Are You Using The Right Kind of Goals?
Losing weight is a goal that requires hard work, dedication, consistency, and constant attention - I don't think anyone would contest me on that!
However, HOW we go about achieving these goals is often overlooked.
There are two ways of accomplishing our goals - Avoidance goals and Approach goals.
Avoidance goals are when we avoid or stop doing something in pursuit of an outcome whereas approach goals focus on adding something that moves us closer to our desired outcome.
Here are some examples that will explain this better that my crappy definitions:
- You could head to the gym to stay in shape (approach) or to avoid getting heavier or developing something like heart disease (avoidance)
- You could eat more fruits and vegetables to stop eating junk food (avoidance) or to feel better and be healthier (approach).
- You could start exercising more to not be lazy and sedentary (avoidance) or to fix your posture and experience more energy (approach)
Make more sense?
In all three scenarios, the same goal is being achieved, however, the methods and purposes of achieving those goals are very different.
Both avoidance and approach goals can provide value, however, research and my own personal observations have shown that avoidance goals are far less effective and lead to less happiness and more stress that approach goals.
The Problem With Avoidance Goals
The biggest problem with avoidance goals is that they are negative in nature.
They are fueled by what we can't and shouldn't do.
This is ultimately counterproductive because telling yourself that you can't or shouldn't do something almost guarantees you'll keep doing it.
People hate being told what to do and how to do it.
Research on this topic has shown that people who use avoidance goals over approach goals experience:
- Less satisfaction with their progress and life.
- More negative feelings towards their progress
- Decreased self-esteem and vitality
- Feeling less confident in being able to achieve a goal.
People using avoidance goals have also been shown to procrastinate more than those using approach goals (source).
Losing weight is hard enough. The negative mindset and motivation that comes along with avoidance goals make accomplishing your objective to lose fat even harder.
Turn Your Avoidance Goals into Approach Goals
Approach goals are more positive and work to pull you towards your desired goal. (while sneakily pulling you away from negative things keeping you from your desired goal.)
In my opinion - approach goals are far more effective and make it easier for us to make healthy choices.
Rather than thinking about what we are giving up, we focus on how our new activities are benefiting us.
Sustainable and enjoyable weight loss becomes possible when we turn our pesky avoidance goals into approach goals.
So, here's how to do it:
1. Write down a "bad" habit that you know is keeping you from achieving your ultimate goal.
Did you do that? I'll wait....
Got it? Good.
2. Write down a "good" habit that can replace that "bad" habit.
For example, rather than buying a Snicker's bar from the vending machine during your lunch break, go for a 20-minute walk.
I've written about habits before, so those first two steps may sound familiar already...
But here's the important part!
3. Identify the approach goal for this new habit and how it will lead you to your goal of losing weight.
"This 20-minute walk is directly helping me achieve my goal of losing weight and becoming a healthier, happier person."
Unhealthy habits are at the core of most people's struggle with weight.
Altering these bad habits and replacing them with new ones using an approach goal mindset is a power-combo that can make a genuine and lasting change!
Positivity is the Key to Success
Approach goals make losing weight and sticking to a weight loss program far easier than avoidance goals. I've seen this to be the case more times than I can count.
Constantly thinking about what you can't and shouldn't eat will only lead to anger and frustration. What's worse is that this negative thinking could result in a lack of motivation or feelings that change isn't possible.
When you focus on positive thinking (through approach goals), you are priming your mind for success by only focusing on the benefits of your new healthy lifestyle.
Positive thinking, in turn, provides a steady stream of motivated for both short-term and long-term weight loss success.
For some people, establishing approach goals and a positive mindset is easier said than done.
It's hard to focus on the good when things like food cravings and negative messages from the media are keeping us in a loathing mindset.
This is one reason I offer online coaching. I know the struggles of being overweight and the negative mindsets that accompany it.
Having someone to be alongside you on your weight loss journey can make focusing on positive approach goals far easier than going it alone.
Click the fancy button below to learn more about my weight loss coaching 😀
I hope this article has helped you identify and understand this commonly overlooked aspect of goal setting.
While there is no denying the importance of goal setting when it comes to losing weight, the way you go about achieving that goal can make or break your short-term and long-term success.
Focus on approach goals and you'll be well on your way towards achieving your goals of leaning down and staying healthy for the rest of your life!