Writing Goals and Changing Habits

CS Lewis Goal Quote_thumb[2]

Summer is only a few short months away and that means shorts, dresses and little bikinis. I won’t exactly be sporting a little bikini, thank you twins, but I do plan to look amazing in a bathing suit. Even though I like the way I look in shorts and dresses right now, I’m not really comfortable stepping out in public in a bathing suit.

I plan to change a few habits that will help me lose weight and look great this summer.

Meeting goals and changing habits are extremely hard. If it was easy, we would never set New Year’s resolutions and all of us would be at our perfect weight. If we were to break down our goals and habits into small doable actions, we just might be able to accomplish them.

Writing Goals

It is often said to write goals in the SMART format. The goals should be specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and time bound.

For example, lose weight is not a SMART goal. It is too broad. I want to lose 7 pounds by April 30, 2012 by changing 6 behavioral habits over the next 6 weeks. This means I need to lose 1.2 pounds/week. This goal follows the SMART format. To break it down even further, I need to define what behavioral habits I’m going to change.

Changing Habits

In order to change behavior, you must target both sides of the brain. According to the book Switch, to change behavior you need to direct the rider (rational side of brain), motivate the elephant (emotional side of brain) and shape the path (the situation or environment). I have set this goal because I want to take my children swimming for the first time this summer. Losing weight is the rider, feeling comfortable in a swimsuit so I can swim with my children is the elephant and changing my habits is the path.

The rider needs clear and specific instructions. My goal is to lose 7 pounds by April 30, 2012 by changing behavioral habits, but I need to outline how I’m going to make that happen.

My plan is to introduce a new habit every week. The weeks will alternate between a nutrition and workout habit. This way I will be able to stick with a nutrition and workout habit for two weeks before adding a new one.

My habits need to meet the following criteria:

  • small
  • measurable
  • something I can do daily
  • something I’m 90-100% confident I can achieve

Example: My nutrition habit this week is to consume 2 cup of water when I wake up and with my meals. This equals ~10 cups a day.

Next, I want to create an action trigger for each habit. An action trigger is telling yourself you will do XX (action) when you encounter YY (a trigger).

Example: I will drink 2 cups of water when I make my coffee and before eating my meals. I will also write my habit on a post it note and tape it to the refrigerator.

Commitment and Consistency

To fully commit to my goal and change habits, I need to be consistent. It is human nature to desire consistency and to look like a consistent person.

One way to ensure consistency is to write out our goals and habits. I have outlined my goal, habits and action triggers for the next 6 weeks in a notebook. I have written down this week’s habit on post it notes and stuck them in several areas of my house, so I am constantly reminded. I also wrote this week’s habit on my daily to do list. The act of checking it off gives the feeling of accomplishment. Written commitments are extremely effective due to the amount of effort it goes into making them.

Another way to ensure consistency is to publically announce your goals. You do not have to announce your goals in person. You can always email a friend, share your goal on a social media site or even share it on a blog.

Each week, I will share my progress, my new habit and action trigger.

Writing goals and changing habits summary:

  • Write your goals in the SMART format
  • Pick a habit every two weeks that will get you closer to reaching your goal
  • Each habit should be small, measureable, something you can do daily and something you’re 90-100% confident you can achieve
  • Make an action trigger for each habit
  • Write your goal and habits down on several post it notes and stick them in various visible area in your house, car and office
  • Publically commit to your goal


  • Heath,C. and Heath, D. Switch. New York: Broadway Books, 2010.
  • Cialdini, R.B. Influence. New York: HarperCollins, 2007.

Red heartRed heartRed heart

What are you goals?

Do you have an effective process to completing your goals?


  1. Some people say that drinking along with meals is not that healthy. It dilutes the gastric acids so the digestion gets all messed up from them on. From just a waste of nutrients to unnecessary gases.

    Too much additional water to the amount needed to not be thirsty may also have a similar effect to dehydratation ironically, and overload the livers.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I find this interesting and honestly have never heard of not being able to drink while eating. I did some research this morning and was unable to find any credible sources supporting this claim. I would love to know your sources. I also don’t understand what you mean by waste nutrients. Nutrients by definition are substances that are essential for the body to live and grow. This is the information I was able to find on digestion and gas.

      • There are very little chemical digestion of nutrients that occur in the stomach except for initiation of protein hydrolysis and limited continuation of starch hydrolysis.
      • Main constituents of gastric juices include water, electrolytes, hydrochloric acid, enzymes, mucous and intrinsic factors.
      • The stomach serves as a reservoir of food and gastric juices and functions to physically breakdown food. It grinds and mixes food with gastric juices to form semiliquid chyme.
      • Majority of digestion of nutrients occurs in the small intestines. I will post a diagram on my facebook page showing the sites of nutrient absorption in the GI tract.
      • The mucous in the small intestines is alkaline, pH level of 8.2-9.3, to help protect it from damage. Any interruption in the pH can cause ulcers.
      • Water aids in digestion and prevents constipation.
      • Gas in the upper GI tract is primarily from swallowing air and less from chemical reactions that occur from the digestion of foods. This can be prevented by eating with the mouth closed and not using a straw.
      • Gas in the lower GI tract is often from eating a large amount of fiber, resistant starches, lactose in those that are lactose intolerant and alcohol sugars.

      Yes, drinking too much water can be dangerous. As far as water intoxication:
      • Hyponatremia- low serum sodium.
      • Water intoxication increases volume intracellular fluid causing cells to swell, particularly brain cells. This becomes dangerous because the brain is enclosed in the skull and is unable to expand. This can cause headaches, vomiting, nausea, muscle twitching, blindness and death.

      Even without going into the science, humans have been drinking while eating for a very long time. If drinking while eating was unhealthy, it would be a known fact that would be discussed by our doctors, taught by schools and at the very least covered by the news. I always drink water while eating and have never had any problems. With that being said, Nutrition is a dynamic field and new discoveries are being made all the time.

      Gropper, S.S., Smith, J.L. and Groff, J.L. Advanced Nutrition And Human Metabolism. Belmont: Thomson Wadsworth. 2005

      Mahan LK, Escott-Stump S. Krause’s Food, Nutrition & Diet Therapy. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders/Elsevier. 2004

      Mayo Clinic http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/digestion/AN01776



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