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Mastering your Goals with ABA

You're a BCBA, you know how to write goals for your clients (but if you don't go check out my Masterclass: Assessment and Report Writing)... but how often do we use our skills on ourselves?

Are you using ABA to create goals that you can actually master? Let's take a look at what all of your goals should have to ensure your success:

1. Focus on Replacement Behavior

Many times our goal is to STOP doing something.

>>>Stop eating junk food

>>>Stop spending so much money

>>>Stop getting to work late

But what do all of those things have in common? They are NOT behaviors! They do not pass the deadman test and we should not be taking data on what we don't do. Instead, think about what you should be doing to correct your behavior.

>>>Eat whole, unprocessed foods

>>>Save $200 every month

>>>Wake up 30 minutes earlier and set a timer for when to leave

2. Shape your Behavior

We don't expect our clients behavior to change overnight, so why do we often set unrealistic goals for ourselves? Break your large goal into smaller steps that you can master on your way to your ultimate goal and shape your behavior over time by changing 1-2 aspects of your behavior each time.

Some examples include...

Long-term goal: Run a 5K/ Short-term goal: Go 1 mile with alternating 1 minute walk/run cycles

Long-term goal: Drink 64oz of water a day/ Short-term goal: Take 10 sips of water everytime a 30 min timer goes off.

Long-term goal: Lose 20 pounds/ Short-term goal: Go to the gym 4 days a week and eat whole-foods for 80% of meals

3. Use Antecedent Strategies

Antecedent strategies help us make changes to our environment to set us up for success. We use them all the time with our clients, so let's not forget to use them for ourselves!

Some ways to use antecedent strategies include:

>>>Arrange your environment for success but don't rely 100% on avoidance

>>>Pair completing your goal with something preferred. If you hate working out but love reading, save some audiobooks for the treadmill only!

>>>Have visuals of your goal or your progress towards your goal always in your environment

4. Take Data!!!

It would be unthinkable to not take data on our clients, so when it comes to YOUR goals, make sure you are taking regular data that is giving you an accurate picture of your progress.

>>>Take plus/minus data for the whole day for goals like working out, turning in work on time, etc.

>>>Take raw data, possibly converted into percentage, on goals that focus on meeting a target number like drinking 64 oz of water or sleeping 8 hrs at night

>>>Take interval data on goals that you are trying to maintain through the day like not biting your nails or staying off of social media during work hours.

5. Reinforce your Success

We all know that "Behavior goes where reinforcement flows" (Aubrey Daniels) so REINFORCE YOUR BEHAVIOR! That doesn't mean give yourself a gold star, that doesn't mean reinforce yourself when you reach your ultimate goal, it means that you should reinforce yourself for your small wins as you work your way up to reaching your ultimate goal.

And how should you reinforce your behavior? What do we do with our clients? If they are successfully engaging in a replacement behavior instead of a challenging behavior maintained by escape, we reinforce them with escape. If you are working on replacing a problem behavior, consider reinforcing yourself with whatever was originally maintaining it, like having a treat meal after one week following a diet. You can also reinforce yourself with reinforcing items or activities, like letting yourself buy concert tickets to a band you've been wanting to see, or a few hours playing a video game once you got your work done. The possibilities are endless, just make sure you are using reinforcers, not just preferred items, and be sure that the quality and quantity of the reinforcer is sufficient for the amount of effort you've put in towards your goal.


Do you need help tracking your goals, plus your personal and professional life?

Check out the Behavior Analyst Professional Planner which includes...

  • Personal/professional goal tracking

  • Spiral-bound 6-month planner with fill-in-the-date monthly and weekly views

  • Monthly client summary sheets to track progress, hours, and more (16 per month)

  • Monthly quick behavior technician evaluations (20 per month)

  • End of month summary for clients AND techs

  • Notes pages


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