So I recently discovered anti-goals – a PO colleague (thanks Arwen!) sent me an article about it (she knows me well) and I really related so did a bit more of a dive into it. I thought I’d share some of it with you as I think it could be an excellent approach for many.

Anti-goals are a reverse approach to goal setting that focus on behaviours or habits that you want to avoid, rather than outcomes you want to achieve. Anti-goals can be effective in breaking negative patterns and achieving positive change because they help you identify and focus on the underlying causes of your problems, rather than just treating the symptoms. Note that if you google it, you’ll find the method has been interpreted in a few different ways and also applied a few different ways. If the idea intrigues you but my method does’t make sense to you or you can’t relate, definitely look up some other approaches!

Anti-goals are great for people who are naturally demand-avoidant, or who get overwhelmed with the expectations and pressure exerted on them by having goals focused on achievement. They are also good for the dopamine seekers (raises hand) who might get bored with goals but take great joy in habit-tracking on a frequent basis.

An example of an anti-goal might be if you wanted to increase your savings. Instead of setting a financial goal to achieve a dollar amount, focus on avoiding overspending by creating a budget, tracking expenses, and avoiding impulse or non-intentional purchases. So the focus is turned around on creating behaviours that support your desire to save money, instead of just the dollar amount of the goal itself.

Here are some benefits of using anti-goals:

  • Clarity: Anti-goals can provide clarity and focus by helping you identify the specific behaviors or habits that are holding you back, rather than just vague aspirations or unachievable goals.
  • Breaking negative patterns: By focusing on what to avoid, anti-goals can help you break negative patterns and habits that may be hindering your progress towards your desired outcomes.
  • Creates space for new habits: By focusing on what to avoid, anti-goals can create space for new habits and behaviours to emerge.
  • Avoids goal fatigue: Anti-goals can help avoid goal fatigue because they are less demanding and can be more sustainable in the long term.
  • Avoids demand-avoidance issues: when you’re demand avoidant, goals just aren’t that effective. They put too much pressure on and trigger avoidance just by their nature.

Here are the steps to take to create anti-goals:

  1. Identify something that you do not want to be, do or have. Let’s use the desire to not feel uncomfortable in your home as an example.
  2. Think about the main things that make you uncomfortable in your home. Is it the dining table covered with stuff? Or is it all the clothes hanging in your wardrobe with the tags still on them? Is it the perpetual pile of washing on the sofa or the cluttered entryway full of shoes and bags and whatnot?
  3. Now for each of those things you’ve identified, create an anti-goal like “Don’t put things on the dining table” or “Don’t go clothes shopping on grocery day anymore”, “Don’t leave clean washing on the couch” or “Don’t dump the shoes and bags in the hallway”. Choose things that support you avoiding the undesired outcomes. They can be positively worded if you like, such as “clean washing goes away the same day it dries” or “shop for clothes only when something falls apart”, they don’t have to be a “Don’t…” sentence.
  4. Optional: track your new anti-goals in a habit tracker or similar tracking system for reward and motivation.

By focusing on what to avoid, anti-goals can provide a fresh perspective and help you break negative patterns that may be hindering your progress towards your desired outcomes. They also work on some of the core issues that have been preventing you achieving your goals in the first place.

Let me know what you think! Would you give it a shot?

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