostly to the few values we already hold strongly as our guiding lights.

So, the next step is taking the time to reflect on what values truly inspire you to be your best self. Then you can start to install them in all the right places.

Our second booster is a technique called “If-Then” statements. Peter Gollwitzer (1997) found that if we can take the time to anticipate what might get in the way of achieving our daily goals, then we can have a plan to better succeed when those roadblocks show up. Here’s an example: My goal is to quit smoking. IF I find that I want a cigarette during a lunch break, THEN I’ll walk to the store and get some gum instead. This simple approach increases our chance of success by over 75 percent!

The final booster is to always make sure we have an accountability partner who knows and checks in on our progress with the goals we have set. This needs to be someone you trust and value because their commitment to your success strengthens yours, too.

Try out one or more of these with that next important goal you have. Then come visit me at the pool for a healthy swim!

Mike Howard is aquatic supervisor for Hood River Valley Parks and Recreation District, and has a Sport Psychology Masters degree and Certified Mental Performance Consultant (CMPC) credentials.

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