• Toby Sinclair

How To Achieve Personal Goals Using Given When Then

At the start of a New Year, many people turn their attention to new personal goals, often referred to as New Year resolutions. We all know how these “resolutions” usually end up, forgotten and unachieved. However, there is a strategy that can lead to significant chances of meeting your goals.

One of my personal goals for 2017 is to read 24 books. The first book i’ve finished this year is Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade by Robert Cialdini.

Within the book Robert talks about “If/When Then” plans to achieve personal goals:

“If/When Then plans are designed to help us achieve a goal by readying us (1) to register certain cues in settings where we can further our goal, and (2) to take an appropriate action spurred by the cues and consistent with the goal.”

An example might be:

“If/when, i need to travel by public transport, then i will read a book.”

Whilst reading my attention was brought to the similarities of “Given – When – Then” which is typically used by software development teams to describe some desired behaviour of the product they are building.

Applying Given – When – Then in the context of goal planning might look like this:

Given i need to travel to work When i travel by train Then i will read a book

Scientific studies have proven this type of goal planning leads to higher likelihood of goal achievement. One study looked at the common New Year goal of increasing exercise. Half the participants were asked to plan where and when they would exercise each week (e.g., “If it is Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, then I will hit the gym for an hour before work.”) The results were dramatic: months later, 91% of if-then planners were still exercising regularly, compared to only 39% of non-planners!

How could you use this type of planning for your 2017 goals?

Here are some more examples of Given – When – Then planning for my 2017 reading goal:

(1) Given it is Wednesday When I break for lunch Then i will spend 20 minutes reading a book (2) Given i’m at home When i have some free time Then i’ll read a book (3) Given i’m at home When i realise i’m aimlessly browsing the internet Then i will read a book instead (4) Given i ‘m currently reading a book When i feel that its boring Then i will stop and select another book (5) …

You can track my 2017 reading challenge on GoodReads

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©2020 by Toby Sinclair.