I don't want to sit on my couch every night.
I need to stop being negative towards my spouse.
I have to stop snacking at midnight when I can't sleep.
Today I was inspired by a teleclass given by Dr. Liana Lianov when she mentioned approach goals vs. avoid goals. An avoid goal is something you're trying to stop doing, like eating late at night or fussing at your spouse. While on the surface it sounds like a goal, it actually doesn't create positivity and self-efficacy (a feeling of ability and encouragement created by past successes that pushes you to continue to pursue future goals). How can we turn these goals into approach goals - goals that have a positive spin and a tangible action to pursue? Let's take a look at how to change the examples above:
Avoid: I want to stop eating so many sweets.
Approach: I will eat three servings of fruit per day, one at each meal. (Notice it's will and not want to)
Avoid: I don't want to sit on my couch every night.
Approach: I will do lunges during each commercial break of my TV shows.
Avoid: I need to stop being negative toward my spouse.
Approach: I will find at least one thing every day to praise my spouse about.
Avoid: I have to stop snacking at midnight when I can't sleep.
Approach: When I wake a night, I will either listen to a guided meditation track on my phone or read a boring book.
You can see that these are about changing not only the tone but also making it an active goal. Not doing something is not action-oriented; avoid goals don't give us something measurable to work towards. Instead, approach goals give us something that we can check off or physically do. They create a sense of success that spurs us to continue with the goal. They also have the interesting effect of helping us stop doing what we were trying to avoid in the first place! For example, by looking at the good things our spouse does for us, we can see that maybe they really aren't so bad after all, which might curb our negativity toward them.
Have you ever transformed an avoid goal into an approach goal? What was the outcome? If you need help doing that, feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a wellful holiday season!