The more people monitor their progress towards a goal, the more likely they are to succeed.
It also seems to matter how you monitor your progress.
The best techniques are publicly or physically recording progress.
For example, those trying to lose weight should regularly weigh themselves in front of others.
The conclusions come from 138 different studies including 19,951 people.
Most participants were trying to lose weight, quit smoking, lower blood pressure or change their diet.
Dr Benjamin Harkin, who led the research, said:
“Monitoring goal progress is a crucial process that comes into play between setting and attaining a goal, ensuring that the goals are translated into action.”
The more people monitored their progress, the greater their chances of achieving their goal.
One key the researchers uncovered was that it is vital to focus mainly on the end result you are looking for.
For example, if you are trying to lose weight, it’s best to monitor and record just your weight.
Some people trying to lose weight who just monitored their diet only succeeded in changing their diet, not in losing weight.
Dr Harkin said:
“The implication of this finding is if you want to change your diet, then monitor what you are eating, but if you want to lose weight, then focus on monitoring your weight.”
Dr Harkin continued:
“Our findings are of relevance to those interested in changing their behavior and achieving their goals, as well as to those who want to help them, like weight loss programs, money advice agencies or sport coaches.
Prompting people to monitor their progress can help them to achieve their goals, but some methods of monitoring are better than others.
Specifically, we would recommend that people be encouraged to record, report or make public what they find out as they assess their progress.”
The study was published in the journal Psychological Bulletin (Harkin et al., 2015).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
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