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How to Reach Your Fitness Goals

awareness behavior change change daily mindfulness evidence based goal achievement goal setting growth mindset mindset research perfection Apr 15, 2022

Have you ever heard, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”?

Even if you haven’t, I’m sure you can understand it to be true, especially when it comes to health and fitness behaviors!

How often do you have wonderful intentions to do X, Y, and Z but fail to make it to the “other side” into actual behavior, action, and eventual goal achievement?⁣

Intentions are necessary for goal achievement but often aren’t sufficient.⁣

Research provides evidence that you have about a 50/50 shot of your intentions leading to actual behavior.⁣

Today I want to talk about my favorite strategy to bridge this gap using “if-then” planning (aka implementation intentions)⁣.


How Implementation Intentions Work


Implementation intentions are similar to habit formation. If-then planning helps you use environmental or social cues to initiate goal-directed behaviors, making goal pursuit more automatic. 

This method helps you recognize ineffective behaviors and prepares you to replace them with better alternatives. In other words, you stop doing what isn’t working. 

By practicing implementation intentions, you conserve mental resources to avoid competing goals or distractions. The result is you’ll have more energy for self-control. 


Instead of traditional goal intentions, like:⁣

 “I want to live a healthier lifestyle.”⁣

Implementation intentions connect a future situation with a specific goal-directed behavior, like:⁣

If I’m offered another glass of wine, then I’ll opt for soda water instead.”⁣

Implementation intentions are especially helpful for situations that typically present obstacles or challenges.⁣

Thinking about these situations in advance leads to better perception, attention, and memory concerning that situation.⁣

Because of this pre-planned process, the goal-directed action (e.g., drinking soda water) has a chance of being performed more automatically and efficiently without tons of conscious effort or hesitation⁣.

Remember, hesitation provides cracks for your excuses to break through. But with this more automated process, you free up more “resources” for your brain to use to avoid competing goals or distractions⁣.

Simply stated, specifying the where, when, and how of the intended behavior makes you more likely to achieve your goal.⁣


Research Supports Implementation Intentions

Before you think, “wow, this is so stupidly simple, no way does it make that much of a difference,” I promise you, it does.⁣ And science can back me up!

According to research, if-then planning can be helpful for goal achievement with:⁣

⁣If you haven’t given this strategy a try, I strongly recommend you do. 

Start with something small like the wine example above and see how much better and more in control you feel. 

Want to work with a coach who can help you with if-then planning to help you achieve your goals? KJO Coaching has your back!

We’ve got a stellar team of coaches who can help you develop strategies that will result in long-term, sustainable results. CLICK HERE to learn more, apply, and book a FREE consultation call!

Check out my original post HERE.


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Adriaanse, M. A., Vinkers, C. D., De Ridder, D. T., Hox, J. J., & De Wit, J. B. (2011). Do implementation intentions help to eat a healthy diet? A systematic review and meta-analysis of the empirical evidence. Appetite, 56(1), 183–193.

Armitage, C. J. (2016). Evidence that implementation intentions can overcome the effects of smoking habits. Health Psychology, 35(9), 935–943.

Bélanger-Gravel, A., Godin, G., & Amireault, S. (2013). A meta-analytic review of the effect of implementation intentions on physical activity. Health psychology review, 7(1), 23-54.

Godin, G., & Kok, G. (1996). The theory of planned behavior: a review of its applications to health-related behaviors. American journal of health promotion : AJHP, 11(2), 87–98.

Hagger, M.S., Lonsdale, A., Koka, A. et al. An Intervention to Reduce Alcohol Consumption in Undergraduate Students Using Implementation Intentions and Mental Simulations: A Cross-National Study. Int.J. Behav. Med. 19, 82–96 (2012).

Sheeran, P., & Orbell, S. (2000). Using implementation intentions to increase attendance for cervical cancer screening. Health psychology : official journal of the Division of Health Psychology, American Psychological Association, 19(3), 283–289.

Hi, I'm Kasey!

I coach, mentor, write, and teach with one main focus: Build strong bodies and healthy lifestyles, starting with your mindset.


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