Doing the same thing and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.
In order to take a step towards what we want in life we need to do something different. But, it’s hard to make those changes when all we’re doing is thinking about losing weight, getting more exercise, eating healthier, changing our careers, making more money, being more patient with our kids, taking more risks, or planning more intentionally. We’re not taking the most important step towards taking action – actually setting goals.
When we take the time to set goals, we shift from having a thought about how we wish our lives could be to concretely working towards making a real change.
Why is it so hard to set and work towards reaching our goals?
First of all, our brains are trying to help us survive. They are trying to keep us safe. Remember the motivational triad from this blog post? Well, setting and making goals move us away from the comfort and ease our primitive brain is always seeking. Our mind thinks that goal setting and risk taking poses a threat to our survival. But there is no real threat. There is no lion around the corner, only the possibility of failure, discomfort, and other negative emotions.
In fact, our brains are in reality protecting us from emotional, not physical danger. Emotional danger can’t hurt us, but avoiding feeling is stopping us from living our best life, which involves experiencing all types of emotions.
I have personally have faced some emotional danger this past year, on purpose. I have started a business and taken many risks. I have been working on managing my mind through it all. My path was, for sure, not without peril. In fact, during these past 12 months, I have felt tons of challenging emotions, including fear, doubt, anxiety, discomfort, and courage. I have failed more times than I can count on both hands. I have cried, been overwhelmed, wanted to quit, indulged in confusion, and ate way too much chocolate. But I can’t wait to do it again this year!
So if reaching our goals is so challenging and uncomfortable, why even bother setting goals at all?
The other 50% (negative emotion):
Striving to meet our goals helps us to learn how to deal with negative emotion. As humans, we experience negative emotions anyway 50% of the time, so we might as well feel it on purpose and for something useful! Experiencing the roller coaster of emotions, learning how to feel them, and still taking action anyway are really important reasons for setting goals. Feeling tons of fear and doubt are par for the course when we set and strive to reach goals that are big enough to help us grow.
The Future You:
When we set and strive towards goals, we are moving closer to the person we want to be in the future. In order to reach our new goals, we have to learn how to think like the person who has reached that goal already. This helps us to become more aware of our thoughts and how they are creating our current results and learn how to use new thoughts to get us to our goal. We can notice our beliefs that we have that are limiting us, and adopt new beliefs that will help us get to the goal. Setting goals is a great way to practice believing what you want to believe and believing in impossible dreams.
Thinking big and dreaming about the future is a great way to help us to get a different result in our lives, whether it be to have better relationships, a different career, more money, better health, etc. If we don’t dream and set goals, we become stagnant and never reach our full potential as humans. Creating and setting goals help us to live an extraordinary life.
To be a role model for our kids:
This year, I had my kids brainstorm goals that they would like to set for themselves at the same that I was setting my goals. We reviewed the list this week that we made this past January and talked about what we wrote together. My kids were so proud of the goals they met and what they learned in the process and were very proud of me too. It was a great moment!
We owe it to the rest of the world:
I know this sounds woo-woo, but for real, the world needs us to create and to put ourselves out there. Imagine if Steve Jobs was like “Nah, it’s too hard for me to create a small computer that we can put in our pocket. I think I’ll just watch Netflix instead.” Striving to reach goals stretches us and helps us learn more about ourselves, and to get closer to becoming the person we want to be. Everyone is unique and no one else can offer the world exactly what we can in the same way we can. We at least owe it to the world to try.
To create our own human experience on purpose and to have fun:
Setting and striving towards goals helps us experience more of life and all the potential of being human. I believe we are worthy and whole from birth, so working towards our goals in life just helps us to have more fun and have more amazing experiences, so why not?
How to set and ACTUALLY reach those goals!
So now you know why it’s important to set goals, let’s talk about my 6 step process that I use to accomplish my own goals, and that I use with my clients.
First, make sure to print out the Worksheet – Setting and Reaching Goals.
1 – Get specific
We want to make sure we have timelines, dates, and exact details. This takes our dreams from an ever changing ideal to something that can be concretely measured against.
Example: I want to have 5 more paid clients by February 1, 2019. Then, make it a reality: Write down this goal and post it on your mirror. If your goal is large, break it up into small goals.
2 – Analyze your thoughts, feelings and beliefs around the goal.
Are you freaked out? Excited? If not, your goal might be too small. If you’re feeling anxious or doubtful, write down all of those thoughts.
Some of your thoughts could be like: I don’t know how to start a business, I’ve never made a website before, what if I can’t do it? No one’s going to read my blog, I’ve never lost that much weight before, getting up at 6 am to exercise is going to be so hard.
Notice which thoughts are making you feel anxious or afraid. These thoughts are the reason you won’t take action towards reaching your goal, so don’t skip this step.
3 – Find new thoughts and beliefs:
Next, consciously work to find new thoughts and beliefs that instill confidence and help you to take action. The trick is to find thoughts that are believable to you.
I like neutral thoughts that make me feel confident like I know I can make this work. I believe that I can figure it out. I know I can remain committed to my goal until I reach it. When something doesn’t work, it’s just information, and I can get back on the path to my goal. Failing or having setbacks doesn’t mean to stop trying. Success and failure live in the same neighborhood. I can do hard things. I am becoming my best self. I can handle negative emotions. This can’t hurt me.
4 – Address obstacles and obstacle thoughts
Write down everything you think will prevent you from reaching your goal. I won’t be motivated. I won’t have time. I don’t know how to eat healthy. I don’t know what exercise will help me lose weight. I don’t know how to make a website. I have no clients yet. I am doubtful that I can do this. I don’t know how to write a presentation.
Solve for each of those obstacles and be specific, so when they come up, they won’t deter you from staying the path. For example:
Motivation – Helpful thought: No matter how I feel, if it’s in my planner, I do it.
Time management – Every Monday, I will plan my every hour of my week and include a 2 hour time block every Tuesday and Thursday to work on my blog. I will get a sitter during that time to watch the kids and I will go to the coffee shop to work.
Knowledge – I will spend Mondays at 3-5pm researching how to make a website. I may need to reach out to my husband or a friend to help. I may need to spend time and money on a course to learn more.
Schedule these strategies in your calendar.
5 – Take action and work to think thoughts as if the goal has already been achieved:
Start taking the steps above needed to reach the goal. You will encounter more obstacles and things that didn’t work, so then you just set new strategies to solve for those obstacles as they come up.
If you’re struggling to take action or wallowing in the “I don’t knows”, go back to step 2, and look at the thoughts that might be causing the issues.
It’s not all or nothing – Just because the action you take didn’t have the result you want, doesn’t mean you should stop trying to reach the goal. Remember that your thoughts ultimately create your results, and believing the thoughts you would have if you already reached your goal is the path to success.
6 – Evaluate
Look back after a goal is reached, at a set time interval, or when something didn’t work and track your gain towards your goal. Analyze what worked and what didn’t work, and use that information to help you move forward in the future. Just look at the math as data only, and do your best to be curious and not critical.