Dr. Milyavskaya's research featured in Bloomberg Manulife eDigest

Published: 25 March 2015

Dr. Marina Milyavskaya of the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology was interviewed recently for Ideas that Move You, a selection of current articles on active living brought to you by the Bloomberg Manulife Prize for the Promotion of Active Health.

The Faculty of Education is now accepting applicants for the 2015 Bloomberg Manulife Prize for the Promotion of Active Health. This important prize, valued at $50,000 CAD, is awarded each year by McGill to an academic whose research has had, or has the potential to have, a significant impact on the health and well-being of North Americans.

The 2014 recipient was Dr. David A. Jenkins, renowned nutritionist and inventor of the glycemic index. Candidates for the Bloomberg Manulife Prize for the Promotion of Active Health must hold an academic appointment at a North American university and be actively conducting research in a campus or hospital setting. The deadline for applications is May 15, 2015. For additional information about the prize, eligibility or the application process, please visit the appropriate website.

Beyond Willpower: 5 tips to reach your health goals

An interview with McGill’s Dr. Marina Milyavskaya, expert in goal pursuit and motivation.

By Valerie Khayat
Source: Bloomberg Manulife eDigest, Mar. 23, 2015

Why are we successful in attaining certain goals but not others? Why are some of us better able to resist temptation along the way? Is it only about willpower? Dr. Marina Milyavskaya, an assistant professor at McGill’s Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology (ECP), has made these questions the focus of her research. For the last decade, she has examined contextual and individual factors that promote successful goal pursuit, self-regulatory mechanisms and wellbeing. I recently met with Milyavskaya to speak about this process and some of the ways we can increase our chances for success. Here are five tips to put the odds in your favour:

Listen to the complete interview here:  drmilyavskayabmp2015.mp3

1- Tailor your goal to your values
Research has demonstrated that meaningful and autonomous goals are more likely to be successfully achieved. What does this mean? Take initiative and set a goal that is important to you instead of pursuing one that is imposed by someone else. Don't wait for your health to suffer or for your doctor to tell you that you need to make changes (an example of a non-autonomous goal). Take the lead in setting wellbeing goals that will enhance your life according to what is important to you. But before setting out on achieving your goal, choose well.

2-Be specific
Assign time and date markers that will allow you to strongly commit and maintain your momentum while also tracking your progress. "I would like to lose 10 pounds within two months" is more effective than "I would like to lose weight". Set goals that are measurable. This will allow you to know exactly when you have achieved them. By being specific, you are increasing your chances of remaining motivated.

3- Keep good company
We all know just how important a support system is and that is why the "buddy system" can be so helpful. Milyavskaya adds that it is not the mere presence of a support system that can increase our chances of achieving our goals but the type of support our network offers us. Don't simply surround yourself with cheerleaders. As you pursue your goal, you want to be around individuals who seek to understand why you may be struggling and can remind you of why you are pursuing it in the first place.

4- Give yourself a break!
Perfectionism is good and can even be a motivating force but paired with self-criticism, the results are often detrimental. Milyavskaya explains that when we start blaming ourselves for not achieving our goals as quickly as we had hoped or when we lack self-compassion, our wellbeing can suffer significantly. Be gentle with yourself and encourage yourself along the way. Most of all, be flexible and review your goal if it seems unrealistic.

5- Make it as easy as possible
Milyavskaya suggests that "implementation intentions" are an effective way to stay on track. Translation in non-scientific terms: create a precise routine and set up your environment to make it easy for yourself to remain disciplined while minimizing temptations. Your routine should make your actions towards your goal automatic. Milyavskaya adds that you should plan in such a way that you exert the least amount of effort and self-control in the process. For example, leave your (already packed) gym bag right next to your door as a reminder and easy transition to the gym when you arrive home after work.

Whatever goal you choose, make sure it holds meaning for you and that it fits in well with the rest of your life ambitions. Goal pursuit is a process that requires patience and flexibility so if you don’t succeed the first time, stay positive and try again. 

For more helpful tips and the full conversation with Milyavskaya, click here:  drmilyavskayabmp2015.mp3

To view the original article online, please visit the Bloomberg Manulife Prize website.

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