Inside: How To Make An If-Then Plan For Success.

Frustration easily sets in when you set your mind to do something and come up short. We see this every year with people signing up for gym memberships, gung-ho to change their lives and finally have the body they have wanted all their life. They start strong in January by meeting with a personal trainer who explains the equipment to them and walks them through a routine that they can follow. Each day they come in eager but as the month wains on these new members dwindle and you just see the regulars.

I’m part of the regulars. Why, because I made a commitment to myself about 5 years ago that I was going to make fitness and working out part of my routine and life. I’d always been in decent shape but finally put my foot down and decided now was the time. Based on my family history of heart issues I decided that I was going to attempt to get ahead of the curve. I can be found at my local LA Fitness pretty much every day trying to remain fit and in shape.

What I did to get myself in the habit of working out was to put together a simple plan that I would follow. That plan starts with a series of if-then statements.

If Then Pin

What is if-then planning? 

If-then planning is a concept of deciding in advance when, where and how you will take specific actions to achieve your goals. If-then planning forces you to make a plan that may be a bit vague and turn it into a plan with specific actions.  Some refer to if-then planning as an algorithm which defined means:

a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.

Simply it is explained as follows:

If X happens, then I will do Y.

The X in this “algorithm” can be an event, time or place while Y is the specific action to be taken.

When we use if-then planning it allows us to act without giving much thought as we have already set the algorithm in our brain in advance. Instead of thinking, pausing or waiting, you are already prepared with the answer. The “then” portion is the most important as it is your make or break statement. Your ‘then” will determine the success or failure you will have. It should be a positive action and something that you absolutely can do.

If-then planning also helps to avoid procrastination, a major factor for people not achieving their goals. Let’s look at an example:


Let’s say for a moment that you have decided that you’d like to lose weight this year but how do you plan on doing so to avoid stopping the pursuit of this goal? Many people would set a vague goal like “I want to lose weight and get fit so I’m going to exercise more”. This statement has noble intentions but it is not specific enough and is open to interpretation. How much is more?

Instead use an if-then plan like this, “I am going to work out at the gym every morning at 5:30. If I have an appointment that interferes with the schedule, then I will bring my workout clothes with me and go to the gym immediately after work”.

This if-then statement contains specific actions and takes into account a few possible roadblocks that you could encounter along the way, time and other obligations.


Try it yourself

  1. Write down your objective and be clear about it. What do you want to accomplish or what ritual do you want to put in place (i.e. lose weight, get more sleep)? It should be one objective at a time. Don’t list multiple habits you want to change all at once.

  2. State the action you’re going to take to achieve the objective (i.e. do cardio 30 minutes a day 5 days a week, go to bed by 10:00 every night)

  3. Identify possible obstacles that may derail your objective (i.e. work, travel, junk food, television, social media). Think hard about everything that could throw you off track from achieving what you’ve set your mind to.

  4. Create your if-then statements taking into account the obstacles you’ve laid out. There may be a few statements that need to be put in place based on the obstacles

Failure may happen at times and that is ok. May sure to write down what caused you to stray off the path to success and at that to your list of obstacles. Use this failure to come up with a new if-then statement.


Example if-then statement…

Objective: Go to bed early

Action: go to bed by 10:00 every night

If-Then: IF … something is on television that I want to watch but it’s 10:00 Then…I will record it and watch it at a later date.


If you are committed to making a change in your life then you need to create a series of if-then statements to change your habits. Work through the exercise above and create an “algorithm” to train your brain on how you will respond to specific situations. You will find that it becomes easier to stay the course when you have programmed a distinct set of instructions on how to take action into your brain.

Do you use any if-then statements in your life? Comment below and sign up for the free weekly newsletter filled with tips and advice.



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.