Achieve more with this psychological hack

by Chris Winfield-Blum  - September 16, 2018

There are many psychological hacks that we can use to push ourselves to greatness. These are tricks of language, perception and action that give us a higher chance of applying our knowledge effectively, being productive and snapping out of negative or self-deprecating habits.

I may look to talk about other related “hacks” in the future but today I will start with a phenomenon known as “if/when/then statements” or “if/when/then plans”.

The premise of this theory is that our minds work best through the power of association, even subtle ones. When we give ourselves a goal or task, usually we do so in very simple terms;

“this year I’m going to lose weight”, “I’m going to quit smoking” or “I’m going to study “

Evidence from a high number of research studies suggests that the issue with this is, even considering a persons own drive and motivation levels, that success rates are relatively low. How many new years resolutions have you kept? The research conducted, suggests that associations or links are critical to preparing our minds for effective action.

Associations or linking is, in fact, so important that people are two to three times more likely to achieve a goal if it is effectively associated with a specific cue. In fact, almost shockingly, in one study, 91% of people who used an if-then plan stuck to an exercise program, versus 39% of non-planners. That’s crazy right?

So coming back to the same three goals I suggested above;

“this year I’m going to lose weight”

as discussed, you are much more likely to succeed if the goal is associated with a cue so let us agree that to lose weight you need to, firstly, eat more healthily and secondly, go for regular runs. We should instead phrase our goals in the following ways;

  • If I am going to eat fast food then I will eat a healthy salad instead
  • When it is Tuesday or Friday morning, then I will run to work

“I’m going to quit smoking”

applying the same principle we should rephrase our goals as such;

  • When I feel the need to smoke then I will eat a carrot stick instead

“I’m going to study “

and again, we will rephrase our goal;

  • When it’s 7pm then I will study the course curriculum

This slight change in phrasing helps to associate or link your goal and the emotion behind it to a specific cue or situation and remind you of your goal and the emotional reason that you made it in the first place.

What is really great about this hack is that it costs you no more time than setting any other goal. So it doesn’t even hurt you to give it a try, in fact let’s set our first if/when/then goal now;

“When I set personal or professional goals then I will use the if/when/then approach”

Imagine if you achieved two to three more of the personal and professional goals that you set yourself. Think of the things you could achieve, the heights your career could reach and importantly the personal satisfaction you could have in yourself.

Good luck and let me know if you realise a significant improvement in the results of your goals and objectives after applying this approach!

Do not get education confused with learning
The ideal approach for offshoring technical roles

Chris Winfield-Blum

Software enthusiast, operations & project manager, MBA graduate, team builder, creator, developer, writer and father.

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