Do you decide in advance or just wing it? Your calendar says a lot about where your priorities are. If I were to look at your calendar, would I be able to tell what your goals are?
Most people think that motivation is what keeps people focused on hitting their goals. Actually, setting an intention is more important than motivation according to the British Journal of Health Psychology1. A study published in 2002 found that 91% of people who set their intention by actually writing down when and where they would do physical exercise actually followed through with the exercise every week.
Intention is the determination to do a specified thing or act in a specified manner. It’s an idea that you decide in advance to carry out. Stating a goal without setting an intention or plan to make it happen is merely wishing or dreaming. Intention is where you ‘put your money where your mouth is,’ according to an old saying.
An implementation intention is a plan you make beforehand about when and where you’re going to act to implement a habit or behavior. It can be as simple as filling in the blanks. “In the coming week, I will [ACTION YOU WILL TAKE] on [DAY] at [TIME] in [PLACE].” Once that intention is set, fill in those days and times in your calendar as an appointment with yourself. This will ensure that nothing else gets scheduled at that time. When the appointed time arrives, you simply follow through and take the action in the place that was predetermined.
By planning in advance what action you’ll be taking as well as when and where that action is to take place, you’ll more likely step into the behavior that leads to fulfilling your goals.
I encourage my clients to decide in advance what food they will eat that day, when they will exercise, and what time they will go to sleep! The simple act of deciding in advance improves their follow-through!
One other strategy can improve your chances of follow-through and success with your goals. When you declare your intention to others and ask them to hold you accountable for performing the behavior or actions that you say you will, the likelihood of you successfully completing the actions is further magnified.
You can make a public declaration on social media, tell someone your intentions in person, via mail or in an email. A good strategy is to partner up with someone to hold each other accountable for accomplishing your goals. This makes it a win-win proposition since you’re both checking up on each other.
Don’t just choose anyone as an accountability partner, though. You want someone who is reliable and committed. Make sure it’s someone who will actually hold you accountable and call you out if and when you fall short of performing the actions you state you’ll perform.
It’s best to decide in advance what consequences or how rigid you each would like to be regarding reaching your goals. If you really want someone to strictly hold your feet to the fire and they’re very forgiving and easy on you when you slide with your actions, this will not help you reach your goals. On the flip-side, if you prefer a more gentle approach, and your partner belittles and chastises you when you miss a deadline, you’ll feel intimidated and humiliated to continue this relationship and more likely to give up your goals.
Set Up Your Accountability Partnership
One of the best ways to set up routine accountability meetings is to meet consistently once a week at the same time on the same day. You can use phone, Skype, or Zoom-type conference rooms to meet. Agree on the amount of time to spend on your weekly accountability. You probably only need a few minutes for each of you to go through the following list:
- Outline 3 action items you can commit to doing over the coming week.
- Check in with each other whether or not you completed the action items.
- If you did not complete the action items, what were the challenges that held you back?
- What’s your game plan for overcoming the challenges going forward?
- What are the 3 new action items you commit to accomplish in the coming week?
You can also agree ahead of time on the consequences for consistently not following through with getting your action items accomplished when stated. Having someone hold you accountable for your actions (or non-actions) makes you more likely to follow through and avoid facing the consequences of not doing what you said you would do.
Increase the likelihood of reaching all your goals. Set an intention by pre-determining what action you will take when and where. Declare your intentions by announcing to others what you’re doing and find someone specifically to hold you accountable. When you follow these steps, you’re putting your goals at a high priority and you’ll more likely reach that inevitable success.
Accountability increases your consistency because sometimes we break promises to ourselves easier than we let others down. Accountability is a big part of my coaching program. We all hit rough spots and having someone to gently push you forward makes a big difference!
If you want the support and accountability to tackle your health goals, check out my Fueled For Fun Program!