Steal IFTTT’s Framework to Crush Your Goals

Have you ever just started a diet, eating plan, or tried to kick a bad habit?If-Then

You’ll be living your daily life, trying to be a good steward to your body, health, and your challenge.  You’re trying to cut sugar, sweets, baked goods, and your other unsavory habits and then…


…they pop up everywhere.

Every scent, color, sensation is amplified. Someone grabbed the intensity meter on your reality, turned it up to 11 and ripped the knob off.

You’ll walk away from your desk where you just finished your requisite breakfast of 2 hard boiled eggs and a dozen almonds, when the sweet scent of doughnuts greets you with a warm, pillowy, delicious slap to your face.

Yeah, I love doughnuts more than just about anything.

The aroma, the bright colors, and the mere thought of the delicious taste would be enough to intoxicate the biggest health-food nut.

You reason to yourself, Just one. I can have just one. But, the problem is, that’s not the deal you made.

Doughnuts are strictly for Saturday’s, your regularly scheduled cheat day.

The Internet Meets Reality

To combat the cravings I borrowed a cue from a popular internet site Called IFTTT, an acronym for If This Then That. IFTTT is an ingenious time and labor saving device that enables users to connect to platforms like your email provider, Twitter, Facebook, Evernote, Dropbox, etc.

IFTTT users can create or borrow “recipes” to do daily tasks for them to automate how they handle emails, Twitter notifications, Facebook requests, etc. The tagline of the company is “Put the Internet to work for you.”

Researching this, I thought, How can apply this model or system into my daily life to keep me on point with my challenges, goals, and objectives?

Using “If-Then” to Control Yourself

So, how can you design an “If-Then” scenario to avoid these food cravings?

Let’s be real for a second. I don’t think I will ever evolve into the person that is so health conscience that I will be able to shun doughnuts and think they are disgusting.

Much like being in a committed relationship with my girlfriend won’t make swimsuit models look like Chewbacca.

We are human, we are going to have cravings, wants, desires, and impulses. It’s just the way the human brain works.

But, we do control our actions in response to these primal impulses.

Approach Your Demons with “If” Scenarios

So, let’s design a plan around how we confront these demons when they arise.

Start by writing down or typing out all your “If” scenarios.

If someone brings in doughnuts…
If someone has a bake sale…
If someone has a birthday and offers me cake…

Or maybe if you don’t have a penchant for the sweets, like me, it might be alcohol or rich foods.

If someone offers to buy me a drink after I’ve finished the the “one drink” I promised myself…
If someone offers me a drink and I’m not drinking tonight…
If I go out to this restaurant and everyone orders pasta and I’m cutting carbs…

To try to avoid all of this stuff on a daily basis is daunting. Unfortunately as much as we try to be the master’s of our reality and purge all of the bad things from our environment, things are going to creep in or come up in everyday life that can sidetrack us from our objective. It’s part of life and we simply can’t insulate ourselves from all temptations.

It’s better to deal with them in our environment than to stigmatize them which has a psychological effect that increases our desires for them.

As humans, we let ego get in the way, a lot. We let social pressures and perceptions cloud our judgement. 

Social Norms and Stories I Tell Myself

Our rational brain kicks in and starts spitting out excuses tainted by social norms or societal expectations. And we make up stories. We sit there awkwardly and repeat the following internal narrative.

I’ll feel like a stick in the mud if I don’t partake.

It’s just one doughnut, it won’t matter after all.

I’ll feel bad if I don’t contribute to the bake sale, people will think I’m cheap or a tight-wad or I don’t support the cause.

I might offend someone by not having a piece of birthday cake or they might think I don’t like their baking.

Have a Personal Policy

I have found being direct is the best recipe. Having hard and fast rules and standards are a must. If questioned, stating them purposefully and respectfully is an effective strategy to deal with the big “Ifs.”

I found it best to have scripts or prompts that you go to. I know this might seem a bit neurotic or OCD, but that’s just the framework or story you’ll tell about it.

“Then” Statements For “If” Scenarios

So let’s make “Then” statements in response to our “If” situations.

WARNING: These response might seem a little silly, but they have been effective for me.

If Statement:
If someone brings in doughnuts…

Then Responses:
Then I will kindly decline and state that I only eat doughnuts on Saturday.

Then I will personify the doughnut, I will tell that doughnut it has no power over me at I’ll eat her, her sisters, and the entire leftside of her family tree on Saturday.

If Statement:
If someone is having a bake sale…

Then Response:
Then I will respond with, “I only eat sweets on Saturday, but I’d love to contribute to the collection for your bake sale.”

If Statement:
If someone brings in birthday cake…

Then Response:
Then I will cleverly retort, “If there’s any birthday cake left on Saturday, I’ll take a piece!”

If Statement:
If someone offers me a cocktail…

Then Response:
Then I will simply say that I don’t drink on weeknights.

If pressed…

Then I will respond, “I have to get up early to the gym, I’d rather not.” (Then actually get up and go to the gym.)

“If-Then” for Dining Out

I’ve found the mandatory company dinner to be insanely hard to stay within my standards at.

If: you know you’re going to be tempted by steak, potatoes, and pasta at your favorite restaurant.

Then: Start by looking at the menu online ahead of time. Find foods that are compatible with your meal-plan or lifestyle. It may seem impolite, but try to order first. This will actually set the tone for others meal options and no one will remember, at the end of the meal, what you ordered.

It will also prevent you from changing your mind due to societal pressure or your impulses to order the spaghetti marinara when you really meant to say “salad with light dressing”.

Yeah, you’ll probably be looked at for being different, but think about our heroes and role-models. People see them as different, but it’s more important how we feel about ourselves than what others think about us.

Now it your turn, tell me about a time when you caved on your goal due to a societal pressure or an impulse moment arises. How can you build an “If-Then” in the future to short-circuit this?

Photo cred: Donut Stock Photo by artemisphoto at

Author: Jeff

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  1. IF i crush my plateau this week THEN im going to eat lots of donuts and pasta saturday :-p #carbload #eatclean #donutwhore

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  2. Jeff, this morning I caved on my goal of reading in the morning because I slept in. If I am not able to read in the morning, then I am not going to watch my Friday show.

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  3. That is a great idea. If you have your preset rules in place on how you will handle most situations, you’re definitely setting yourself up for a much greater chance of success. You take the impulse decision out of the equation, as long as you have the willpower to follow through.

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    • Agree completely, Chris. Half the battle is recognizing where you might slip up and how to handle the situation. If you have a game plan its easier to follow through.

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  4. I’m surprised this is the first that I’ve heard of the IFTTT framework. Thanks for introducing it to me! Love you site, Jeff!

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  5. see also (Stanford PhD, psychologist) BJ Fogg’s thinking on triggers and starting tiny with habit changes, forming –

    similarity in thinking about triggers is perhaps confirmation that you’re onto something generally useful.

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  6. Jeff this is great. You’ve given me some ideas to help me fight the temptation demon. Being the Doughnut lover you are, if you ever get to Portland, OR on a Saturday, then you’ll need to hit up VooDoo Doughnuts.

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