Monitoring Goals Increases Success
We all want to reach our goals in life.
And every year we seem to make new resolutions and goals. We have every intention of following through with our new plans. But we almost always seem to miss the mark.
The problem is that making goals is easy. Accomplishing them is another matter. So the question becomes, then, what’s the best way to go about achieving them?
That’s a pretty complicated and nuanced topic. The answer may vary a bit from person to person. In general, however, there may be a few guidelines we can follow.
So what’s the best way to reach your goal?
A recent review of goal progress and achievement may have some answers. Overall, it appears that monitoring goals increases success. The research also reveals other tips useful in achieving your goals.
“Monitoring goal progress is a crucial process that comes into play between setting and attaining a goal, ensuring that the goals are translated into action.”
These words come from Benjamin Harkin, a PhD at the University of Sheffield. His study – which did a comprehensive review of achieving goals – was recently published in the journal Psychological Bulletin.
“This review suggests that prompting progress monitoring improves behavioral performance and the likelihood of attaining one’s goals.”
Benjamin and his team performed a meta-analysis of other research. It’s an analysis used to verify the reliability and consistency of previous research and their results.
They analyzed over 138 different studies that tallied a total of almost 20,000 different people. The scientists were looking to see how if prompting someone to monitor their goals was an effective strategy.
The studies they reviewed were primarily health goals. Things that included losing weight, quitting smoking, changing their diet, or lowering blood pressure. Goals that many of us can personally relate to.
Their overall finding?
Subjects who were prompted to monitor their progress toward a goal increased the chance that a goal would be achieved. They also found that the more frequent they monitored it, the greater the chance of success.
That wasn’t the only awesome tip to come out of the study. There was a couple of other great takeaways.
Researchers noticed that monitoring the behaviors wouldn’t affect the final outcome. It only affected the monitored behavior.
And if you monitored the outcome? Then the outcome would be affected but not the behaviors used in reaching it.
This can be tricky and confusing at first. So let me try and break it down.
Think of it like this. There are two parts to reaching a goal. You have the outcome itself, and the behaviors that are used to reach it.
Let’s take losing weight as an example. It’s a pretty common goal.
So losing weight is the ultimate goal. Now, what are the behaviors associated with it? It could be a change in diet or maybe exercising (there are other behaviors as well).
The scientists found that if you monitor what you eat (the behavior), then your diet will change. But you won’t necessarily achieve your goal of weight loss.
If you monitored how much you exercised (another behavior), then you will exercise more. But not necessarily lose weight.
On the other hand, if you monitor your weight (the ultimate goal) by getting the scale everyday, then you will lose weight. But you won’t necessarily eat better, or exercise more (the behaviors).
Remember this, though. The research stresses that monitoring either behavior (or end goal) doesn’t guarantee a change to the second part . You could still have a scenario where monitoring one might have an effect on the other.
Benjamin sums it up:
“The implication of this finding is if you want to change your diet, then monitor what you are eating, but if you want to lose weight, then focus on monitoring your weight.”
One More Thing
Here’s one last thing they found from analyzing over 130 studies. And you’ve heard it before.
Write it down.
They found that monitoring your progress had greater success if the information was physically recorded or publicly reported. The scientists gave an example of people who were a part of a weight loss group. Participants that weighed themselves in front of other members would have a better chance of success.
So here’s the breakdown of over a 100 analyzed studies to change your behavior.
- Frequent monitoring increases chance of success
- Monitoring goals may not achieve change in behaviors. Monitoring behaviors may not help you achieve your goals.
- Physically keeping track of your progress or publicly announcing it will increase success.
In your quest for healthy change, keep these things in mind. How you start has a lasting result on how you finish.