Setting outcome goals with extrinsic motivators are the shiny objects of resolutions but psychology research continues to prove that they simply aren’t as effective as some other proven strategies for changing habits, mindsets and behaviors for lasting change. Think of it as an evolution instead of a resolution.
Best of all, you don’t have to wait until the strike of midnight 2023 to lay the groundwork for your evolution. You can start right now. Here’s how to get into your 2023 mindset now.
But First, What’s the Difference Between Intrinsic and Extrinsic goals?
To put it simply, an intrinsic goal can be defined as a goal that you are pursuing that builds on your core values and authentic passions and will contribute to your growth as a person—either personally or in your relationships. Another way to look at it is that you are doing the thing for the love of the thing itself, not the outcome that may be associated with it.
Extrinsic goals on the other hand, would be the aforementioned outcome associated with doing the thing. They can materialize in the form of recognition from others, a career promotion, reaching a certain level of fame or obtaining something you’ve been wanting. Extrinsic goals are solely focused on the outcome and not the journey getting there.
Why is Self-Care More Important Than Ever?
After a couple of tumultuous years, we’ve all had a chance to reflect on what’s important (and what’s not), where we want to spend our time and the goals, both intrinsic and extrinsic, that matter to us. In examining all of this, common themes like health, wellness and self-care become something of a zeitgeist after our physical health was threatened by Covid-19 and mental health and emotional health was threatened by isolation, working from home and other factors.
In the wake of that, we suddenly saw an unprecedented thing happen called The Great Resignation—or the Great Reshuffle— in 2021, where nearly 47 million Americans voluntarily resigned to pursue new paths after realizing they were overworked or underappreciated in their roles.
We also saw the rise of another revolution called “quiet quitting” where instead of resigning, employees detach from their roles and instead of working themselves into the ground, they consciously choose to do only what is required—the bare minimum—and refuse to go above and beyond.
To be clear, we’re not saying that we condone or advise either tactic as an act of self-care but one conclusion we can draw from these massive shifts in the workplace is that the pandemic gave us a lot to think about—and people are now taking a stand and putting self-care first.1,2,3
By using self-care as our compass, and knowing that intrinsic goals are the true path to an evolution of self, here are 4 ways you can shift into your 2023 mindset now and get a head start on lasting habits for meaningful change.
1. Make Yourself Priority #1
We’ve all heard the analogy about putting your own oxygen mask on first before helping someone else and if the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that we are no good to anyone around us if we are passed out on the floor. In some ways, we’ve been conditioned to think that this mentality is selfish—but it’s far from the case. We can only be at our best for others when we’ve taken care of our needs and have a full cup to pour from.
A few ways to honor yourself and practice self-care is by first asking yourself what you need—and often—taking guilt-free breaks when you need them and establishing a few non-negotiables that nurture your physical, mental and emotional health. Perhaps it’s your daily workout, meditation time, no phones during dinnertime or 15 minutes of quiet time after work.
2. Change from a “Missing-Out” Mindset to a “Gaining” Mindset
A lot of people tend to focus on what they are giving up or missing out on when they attempt to make healthy changes, such as cutting out junk food or embarking on a sober month like Dry January.
When you wrap the effort in language that emphasizes what you’re missing out on, it will dictate how you view the overall experience—like you’re missing out on something—even if it’s an unhealthy habit to begin with. Instead, focus on what you’re gaining. Make notes for yourself and repeat affirmations that reinforce the positives of making the change. Instead of “Sober October” why not try, “Soaring October” because you’ll be so high on life from detoxing, no hangovers and feeling great!
Another tactic to try is to replace saying, “I have to” with “I get to”. So, if you commit to working out five days a week, replace saying, “I have to workout today” with “I get to workout today!” and watch how your energy around that statement and the action changes. Basically, you’re shifting your mind to recognize your healthy habits as a privilege—not a punishment.
3. Put Emphasis on Behaviors VS Outcomes
This goes back to the intrinsic vs extrinsic goals we talked about. An end-goal like losing 10 or 20 pounds is an outcome, and oftentimes an extrinsic one. But the journey to getting there is all about changing your habits for the healthier—moving your body more and fueling it with nutritious foods for example—behaviors that are so life-changing, you’ll want to maintain them.
Work on shifting your focus from an over-glorified end-goal and instead move your energy into behaviors that you want to instill for life. Perhaps it’s sleeping more, drinking less alcohol, eating better or exercising more—insert your goal here. Oftentimes when you’re busy reinforcing all those amazing day-to-day habits, the big end-goal just sort of takes care of itself.
That said, changing behaviors can be challenging because we have to rewire our brain and work against an established reward system that we’ve been reinforcing for years—sometimes our entire lives. For that reason, scientists say it’s important to start with small, realistic goals and celebrate and reward small progress steps along the way to reprogram your mind towards the new, healthier behaviors you’re establishing.
4. Identify with The Person You Want to Be
In addition to shifting your focus from outcomes to behaviors, take it one step further and identify with the person you are working to become in order to evolve into that version of yourself. For example, if you’re offered a donut in the employee break room, instead of saying, “No thanks, I’m trying to eat better”, which implies you want to that person but you’re not yet convinced that you are, try saying,” “No thanks, I don’t eat that stuff” and fully identify as a healthy eater that doesn’t eat fake food. Identifying with “You 2.0” is a proven strategy for behavioral change.
A University of Oregon Neuroscientist wrote for Consult Psychol J that, “A behavior will hold greater subjective value to the degree that it is related to one’s core values and sense of self. Identity-linked goals are more likely to be successful than identity-irrelevant or identity-counter ones.”
So in other words, if it aligns with your core values and you believe it—and identify with it—you can achieve it.