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03 Apr, 2018

Achieving Your Goals & Finding Long Lasting Joy

In this interview, behaviour change psychologist Heather McKee discusses her top tips to find joy in mental wellness.


There is never a better time to focus on mind wellness than now. As part of our Spring Equitox package we are teaming up with weight loss expert and behaviour change psychologist Heather McKee.

In this interview, Heather talks to us through how to find joy in spring cleaning our mindset, letting go of past beliefs and discusses how to build new healthier habits that last. We are sure you will find this incredibly helpful - share it with friends and family, and get ready to reshape your mental wellness this Spring....

Tell us about your approach to to setting and achieving goals.

I come from a research background specifically around behavioural change. I look at what key factors help people to stick with habits long term that ultimately lead to goal fulfilment.
I help people to recognise that they need focus on things they enjoy and like to to engage with, and turn small bite size habits into long term life changes.

Where do you think most of us are going wrong when it comes to setting and achieving goals?

I find that when it comes to health and wellness, A lot of people think that by placing restrictions on themselves and in a way punishing themselves will make them healthy. Research has actually shown that that approach is ineffective because it does not help us to form healthy habits that turn into long term behaviour change.
One of the other key places that people go wrong is with an ‘all or nothing’ mindset. It’s not reasonable to take up several new habits in one go, which people tend to do particularly around the Spring time or New Years. It is simply too difficult for us to be successful at.

What’s the most practical and achievable way of setting goals?

I talk a lot about the concept of ‘goal dilution’. It’s the theory that the more goals you have, the less likely you are to be able to achieve that one focal goal. One way to overcome that is to pair back your goals and make smaller goals that focus on really simple things that almost feel irrelevant. What this does is builds habits over time and it is something that I do with my clients. We sit down and set one small goal- they feel super confident that they are going to be able to achieve it. What happens is the repetition of small goals becomes automatic over time and translates into habits. That way the healthy choice becomes an easier choice.

Also when it comes to making these small goals, you have to make sure they are goals that you enjoy. Don’t worry about following the latest trends or forcing yourself to do something you despise. Let’s use spinning for example, if you dread the thought of going to the gym because you’re going to go spinning, it’s never going to be a long term change and it becomes pointless.

One key piece of advice I give people that are trying to set up new habits is to identify which habits are no longer serving you and identifying what you can let go of. What are the things that you trying to push yourself to do, that you're not getting any joy out of and are ultimately not making you feel good

What is the best way of changing old habits?

I really believe that best way of changing a habit isn’t by getting rid of it completely, but by replacing it with a new habit. My suggestion is that you make a ‘Joy List’. Write down all of those things that you enjoy about being healthy and associate that with a feeling. You might identify that a healthy breakfast makes you feel more productive and focused at work or that a boxing class gives you a feeling of empowerment and confidence. Once you start thinking about what you enjoy the most, you can look at replacing those things you enjoy less to change those old habits.

What’s your tip for shifting our mindset to benefit from long term gains?

Focus on the process rather than the outcome. So often we’re trying to set up new goals that might be about lifting a certain weight, or seeing a certain number on the scales that we so often let that outcome be the dictator of a success. If we don’t get to that number, we get disappointed and often when we do get to a goal we feel the pressure to push harder which in the long term is not going to serve us. What serves us is focusing on the process, those daily things that we get joy from to actually build those healthier habits over time rather than just focusing on the outcome. We are so much more likely to stick with habits we enjoy and it becomes part of us.

Finally don’t forget that consistency is key to habit change. Habits are built through context-dependent repetitions - if you always do things in the same environment, if it’s repeated enough at the same time it's more likely to form a habit. Routine and consistency means that once you have one thing locked down, you can try and build on it to make it even more enjoyable. For me I started with the knowledge that I loved going for walks, before I knew it I was inviting friends, or using it as an opportunity to indulge in an audio book and it becomes even more enjoyable.


Find out more information on Heather at her website: