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When we think about the word ‘rehabilitation’, we tend to think about ‘drug rehab’ or rehabilitation after injury. We seldom think of rehabilitation in terms of a weight loss journey or when we try to improve our chronic disease-related risk by reducing long-term blood sugar or blood pressure levels.

In the world of positive psychology, setting and achieving goals has long been recognised as an important component of drug or injury rehabilitation. The same, however, is true for chronic diseases of lifestyle such as Type 2 diabetes and obesity. The old adage: ‘If we don’t know where we’re going then anywhere will do’, most certainly applies when it comes to caring about our health.

While we know that goals are good, what appears not to have been well-studied is how the capacity to achieve goals is developed. What makes the achievement of goals happen? The development of hope theory over the past 15 to 20 years indicates that the defining characteristic of goals is the attribute we call ‘hope’.

Research clearly demonstrates that people with ‘high-hope’ are much more likely to achieve goals than those people with ‘low-hope’. This statement, of course, begs the questions: what is hope and how can we maximise it in order to improve our ability to set and achieve goals?

Experts in the field of hope theory have define hope as “….a positive motivational state that is based on a interactively derived sense of successful (a) agency (goal directed energy) and (b) pathways (planning to meet goals).” In other words, in order to have hope we need to have goals and then be able to develop plans and motivate ourselves to achieve the goals.

Having goals is an essential component of hope and hopeful thinking in turn helps us to achieve our goals. It’s a two-way street. Having clearly specified goals helps to develop high-hope thinking. Importantly, in thinking about the specified goals we wish to achieve, we need to assign a ‘value’ to the goals in mind, as research shows that we are much more likely to pursue a goal if we believe that it has high value.

Goal setting and achievement play very important roles in sustaining the health-related behavioural change associated with weight loss and with improving health outcomes for people with the Metabolic Syndrome and chronic conditions.

I am Dr Peter Hill for UpForIt.