The Science Behind How to Achieve a Goal

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A habit is essentially a sustainable behavior. Our days are made up of a variety of behaviors, the majority being habits and routines. Our behaviors often times are accepted as face value as, “I chose to behave this way so this is who I must be.” Our identities are heavily tied to our behaviors and feel one and the same. This makes the task of behavior picking feel out of our control, because we generally just go with whatever comes naturally to us. We fail to realize that there are many options to choose from when it comes to practicing a certain behavior, or that it even is a choice.

When you want to change something about your situation, what it means is that you must try new behaviors, otherwise you won’t see the change materialize. You will continue to get frustrated and even worse begin to associate your situation with your

How do you separate the two? First, you must believe that it is within your control to change. Second, you must separate your identity from your situation. Third, every time you go to perform one of your habits, take a step back to ask yourself, is this behavior supporting the change I want? If the answer is no, then you must brainstorm an alternative behavior that would support the desired change.

The best way to do this is to imagine that you are planning this change for a friend, that way you don’t associate your identity with the old situation, and break out of the box with new ideas that otherwise would not have come to you.

Now comes the hard part. The 180 degree turn to pivot and take that new path. There are several methods to bring about this turn.

Nicholas Mutton [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

One recommendation is to wear a rubber band around your wrist day in and day out. Every time you find yourself not following the new path you have identified and falling into your old habits, snap yourself with the rubber band. The reason why this works is twofold, one, you are doing something physical to acknowledge the slip back and two, it’s negative reinforcement, one of the oldest psychological techniques in the book.

If the rubber band is too harsh, I recommend you tell a friend, either verbally or in writing what your new committed behavior will be. Better yet, tell a group of friends. This visible commitment will put necessary pressure on you to fulfill it. It gives you a reason other than the internal ones you created to follow-through on your new action.

SMART goal

When trying to achieve a goal, whether personal or professional, follow these steps and you will be surprised to notice how much easier it is to embody a new behavior and realize the desired goal sooner than you ever thought. Start with a small goal that wouldn’t take very much time to achieve at all and then build up to bigger goals. The more often you achieve, the easier it will become for your brain to follow this approach so that it goes on auto-pilot. The more you practice this approach, the more often you will achieve your goals. But just remember the old saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”


SMART-goals.png by Dungdm93 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
A fork in the road Which way should I go? by Nicholas Mutton [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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