My partner introduced me to the “Huberman Lab” podcast this weekend. The first episode I listened to is about the science of setting and achieving goals. It goes into great detail the neurology and psychology of perception, feelings, stop/go actions, and value assignment impacting our ability to meet any goal. This was timely since goals are something I think about often since I see them get set and fail so often. I am currently at a failure point with my weight goal (which is only a small part of my health goals).
His discussion of value and stop-and-go actions was particularly resonant with me. I have found that stop-actions are the most important for weight gaols. My experience is that in a given moment we have multiple goals along with our current perceptions. Meanwhile, we have a single value function mapped onto our action space. When I have cut weight I will find myself in a state of boredom, notice I’m hungry and want to eat. My immediate value function is minimizing my boredom and discomfort. I have, in these moments, force myself to imagine a future where I do not meet my goal, where I get grief from my friends for not meeting the goal I told them about, and suddenly I value not eating more than eating. When I have failures of imagination, I find myself eating. Personally, I have found that imagining the downsides increases compliance more than imagining the benefits. This is more universal than me.
My response to a consistent failure in making progress in a goal is to identify a major failure point, make a concrete behavior change, and make success and failure as clear as possible. A major failure point for me with cutting weight is the time between my son’s bedtime and my bedtime. I find myself snacking during this time. My crystal clear behavior change is no eating after 6:30pm with my last meal being veggie & protein-based. I also hang a post-it of my goal weight on the fridge and pantry. It is very easy to know if I am being compliant, and the visual cues help my imagination stay active. It has been effective short term. I will follow up with the long-term results later.