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The Power Of Goal Setting

Goal SettingDo you ever get to the end of a week, a month, or year (or heaven forbid, longer than a year) and wonder what on earth you’ve achieved or worse still, what you’re doing with your life? Have you ever been on a long drive and got so lost in your thoughts when it suddenly occurs to you that you haven’t remembered a certain section of your journey? It’s a scary feeling isn’t it? This is what happens to our lives when we don’t set goals and have something to aim for. What tends to happen is that we unknowingly put ourselves into a reactive state, rather than a proactive state. The power of goal setting  (and hitting them), enables us to take control of our lives so we end up doing what fulfills us most, so we live the life that we want to lead, rather than one as a passenger (so to speak).

It is so, so easy in today’s fast-paced and competitive world to get lost in our own pursuit of excellence and personal fulfillment and to get caught up in our day-to-day to-do lists. It’s very easy to fall into a trap as I have found in the past (mostly when working for a large corporate firm), to slip into a routine that is really not adding much value to your own life, or indeed other people’s. It’s very easy when you work for someone else to lose track of your dreams and what you stand for. I have met so many people who are currently in jobs in which they’re simply not using their unique strengths and innate talents – the ones we’re born with. Unsurprisingly, they’re unfulfilled. I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago called How To Be Creative, that two thirds of the population are dissatisfied with their working lives – a shockingly sad statistic given that for 5 days a week and for around 48 weeks a year, we’re working.

Why are goals so important then, and how do they help us avoid this typical lifestyle and, more importantly, help us to create for ourselves a fulfilling life? Simply put, by setting goals, you create an action plan. When you set yourself a destination, you then figure out how to get there – you create yourself a road map. When you don’t set yourself a destination (or goal), then how will you get there? It would be like getting in a car with a friend and for the driver to ask: “Where shall we go?” And for the other person to say: “No idea, just drive”.

Goals of course don’t have to relate to only our working life or career – they can be set for our personal health and fitness, our relationships, our love life, our personal finances (assets and investments), world travel, hobbies, new skills etc. If you look at your life right now, are you doing all the things that you want to be doing? If you play an instrument, are you playing it every day? If you love a certain sport, how often are you doing / playing it? Are you living where you want to be living? Are you seeing your friends and family as much as you’d like to be? Are you earning enough money?

“The main reason most people don’t get what they want, is because they don’t know what they want” – T Harv Ecker

Have you ever thought what success means for you? Would you be able to answer that straight away or would you have to think about it? When I started this blog in Jan 2012, I had no idea. I now have it written down and I am on my journey.

This brings me on to an interesting study that was carried out at Harvard Business School when ex-students were asked if they had written down their goals. Only 3 percent had written them down. It transpired that after 25 years, those who had written their goals were far more successful and generally happier than those who hadn’t put them into writing. By writing your goals, you can literally transform your desires and dreams into plans, and those plans can become a reality.

From a Neuro-linguistic programming perspective, by setting goals we are able to:

  • Create a sense of direction
  • Focus our attention and energy effectively
  • Avoid wasting time, effort, money and energy on ‘wrong’ goals – provided we set them properly

Sense of Direction means:

  • We know what we want
  • We’re aware enough to know whether we’re on the right track
  • If we’re not on track, whether we’re flexible enough to make changes if we’re not on track

Focus Our Attention And Energy:

  • We need to filter out superfluous information in order to focus our energy and attention. Clear goals help us focus on the important stuff
  • The ‘Reticular Activation System’ in our minds is a function that acts like an internal radar. It seeks out opportunities and situations that can help us achieve what we want. This is where goal visualisation is really important.
  • When we have clear goals to focus on, it enables us to pay close attention to the things that will help us achieve them.

Avoiding Wasting Time And Energy On The Wrong Goal

  • It’s common for people to be en route to achieving their goals, only to realise that what they were aiming for, is not what they really want.
  • NLP enables us to think about the implications of achieving our goals when setting them, which helps to set the right goals, thus saving time, money and energy.

Have you ever set yourself goals and then not stuck to them? There is a very simple reason for this – you haven’t asked yourself why you want to achieve them. When you have a big enough ‘why’ which is supported by your core emotional drives and yearnings, then it’s a lot easier to achieve them. Think about this for a second. When was the last time you set yourself a goal? Did you reach it or miss it?

Why do you think most people fail with their New Year’s Resolutions? It’s because they haven’t given themself a strong enough why. What tends to happen, is that they focus on all the obstacles that stand between them at that point in time and their end goal, rather than focusing on how they’ll feel on accomplishing that goal – the emotions they’ll experience. A common goal in the New Year is to join a gym and lose weight. Whoopee-doo, Basil! Where is the outcome here? Where’s the reason to join a gym and lose weight? Even if the outcome is clearly specified, for example: “By February 28th I’ll have lost 20 pounds” – there is no ‘why’ mentioned here. When do people succeed with their “weight loss” goals? (I put that term in quotes as I think it is fundamentally flawed and a key reason why most people fail with this one.) People succeed when they have something to focus on – a positive outcome, such as their wedding day, or to be in shape for the beach, or they have a sporting event to train for. Why would you want to be in shape for your wedding day? To look good? To have more energy? If so, why? Why do you want to look good? For pictures? For your husband or wife? To feel sexy and attractive for your partner so all they’ll want to do is rip your clothes off? I may have just shared my main reason for keeping in shape!

As I learned from Tony Robbins (damn it, I can’t not mention him!), we human beings are motivated by two driving forces; Reptilian Brainpain and pleasure. We are motivated by the need to avoid pain and the desire to gain pleasure. This can be broken down to fear and desire. What we fear can motivate us as much as desire can motivate us. Interestingly, it transpires that most of us are motivated more by fear than desire. Or the need to avoid pain than desire to gain pleasure. Why is this? It’s down to our survival brain – our reptilian brain – that is designed to keep us safe. It’s incredibly powerful, yet unfortunately, it can act against our pursuit for our dreams as it prevents us from getting out of our comfort zone – which ironically for many, really isn’t that comfortable. It therefore takes over in the decision-making process on a subconscious level and we end up doing anything to avoid pain – for example fear of failure stops most people from taking action – or limiting beliefs.

You often hear about people who have hit rock bottom before becoming hugely successful and turning their lives around. It’s because we act out of pain. We get disturbed. That’s how pain can be the best thing that happens to us, when we use it as a sign that things are about to improve.

When it comes to setting goals, it’s therefore really important to attach a ‘why’ to each of them. To go one step further, attach pain to not taking action and you’ll find yourself taking action. Set yourself monthly goals, quarterly, half-yearly, yearly, 5-yearly, 10-yearly in each of the areas of love and relationships, health and fitness, hobbies, career, personal finances, personal development, new skills and anything else that is important to you in your life.

Goal Setting and Visualisation form the first of 8 modules in Procrastination To Profit, which I created to help entrepreneurs and “wantrepreneurs” to break through procrastination (the “thief of time”) and to skyrocket their focus and productivity – which ultimately leads to sales. Procrastination and poor focus are controlled by our reptilian brain. If you can take control of your reptilian brain, then you can take control of your life. You’ll also learn the next evolution of goal setting in which you set up conditions so the outcome of your goal is inevitable.

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