As I continue to explore the pros and cons of January goal setting, I want to talk about not just whether we set goals, but how we set them, because I’ve heard a lot of people tell me, “GOALS just aren’t FUN!” Well, there may be a reason for that.
Hey, Michelle Cederberg here wondering whether you approach goals with a positive attitude or find ways to avoid them at all costs? Turns out, there’s a strategy for better goal setting in that question.
Do you set APPROACH goals or AVOIDANCE goals? And what’s the difference?
Avoidance goals help you move away from undesired outcomes. They’re the things we plan to change or stop to avoid a negative outcome. Your approach goal may be to exercise a little more this year to avoid weight gain and high blood pressure. Other examples might be to quit smoking to avoid lung cancer, stop watching so much TV to avoid becoming a sloth, avoid junk food to avoid weight gain, or to stop overspending so you don’t go broke. You get the picture.Approach goals on the other hand help you move toward desired outcomes. They’re the things we plan to do to keep or achieve a positive situation.
Using the same example, your approach goal may be to exercise a little more this year to stay healthy and energized. This version is framed positively, and it’s focused on approaching good habits, rather than avoiding bad outcomes… ‘stay healthy and energized’ rather than, ‘avoid weight gain and high blood pressure.’ Which version sounds more worthwhile?
Other examples might be:
- Instead of avoiding cigarettes, I’ll get more fresh air
- Instead of avoiding the sofa, I’ll move more outdoors
- Instead of avoiding junk food, I’ll eat healthier
- Instead of avoiding spending, I’ll work to improve my bank balance
See how this works?
If I frame my DRY JANUARY GOAL as an avoidance goal it might be, “I’m going to stop having wine with dinner because it’s not good for my waistline or pocketbook.” It’s true, but not very empowering.
If I frame it as an approach goal it might be, “I’m going to drink more water and be more mindful of my health and savings.” That feels more energizing.
There’s a feeling of deprivation attached to avoidance goals, and although both examples are related to the same goal, I think you would agree that they’re psychologically different.
Studies have shown that approach goals are associated with more positive emotions, thoughts, and self-evaluation, as well as greater psychological well-being.
Avoidance goals are associated with fewer positive thoughts and more negative emotions, and they tend to be rated higher on procrastination than approach goals.
Knowing that, if you’re trying to drop pounds for example, you will do better if you focus on moving more and making better food choices than you will if you try to avoid junk food and your sofa.
If you want to drink less or quit smoking, you’ll do better if you choose to drink more water when you crave wine, or walk around the block for some fresh air when you crave a cigarette. Not only will you effectively reframe your avoidance goal to an approach goal, but the diversion will give you enough time to allow the craving to subside. You may be surprised how brief that time frame needs to be.
The key is to learn to think differently about the task and your ability to accomplish it. Challenge your initial thought that it’s not enjoyable or, more importantly, that you’re not capable, because you are!
Instead, take the time to think about how you’ll accomplish the task or how you can make it more enjoyable. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.
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Until next time, I’m Michelle Cederberg reminding you we get one chance to do this life, I say Dare to Live It Big, and dare to reframe your goals in a way that feels fun and feasible, not tough and terrible.
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