Have you ever set a goal for yourself, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, enthusiastic about what pulling it off will do for you?
It’s called self-monitoring.
As the name would suggest, it simply involves monitoring how you’re progressing towards a goal by tracking it in some way. So, whether you keep a written log in a notebook, use an app to assist you, or make a checkmark on a calendar, research shows that recording your desired behavior increases your odds of accomplishing your goal. It’s deceptively simple, but incredibly effective.
How does self-monitoring work?
If, for example, you set a goal to meditate every day for fifteen minutes, you’ll increase your chances for success if you hang up a calendar in a conspicuous location and document each day that you engage in your practice.
Or, if you want to be kinder, taking time each evening to write down your acts of kindness for the day will increase your odds of developing that aspect of your personality.
Or, if you decide you want to finish a self-study course in a certain time frame, you’ll be more likely to do it if you map it out on your smart phone calendar, set reminders for yourself, and mark off each completed lesson on a chart you place on your bulletin board.
So, why does the act of tracking a behavior and comparing it to a goal you’ve set for yourself increase your odds of success?
First, self-monitoring helps to keep your goal top of mind. After all, if you are diligently logging your progress, it’s pretty hard to forget about the commitment you made to yourself.
Second, self-monitoring helps keep you accountable. So, if you are assuming you’re consuming 1,500 calories a day, but your calorie counter tells you that your fast food lunch used up 1,200 of those calories, self-monitoring will make you all too aware of how the choices you make are affecting your progress. (Plus, knowing that you’ll have to enter that gargantuan hamburger into your log can act as a deterrent from eating it in the first place).
In a related vein, self-monitoring helps guard against denial. If you feel like you’re putting a bunch of work into your new business venture, but your work log shows you’ve only put in 3 hours for the past two weeks, you’ll be busted, and know you need to put in more time towards your goal.
Finally, self-monitoring gives you immediate gratification when you’re doing well. For example, when you see a week of smiley faces on your calendar for hitting 10,000 steps on your pedometer each day, you’ll get a boost of pride for the good job you’re doing.
So, set yourself a clear goal, and start measuring!
And, if you really want to boost your chances for success, share your goals with others. The additional encouragement or “peer pressure” associated with knowing that others will see whether or not you are doing what you have committed to do, will provide additional motivation to follow through.
Have you ever tried self-monitoring? How did it work for you? Share your experiences in the comments!
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