Goal Implementation Intentions

Posted by on Jan 3, 2012 in Blog, Motivation | 0 comments

Goal Implementation Intentions

Won’t it be great at the end of the year when you can say you did what you said you were going to do? One way to increase the odds that you will follow through with your diet and exercise plans is to set what researchers call implementation intentions.

An implementation intention is simply an if-then statement outlining how you will deal with an obstacle. The best way to set implementation intentions for diet and exercise is to identify why you engage in an undesired behavior (the obstacle) and have a substitute behavior in mind. Let’s say you want to lose weight but you regularly eat unhealthy snacks during the day. To use implementation intentions, you could do the following:

  1. Identify times of the day, situations and places where you tend to snack on unhealthy foods.
  2. Identify the reason for eating the unhealthy snack. Common reasons are boredom, to be social, to combat fatigue, or out of loneliness. Make these reasons as specific and as personal as possible.
  3. Plan the healthy snacks you will eat during this time. Make sure that you are on board with your choices.
  4. Complete the following sentence: When I am _______________(identify the unhealthy snacking situation, i.e., bored/lonely/alone/want to be social) I will eat______________(list healthy snack).
  5. Now spend a couple of minutes visualizing the precise situations in your head. Imagine doing exactly what you have written.
  6. Every morning when you up, state your intentions and visualize yourself taking action. You might be inclined to skip this step, but don’t. Visualization is powerful, and can influence your success!

I discussed using implementation intentions with my family during dinner tonight. One thing that came up was whether my husband, Steve, actually wants to give up the doughnuts that people bring to his work. In order for implementation intentions to be effective, you probably have to actually want to give up the unhealthy snack, and believe on some level that the alternative will support you in reaching your goals.

So, here is a challenge for all of you dieters! Set an implementation intention for the new year. Let’s see how well the research works in real life! Share your results here!


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