There are many reasons why people do not reach the goals they set for themselves. I want to share with you my own “system” for setting and achieving goals. I happen to be very goal-oriented so I devised P.O.S.I.T.I.V.E. goal setting to maximize my chances of achieving what I want and let me tell you: it definitely works! So let’s get straight into it, shall we?
Sounds obvious? You would think so but I cannot tell you how many times when I ask people what they want to achieve, they insist on telling me what they DON’T want rather than what they DO want, e.g. “I don’t want to be stressed”, “I don’t want to be in pain”. Our subconscious does not process negation (don’t, won’t, etc.) because negation is a function of language, which we can only comprehend on the conscious (rational/logical) level. This means that when you say “I don’t want to be stressed”, the main focus word in this statement is “stressed”. This will be what you have to access in order for your brain to make sense of what you are saying. So you will end up connecting with the feeling of “stressed” even though you are saying that you “don’t want to be stressed”. So instead, ask yourself what you want to be/feel/do instead? Always aim to create a positive experience, e.g. “I am starting to feel more relaxed/ at ease/calm now”. Now you have a positively-stated outcome.
One of the main reason people do not achieve their goals is because they are aiming to please others and therefore are not every strongly motivated to do whatever it takes to reach that goal. If you are going to achieve anything, it has to be because YOU want to achieve it and not because your husband, daughter, doctor, or whoever else, tells you so! You have to be honest with yourself, otherwise your motivation is unlikely to be strong enough and you will be finding excuses why you can’t seem to be able to achieve the outcome.
Do you remember SMART goal setting? Yes, your goals still have to be SMART!
S – specific (the more specific, the more likely you are to achieve it; engage your senses)
M – measurable (e.g. amount of antibodies, amount of money, dress size)
A – achievable (is it possible for YOU to achieve it?)
R – realistic (no matter how much I would like to ride a unicorn on Saturn, I am unlikely to achieve that in my current reality – perhaps another life and another dimension!)
T – time-framed (need to be framed in time rather than open-ended)
An example of a SMART goal could be: “My thyroid antibodies are reduced by 50% by the end of 2018”, “I fit into my size 8 dress by the end of July 2018” (notice the present tense – more about that later).
Achieving goals takes much more than wishing for something to happen. This is why it is essential to be inspired by your goals. If you are sufficiently inspired, you are motivated to do whatever it takes and continue working at it even when life gives you lemons. When I ask someone what they want to achieve and they answer in a dull tone of voice: “I suppose I would like to...”, I can guarantee they are not going to do it. Where is the emotional input? If you are unsure if you are sufficiently motivated to achieve your outcome, I encourage you to do the following exercise.
Spend a few minutes answering the questions below (one at a time). Close your eyes and imagine what you will or won’t be seeing, feeling, hearing, saying to yourself.
1. What WILL HAPPEN if you DO achieve your goal?
2. What WILL NOT HAPPEN if you DO achieve your goal?
3. What WILL HAPPEN if you DO NOT achieve your goal?
4. What WILL HAPPEN if you DO NOT achieve your goal?
If after doing this exercise your emotions have not been stirred up and you are not feeling motivated by whatever you imagined will or won’t happen, I suggest you go back to the drawing board and redefine your outcome because you are unlikely to have enough motivation to achieve the current one.
Formulate your goals in the present tense. This means state them as though they are happening right now. Rather than say: “I will recover from autoimmunity at some time in the future”, say “I am recovering right now and I am completing my recovery process by Dec 2018”. This is a much more powerful way of expressing yourself and it encourages your brain to be actively working on achieving what you have specified right now. In contrast, “some time in the future” is completely wishy washy and therefore meaningless from your brain point of view.
It is because of the Reticular Activating System (RAS). We are much more likely to get what we focus on so by writing your outcomes down you give your brain a point of focus (your RAS takes what you focus on and creates a filter for it) and become extra-aware of having the particular experience of achieving something.
Before you start working on your goals, you should always check ecology and ethics.
- know when/ where achieving your outcome is desirable and when/where it may not be
- consider the consequences of achieving your outcome for you and others who may be important to you
- does your outcome align with your core values?
Have a way of knowing when you have been successful (use your senses to define that). Learn to receive and interpret honest feedback so you are aware of whether you are getting closer to, or further away from, your outcome. Award yourself when you get closer to achieving it.
The final advice on goal setting is: avoid being rigid. I know many people who set their goals reasonably well but then life happens and they give up or claim “t was never going to work”. The truth is that they lack behavioural flexibility to analyze and adapt to the circumstances. If they were more flexible, they would soon realize that with some tweaking they can still reach their outcome. Or maybe they just didn’t have enough motivation to begin with? Either way, you need to manage your expectations and accept that your journey to achieving your outcome is not necessarily going to be like this
but is more likely to look like this!
Still, enjoy and make your 2018 count!