I want to change, because I repeat loops without progressing. The same stuff comes up, and the same goals pass me by without me enacting them: “the wise woman does at once what the foolish does at last.”
To simplify matters, the four human drives are work-pleasure, physical exertion, social status, and love. Almost any wish or goal you have will be affiliated with one of those—enjoying work more, being fitter, socially validated, loved.
Reading up on psychology studies like this one by Peter M. Gollwitzer of the University of Konstanz and Veronika Brandstatter of the University of Munich (published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology) demonstrates part-by-part planning increases success rates for goal achievement in students by 40%.
As Gollwitzer and Brandstatter say:
The theoretical distinction between goal intentions (“I intend to achieve -c”) and implementation intentions (“I intend to perform goal-directed behaviour when I encounter situation z” ; P. M. Gollwitzer, 1993) is explored by assessing the completion rate of various goal projects. In correlational Study 1, difficult goal intentions were completed about 3 times more often when participants had furnished them with implementation intentions.
A four-part plan can apply to all facets of life: it explains how to change your life; how I can change my life. To make progress you must practice goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. I demonstrate the template in personal and hypothetical four-part plans below. I encourage you to do your own: the research shows simply outlining them in detail like this makes it more probable you’ll succeed.
Feasible wish; achievable outcome; barriers; action-plan
Feasible wish: I want to be a good student. Achievable outcome: Get higher grades. Barries: Relying on inadequate motivation and falling into depression apathy: setting agenda too late, working all-at-once and with diffuse ideas. That my disability limits me. Defeatist fear of disappointing and failing to impress the ones I care about. Action Plan:Work incrementally and as early as possible limit myself to basic topics. Outsource my studying to habit, study and write what the audience will mark highly, hunt out the conversation and relevant quotes that address the question; address strengths and weaknesses, of each author’s argument; what assumptions does it make, does it overreach? Who disagrees? Question the question itself, repeat for reader’s poor working memory; use a tablet and the Zotero referencing system.
I want to be less stressed, anxious, depressed. Meditation and compassion practice each day. Prioritising the pressing rather than relaxing. Reframe my depressive and anxious tendencies as brain bias. Do mindfulness with the free app InsightTimer after lunch, or in the evening.
Nonreactive and calm in the morning. Doing the morning sequence after waking up: water-breakfast-omega 3-dress-agenda-teeth-facewash. Staying up late and sleeping-in. Going to wake up and repeat the habit each time for 66 days and go to sleep when I yawn. Wake up instead of sleeping in by thinking about food. Get sun exposure outside or with SAD light in the morning for melatonin.
Be organised. Knowing when things are and making progress toward completing them; not worrying about niggling things. Worrying about niggling things, fear of failure and disappointment creating avoidance behaviour such as avoiding work, dates, deadlines, inevitable rejection. Have an expansive and updated written to-do-list of important and urgent, urgent and trivial, not urgent and trivial, not urgent and important. Do day tasks by order of dread. Defer secondary things (maybe forever).
Be stylishly calm. Follow a spreadsheet for clothes and for food. Lack of clothes, especially socks, and blindness to coherent clothes and the expense of food. Follow a spreadsheet for clothes and for food: prepare outfits and chop food for the week all-at-once. (Actually do it, as smarmy Californian self-help as it sounds).
Feasible wish: be fit. Tangible outcome: exercise each day. Barriers: getting too overwhelmed, distracted, tired and pessimistic to be motivated. Action plan: Run only alternate days and slowly; reward myself with a chocolate or an episode of The Twilight Zone.
I want to tangibly help people without overstretching myself or worrying about timing. Volunteer each week. I fluctuate in what I do at the whim of the week. Speak to Kerry to set up so I do Saturday from 1o-5.
I want to properly sing and play guitar. Playing and singing for a set time (30 mins) each day. I schedule in for my fears rather than my pleasures; I do it in bursts without the consistency or honed-in-on-a single thing dedication needed to progress. Use ankidroid to learn all the notes on the fretboard, train my ear, and rehearse recalling the basic songs through visualisation for 30 mins.
Be a healthy ethical eater. Eat plant-based meals and nutritionally dense snacks. I do not get enough food and forget to shop. Order healthy food that lasts a month en-masse and cut-up in preparation after shopping. Eat more calories in the morning. Buy tupperware to prepare lunches in advance.
I want to be happy. Immerse myself in communication, service, and understanding. I become existential, depressed, lonely and self-fulfilling bad prophecies become so overwhelming that I fear what I do. Start the day with what you dread; rank by dread and allot to progress; pleasure, and fun comes after the stress and aversion inducing work is done—therefore is more pleasurable.
I want to be a journalist. Shadowing work experience, interning, write professional articles. I prevent myself by becoming embedded in the paradox of too much choice of what kind of journalist, doing other academic tasks or just ‘enjoying’ myself doing forgettable TV or passive music listening. Plan of action is to cut back on music listening, create a list of possible job titles, create tailored CVs and generic speculative applications, form a list of internship organisations or potential vocational postgraduate degrees.
I want to be a creative writer. Getting a series of stories published or at least entertain my friends and myself. Again, fear of failure and fear of shame and fear of effort makes me prioritise what I am likely to gain materially or be socially validated by rather than validate myself. Maintain my ideas book of potential plot lines, keep a set of cards to memorise what stands out in a book, find admirable pieces and compare to gaps in life, write unashamedly as much for content as for form
I want to enjoy rather than be made anxious by games. When a friend asks to play chess, cards, pool, or board games I will for a short while. My fear of shame, and my poor working memory induce anxiety. To address the issue take each game and learn about how they work in turn; train items in working memory; admit anxiety to other players.
I want a prettier bedroom. Will have redecorated and put all the art prints I have listed and new actual bookcases. Barries are the lack of money to purchase the objects. I will get enough money from an internship or working a job after uni to redecorate my room as I’ve always wanted it to be.
I want to not waste my life. Exchange time wasting on what I will forget in a week for what will make a difference in my mind, finances, and social life in six months. I procrastinate productively with things like this because I prefer words to deeds; I make the mistake of being too general and broad that I don’t achieve depth. Outreach myself to my better knowing composer of this and treat these rules like commandments upon the fridge to follow-through. Actually follow.
So you see, almost everything we humans worry about can be limited to those four needs and addressed by four-part plans. Have a go, if you like, and tell me how it goes. I’m curious.