As you think about the goals you want to achieve and the time frame in which you want to achieve them, it can sometimes be daunting. Research shows that thinking about or working on too many goals at once can actually derail your efforts to achieve any of them.
It’s not just our natural tendency that causes us to return to our old habits, but our inability to create a plan of implementation and a narrow focus on our progress towards accomplishing those goals.
Focusing on more than one goal at a time is almost the same as riding a bicycle while juggling! If you think you can do that, you missed your calling in the circus!
So why can’t we focus on multiple goals at once? Because it makes you less committed and thus, less likely to succeed. Whereas, committing to one goal at a time with laser focus and a plan of implementation, makes you 3x more likely to succeed at that goal.
However, having just one goal still isn’t enough to make you succeed. Your plan for implementation is what will drive your success towards the goal. For example, if you state that you want to eat healthier until you reach a specific goal weight, you are leaving this very open-ended and there is no commitment or a specific plan in place.
If instead, you said that you want to eat healthier until you reach a specific goal weight, but you also gave yourself a realistic deadline of when you want to reach that goal weight and you also created a meal plan you had to follow in order to lose the amount of weight required to meet that deadline, you are 3x more likely to accomplish that same goal. In addition, if you are consistent with your meal plan and you know exactly when you are eating, how much you are eating and the times of day you are eating, you increase your chances of accomplishing that goal even further.
We have established the importance of how, when, and where, but what about the why? This one question, if left unanswered, can play tricks on your mind if you don’t really know the answer. Why do you want to achieve the goal? Why are you going to focus on it?
If we take the previous example of losing weight, we might say that we want to lose weight because we will look better. However, there are many other benefits that we may not be thinking of that could create an increased desire to succeed with this goal. If you also said, not only will I look better, but I will decrease my risk of numerous diseases by “x” percent, my mind will be sharp, my body will be quick, my sleep patterns will be better, I will be stronger, faster and more agile. What else could we say? If people notice I have lost weight, they may say I look better, which will boost my self-confidence and give me a positive attitude and make me more productive.
If you have children, you may even say that this will give you more energy to play with them and be more involved in their lives and allow you to pass on good eating habits to them as well.
All of these are pretty strong drivers to get you to focus on this one goal with a hard commitment and a plan of implementation that has a hard deadline of when you should reach that goal.
You can put the list of drivers, or benefits, on a piece of paper, on a wall, on a mirror, on a board, on your computer, or on your phone, but it should be somewhere that you can see them not just once a day, but multiple times a day, as a reminder that you need to continue focusing on your goal and on the implementation plan.
Starting a goal is always hard, but the thing that helps us achieve that goal is the creation of small habits that reinforce your implementation plan. If you say you are going to eat salad for lunch every day until you reach your goal weight on a specific day, it means that you have already mapped out how you are going to get that salad, what kind of salad you are going to eat and when you are going to eat it.
It’s not just that though. What if you are going to buy a salad for lunch at work every day? There are a lot of other food items in the cafeteria or at the restaurant or café and if you can’t handle the temptation, you need to make sure you avoid those temptations by not looking at anything else besides the salad bar, or even bringing a salad to lunch and eating at your desk, so you don’t have to see any other food.
Again, this is just one example that illustrates how focusing on one goal by committing to it and creating a plan of implementation on how to achieve it, is the key to accomplishing that goal.
Another important factor in focusing on one goal at a time is how to get to a level of automaticity. Automaticity is described by researchers as the ability to perform a behavior without thinking about each step, which allows the pattern of behavior to become habitual and automatic.
These habits can truly become automatic only after about 60 days of consistent performance. As time passes and gets closer towards the 60-day mark, the habits become easier to perform and then after 60 days, they are consistent, and often times are not even thought about, they are just done, which is the true form of automaticity.
This 60-day mark is not the magic number for everyone, as a lot of things come into play when various types of people try to form long-lasting habits. Your organizational skills, coping skills, stress levels, age, personality, and how difficult the habit is to form, will all play a role in how long it will take to automate that habit. With that said, you should plan on at least two months, if not more, to form automaticity with your habits.
The takeaway from all of this is that focusing on one goal at a time with a specific plan of implementation and daily adherence to your plan for more than 60 days, will make you 3x more likely to accomplish that goal. Once you accomplish that goal, you can move on to the next one.
Here is an easy way to remember this process:
Focus on one goal at a time.
Implement and adhere to your plan with a when, where, and how and give yourself a deadline.
Study and practice what you have prescribed in your plan on a daily, or regular basis.
Habits of automaticity will form with adherence to the plan of more than 60 days.
Okay, now go get that goal!