Recently, I talked about how the environment we choose makes or limits our success. As is my way, I like to analyze personal development and explore how I can improve mine. I hope that by doing that, one of the pay-offs will be that others gain some insight and improvements too. In other words, helping myself to help others is a goal.

I’m not going to delve into the theory behind goal setting and its importance here, there’s plenty been written on that. Although I will begin by mentioning a theory put forward in the 1960’s by Edwin Locke; an American psychologist and a pioneer in goal-setting theory.

“This theory states that goal setting is essentially linked to task performance. It states that specific and challenging goals along with appropriate feedback contribute to higher and better task performance”.

Goal Setting is Nothing New

It started a long time before Locke proposed his theory in the days of our ancestors, the hunter-gatherers. They set goals to catch some of their food and if they didn’t, they starved. From what anthropologists tell us, they lived in challenging eat or be eaten environments. So, they needed another goal; not to be eaten while out catching Sunday lunch.

We have it easy today, our local stores provide most of the foods we need and the main in-store hazards are staying in budget and avoiding shopping cart crashes with other shoppers.

Consciously and unconsciously we set shopping goals. Perhaps starting with a list, most of the goals we set for familiar things like shopping have sets of automatic responses and when we arrive in the store environment, we know how to behave, what’s expected and how to get the job done.

Changing the store environment is usually not an option; it is the way it is, and we respond according to interactions in the store and any personal baggage we bring with us. If we’ve had a challenging day, it’s difficult to leave the effects of that in the car. Realistically the only thing we may be able to do to change the environment is when to shop. I avoid around 6:00 pm on Fridays for example when the average shop takes around an hour longer than usual; not to mention the time it takes to find a parking slot.

Turning around 6:00 pm Fridays, if I shop at 09:00 on any weekday, it’s heaven. I’ve proactively changed the environment and there’s no need for the gloom and doom response that is triggered by Friday evening shopping. If it’s too busy on Friday evening, Then I will shop on Monday morning (If-Then).

Implementation Intention

In 1999 psychologist Peter Gollwitzer introduced the concept of “implementation intention”. This is a self-regulatory strategy in the form of an “if-then” plan that Gollwitzer proposed can lead to better goal attainment and help improve habits and behavior modification. It is secondary to goal intentions because it specifies the when, where and how portions of goal-directed behavior. Studies conducted by Gollwitzer show that the use of implementation intentions can result in a higher probability of successful goal attainment, by predetermining a specific and desired goal-directed behavior in response to future events or cues.

Putting it To Work

Written goals in life or business are extremely helpful. Visualizing the achievement of the goals adds motivation. But what about the entire goal process? Research has shown that writing down and visualizing the process of achieving goals increases performance and lessens anxiety.

A Helpful Process

  • Think about a goal that matters to you right now.
  • Write it down.
  • Give it a short timeline.
  • Imagine the potential obstacles that might crop up while you are working to achieve the goal.
  • Write them down.
  • What are your specific If-Then responses to each obstacle you’ve envisioned? Write them down.
  • What conditions will lead to quitting or abandoning this goal? If you know what may cause you to quit, you can deal with it before it happens. Write your If-Then responses.

It Seems Negative

By exploring how failure might look and visualizing “If-Then” responses you are developing positive mind-plans that can become automatic responses to goal threats. I can tell you that this process works but, only if you are deeply committed to your goals and your confidence to succeed.

Keep A Journal

Or, in my case, two journals. One is personal, it relates to my thoughts about my own personal development as they crop up each day. I don’t wait for the end of the day to write; I write when I feel the need. The second journal relates to what I do, research I discover, my goals, If-Then . . . It works for me; you know what works for you.

The main thing about my journals is that in a sense they out-source my working memory to my personal environment and help me to create environments that promote the behaviors I want.


There are many other ways to effectively explore and challenge your limits. We need a box of tools to challenge the boundaries and move forward toward success.

If you feel that you may benefit from help, please leave your contact details in the comments section below and you will be contacted by your preferred method. Please understand that your contact details will never be published, and your privacy is assured.

Comments and Questions

Please leave yours below. Your thoughts or questions may well ignite a positive spark in other readers thinking. You will always receive a prompt response to your questions and there is no such thing as a bad question; only the one that was never asked.


I bow to the place in you that is love, light, and joy

and wish you a wonderful day.

Peace & Light

Steve Costello is a British Community & Youth Studies and Psychology honors graduate with over 30-years theoretical and practical experience in the Personal Development public and private sectors. He founded ExGro in 2018 with business partner, friend and clinical psychologist, Leo Faerberg.

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