Possibly because they have such a terrible name, implementation intentions (also known as if-then plans) seem to be pretty underdiscussed.
Basically, a shit load of psychological theories and models have proposed goal setting as the critical step in goal attainment. And it's not wrong that setting goals is helpful. But we also know that people commonly fall off the wagon when it comes to achieving the goals they set out for themselves whether it's because they never started in the first place, got derailed, kept plugging away at a sunk cost, or overextended across too many goals. Estimated rates of compliance with the advice of self-help material are under 50%. So even people highly motivated to change behaviours fail to put into practice the wisdom they've paid for. Obviously, there's some kind of disconnect between desiring achievable things and achieving desired things.
Recently, there's been a lot of research into an extra step in the process that has an even greater effect on goal attainment. Researchers have found that statements of the form, "I intend to achieve X" ought to be bolstered by if-then plans such as, "If Y happens, then I'll do Z." What these implementation intentions do is prepare for obstacles to goal attainment by contextualizing the goal-directed behaviour within the situation that it will actually take place. Making a commitment to attain a goal doesn't prepare you for the situation in which you'll need to take actions toward that goal. Unforeseen factors can throw you off if you don't consider the environment in which you plan to take next actions.
These have good track records at improving eating habits, increasing physical activity, following recommended relaxation techniques for reducing anxiety, enhancing influenza vaccination rates, and increasing voter turnout.
For each goal that you'd like to attain, consider the next action you can take that will get you there. For actions that you know might be difficult, plan a specific time and place in which you'll take these actions and prepare a response to the foreseen obstacle.
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