By Dave Crenshaw | Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Each January we make resolutions and set lofty goals—but following through with them can be a challenge. Have you already lost sight of your goals for 2014? Or have you considered abandoning them altogether because they seem too difficult?
Brain experts say that once you set a goal it’s natural for your mind to begin thinking of reasons why you should not, or cannot, accomplish it. You brain goes on autopilot, insisting that your goal is unattainable because of x, y, and z. But you can learn to shut down that negative reasoning, and I’ll show you how.
First, pick a concrete goal to accomplish. Use an active statement like “This is something I must accomplish in order to feel successful on [fill in the date].” Then follow up that statement with a goal addressing either who you want to become, what you want to do, or something you want to have. For example, you might want to become a more creative person, or have more time to spend with your family.
With that goal in mind, you’re ready to use your brain as an ally in goal accomplishment, rather than an enemy. There are two big components of that negative-mind autopilot that you must address in order to reach your goals: uncertainty and intimidation.
There will be natural uncertainty around your goal. Your brain may think things like “You don’t really want that, do you?” or use analysis paralysis to stop you from taking any action at all. But you can use your mind to your advantage through visualization.
Visualization allows you to establish a clear and detailed vision of yourself achieving your goals. It’s kind of like daydreaming something you hope will happen—the more vibrant the dream, the better. Whether it’s an image of you painting in a studio or you and your family taking a two-week cruise together, you envision it in detail down to the color of your paint or the smell of fresh ocean air.
Note the feelings you associate with your accomplished self and write those down with your goals. Following the examples, you might write: “I want to become a more creative person and I will feel more fulfilled, relaxed, and patient than before,” or “I want to have more time to spend with my family so I don’t feel guilt and my life feels more well-rounded.” The more detail you imagine, the more motivated you will be to achieve your goal—and the more meaningful it will be when you do.
Intimidation is that overwhelming feeling that makes your goals feel like burdens; it’s your brain’s way of making your vision seem almost impossible. You begin considering how much time and effort will be required to meet your goals and somehow that instantly outweighs their rewards. To battle the intimidation demon, use the trick of division.
In short, divide up your goal and set short-term benchmarks to measure your success along the way. This can be difficult if your goal is something broad like “I want to become more creative.” But these are your goals, so it’s fine to use subjective measurements like “On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most creative, I want to be at a six by…”
Set these targets by dividing your end goal into achievable chunks. For example, if one year from now you want to have more time to spend with your family, and you’ve quantified that “more time” as 20 more hours per week, then six months from now you may be spending 10 more hours each week with your family. Now divide the six-month target, then the three-month, until you’ve broken your vision down into a series of short-term goals.
This is just beginning of your goal-accomplishing journey. The next step is figuring out exactly how to take action, and enlisting the help of others in accomplishing your goals. Take a look at my goal-setting course here on lynda.com to begin making your vision a reality.
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Tags: Business, Dave Crenshaw, Goal Setting, New Year's Resolutions, Productivity
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