The are two main methods to altering behavior. All growth and learning originates from reinforcement or punishment. Either we are punished for a certain action and are discouraged from doing it in the future. Or we are rewarded for a certain action, which leads us to likely repeat that same action in the future. There are numerous sources of research that provide evidence showing that reinforcement is much more efficient than punishment.
So how can this information help your weight-loss? It can shape your attitude towards yourself. Are you beating yourself up for not reaching your goals? Being hard on yourself is a form of self-punishment. Often times this is a result of setting too ambitious of a goal in the start. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to have big goals. However it is much more important to have smaller goals as stepping stones leading up to a big goal.
For example if someone is training for a marathon, they have the long term goal of running 26 miles. However they do not go out the first day and try to tackle such a big goal. Rather they get a coach and train in baby steps. They break their 26 mile goal down into manageable steps which can be accomplished. It is important that we set SMART GOALS. If you want more information on SMART goals, click here. Breaking large goals into smaller ones makes them more realistic. The positive feeling of accomplishing a goal reinforces us to work towards our next one.
The trick is always having a next goal or step to work towards. Back to the marathon example. If the athlete is running 1 mile per day on week one, maybe they can increase it to 1.25 miles per day on week two. This subtle increase in distance will be motivating enough to create growth yet won’t overwhelm the athlete. It is important to add a bit more distance each week until the athlete is able to run 26 miles at a time.
Please do not take this post as marathon advice. Rather follow the principle of setting small goals. Let these small goals gradually get bigger as you accomplish them. If you follow this process for a long enough time and do it over and over you will reach the original big goal that you set out for yourself.