How To Make Positive Behavioral Changes By Setting Goals

We as humans, naturally tend to do things that are rewarding, and avoid doing things that aren’t. One issue we have as individuals, when trying to change our behavior, is fail to look at the reasons “why” we currently do what we’re doing.

So ask yourself, what’s the benefit to this or any other behavior you do.

People often try to remove their bad behaviors, but fail to replace them with similar, more effective positive behaviors.

Those who want to quit smoking, either goes cold-turkey or will overeat, and then end up gaining 20 pounds, and feel miserable. Stopping the smoking is only part of the problem.

Some smoke to relax, so unless you find another effective way to relax, you’re going to have difficulty at succeeding.

Nicotine is a drug, so you will feel withdrawal symptoms, Bad substitutes such as sugar, isn’t going to replace the craving.

Once you feel the associated cravings attached with quitting smoking, what you need is to get over the physiological issues first.

You can then effectively deal better, with the stress-relief and the habit issues later.

Setting Goals That Are Too Big

What we want is immediate gratification. The biggest selling products in the world, are geared at helping us solve our biggest problems as soon as possible.

What most aren’t motivated by, are goals that can’t be reached for months, or even weeks.

“I want to reduce my cholesterol by 30 points,” is not a realistic short-term goal. “I will do one thing each day to reduce my cholesterol,” is a lot more reasonable.

This is especially important at the beginning of a behavioral change. Set realistic goals that are rewarded every day, or at least every week.

For example, “If I go to the gym for at least 1 hour, I can __________ tonight.”

Focusing on weight loss, can be a slow process to realize reward, so instead focus on burning at least 200 calories at the gym each day.

The end result is the same, but the rewards are much more frequent, when you focus on the daily calories, and you’ll stay more motivated.

Setting Goals That Are Attainable

No one isn’t going from being a couch potato to exercising every day. That is unrealistic. Begin by setting a small achievable goal, and then go from there.


Once you begin exercising 3 to 5 times a week, then up the ante. To get the reward, you have to do more.

For example, “I will walk for 45 minutes a day, 5 days a week,” can be fine tuned to “I will walk 30 minutes a day, at a 14 minute mile pace, 3 days a week.”

Setting Goals With No Reward

Just feeling better is often not enough of a reason, to keep you motivated to exercise, eat more healthy, or stop smoking.

We want rewards that are as great as the effort we put in. If you’re competitive, set goals with a friend and compare notes, and tell them what you’re doing.

A public commitment to a goal makes it easier to keep, as those who know what you’re doing will often give you the kudos you deserve, or will kick you in the behind.

If you’re a private person, buy something or do something special as a reward.

Setting “Frequency” “Intensity” “Duration” Goals

“I am going to exercise more.” “I will eat better.” “I will have a more positive attitude.” None of these are specific enough, to create any substantial or consistent behavioral change.

You want to be able to answer the question. How will I know when or if I have accomplished my goal?

Goals ideally need to have frequency, intensity, or a duration. Preferably all three.

Frequency is how often you’ll do the new behavior, or won’t do the old behavior. “I will eat at least 1 fruit each day,” or “I will not drink more than 1 cup of coffee per day.”

Intensity is how strong you do the behavior. “I will eat at least the minimum number of servings from each food group.” “I will not get more than 30% of my calories from fat.”

Duration is how long you will do the behavior. “I will walk for 45 minutes each day.” “I will not sit for more than 1 hour at a time.”

Setting The Wrong Goals

If you want to feel better, look at why you feel bad in the first place. Are you sleep deprived, eating poorly, not exercising, depressed, physically ill or in chronic pain?

Choose your goals accordingly. If you want to improve your relationship, getting more physically fit might not be the answer, despite what most think.

Get together with your partner, to figure out what the problems are. Then set your goals, keeping in mind the only person you can change, is you.

Just Start By Doing Something

Anything you do to help yourself feel happier or healthier, will lead to other positive changes.

Start with something small you can do. Don’t eliminate a bad behavior, until you have found an adequate replacement.

Ask yourself what the benefit is, to your current behavioral pattern. Make sure your resolution, provides the same benefits in a healthier way.

Ask yourself what you hope to accomplish with this resolution, then make sure your resolution actually accomplishes that.

Ask yourself why you’re not already doing it, what’s holding you back. Address those issues first.

Ask yourself if you are willing to do what is necessary to change. Remind yourself change is hard work.

Honestly figure out if you are willing to work, or are happier staying the same, and just complaining and getting pity attention.

Make sure your rewards are rewarding, and frequent. If you find it difficult to make successful resolutions, find a professional who specializes in behavioral modification.