Change Your Habits to Achieve Your Goals

Dear Fun & Fit:

I am trying so hard to become more fit and lose some weight, but it’s hard.  Please say the magic words or sprinkle pixie dust over me so that I’ll stick with it and reach my goals.

I have two words for you — Small Steps. Watch my metronome – you are becoming sleepy, sleepy. When you hear the disco music, you will immediately recognize the power of my pixie dust and be hyper aware of the magical power of the ordinary. You just have to take small steps every day toward your goal. Be at one with the Habits – those you’ll create that support your ultimate goal.

Psychologist B.J. Fogg (yes, it’s his real name) runs the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab, and he mentions four factors in behavior change:  motivation, educational information, positive attitude and taking small steps. Of these four, the most successful is….wait, first take your best guess. Which one do YOU think leads to successful behavior change?

Before I tell you the answer, I’m going to step over to my groovy chart “From 0 to 10 in less than 100.” In translation, it says that you can establish habits to help you get from where you are (0=baseline) to where you want to be (10=goal) in less than 100 days. This does not imply that you can reach all your goals in less than 100 days; it means you can establish the habits that will get you there. Since you’ve asked about weight loss, I’ll use that as an example. You say, “I want to lose 30 pounds (that’s your baseline, or 0) and be the size I was in college (that’s your goal, or 10).

I’m motivated, have a great attitude and know that it’s healthier for me if I weigh less.” Well, we all know where we are and where we want to be; it’s getting there that’s the issue. By now you have figured out that taking small steps is the answer, yes?

So if you want to lose weight and become more fit, make a chart and fill in the steps that will get you there. You cannot get to 10 from 0 by magic or wishful thinking. If you have not exercised in 20 years, don’t put “go to boot camp 3 times this week” as it’s not a small step. Instead, put “walk for 5 minutes on Monday, then for 10 minutes by Thursday.”

If you’re addicted to high-calorie food and lots of it, write down “wait for 2 minutes (away from the snack) between seeing fatty snack and consuming it in case it turns out that I was going to eat due to its appeal rather than hunger.” From there you can work up to “homegrown organic nuts, fruits & berries!”

The point is, many steps forward (and a few back) will get you there.  Nothing else. Oh, one other thing – once you’ve established new habits, you won’t need to be quite so motivated. I mean, how motivated are you each night to brush your teeth? But you do it anyway, as part of your regular, habitual routine. So get out there and get in the habit!

If you have a fitness question that you would like to have answered by Kymberly and Alexandra, follow the link to submit your question:  Fun and Fit Q & A

Alexandra Williams

Alexandra Williams, MA (counseling) is one-half of humorous expert fitness advice columnists, Fun and Fit, which she writes with her identical twin sister, Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA.

6 thoughts on “Change Your Habits to Achieve Your Goals

  • February 1, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Taking small steps or setting small, interim goals really is the most important part of the process. And you are right about the motivation – once something becomes a habit it’s like being on cruise control!

    • February 1, 2011 at 7:00 pm

      Yes, I think it’s just too daunting if you have to go in big steps. And cruise control is so much more relaxing!

  • January 31, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    Great post. I think the most important advice in the post was said to ‘write down’ you goal. There is something to writing down a top level goal and then spending a few minutes breaking that goal down into smaller, more actionable steps. Spending the time to think it through and writing it down takes a little effort but it’s crucial. It also allows you to go back and read your goals periodically.

    • February 1, 2011 at 6:59 pm

      Thank you. When I was in grad school, they really emphasized that it was only a goal if it was written down. Otherwise it’s a dream. Your points are extremely well made.

  • January 30, 2011 at 9:22 am

    I like the small steps idea very much, everything adds up. Fitness is never an activity, it is a process. A 5 minutes walk here and there, or a stair instead of the lift… some good home made snack instead of going to a fast food stall, it might seem like a slow process, but after a month or two, you will have improved goals.

    And then achieving goals is only half the battle, one has to stick to the routine after the goals are achieved or else everything will go to square 1.

    • February 1, 2011 at 6:56 pm

      I definitely agree with you. My sister and I had a friend who had been told that it wasn’t worth it if she could only do 5 minutes, so she never tried. We reassured her that 5 minutes was worth it. Sure enough, she’s working her way up by sticking to it – 1 minute at a time!


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