During the holiday season we begin to reflect intently on the world we live in, the community around us, and within ourselves as individuals.
We desire to avoid the perceived chaos across the globe through intentional and meaningful personal lives. In our personal life plans, we all intend to achieve better versions of ourselves.
Improving our lives often includes making desired changes. Perhaps we see an uncertain future, so we want to learn a new skill in order to secure a more resilient career.
We might intend to incorporate more intentional positive leisure by perhaps painting portraits, reading novels, less television time, more time with our families, etc.
We may also desire to lose weight, become more physically fit, eat healthier, or reduce sedentary behaviour.
Sadly, most people fail at achieving their goals. The objective setting in our powerfully complex prefrontal cortex gets overruled by our primordial ancient parts of the brain that regulate emotions, urges, and desires.
Researchers recently developed new techniques for attaining our goals without giving up.
A team of 15 social scientists led by Job Godino delineated ways to self-regulate behaviour in order to achieve results. Instead of reducing technology and social media time as a way to reach goals, use such modern techniques to your advantage. The researchers broke helpful self-regulation into five areas including intention formation, goal setting, self-monitoring, feedback, and goal review.
First, work with a coach, accountability partner, or close friend to look at your big picture dreams that you want to achieve. Not every dream should be acted on, so then formulate your intentions based on which dreams seem the most reasonably attainable and would bring you the most happiness.
Second, set measurable goals. Most people fail to put specificity into their goals.
Do not say “lose weight”. Instead, say lose 10 kgs by June 30, as an example. Do not endeavour to “read more” but rather detail that you will read two novels and two biographies by September 15, etc.
Third, monitor yourself. Here the researchers found that technology and social media greatly helped people. Use social media and technology reminders on actions and targets. Individuals accomplish their short- and medium-term goals in correlation with time interacting with technology and social media specifically on goal completion.
Fourth, get feedback or measurements on your progress. Then share through social media and with your coach, accountability partner, or close friend in short periodic meetings in person or through the phone or video apps.
Fifth and finally, review your goals. If a goal proves too unrealistic or too easy, then change it in consultation with your support system (coach, etc). Justify why the goal did not work and how you will modify your behaviour in order to meet the new goal.
Personal change is possible. However, a strong desire and will to change usually does not prove enough.
Our prefrontal cortex cannot often overpower our emotions. Utilise the above five steps of self-regulation to meet your personal life plan changes.
The author is an Assistant Professor of Management at the United States International University, Africa.