So what sets apart a resolution that fails within the first few weeks of January from a goal that inspires and sustains our energy and motivation throughout the year?
To answer we need to take a closer look at our motivation and how our minds work.
The following steps will help you refine your resolutions into goals that will sustain your motivation for longer term success. You can work through these steps on your own, with a friend or you may find using the skills of a professional coach will be more effective.
1. Focus on what you want
You may have a very clear goal in mind, for example to lose weight or get out of a job you hate and you are very likely to be very clear what it is that you don’t want – you don’t want to be fat or you don’t want to be bored, underutilised and stressed at work.
It is understandable when you’ve been struggling with a situation for a while to focus on what is not working. The trouble is you get what you focus on.
To explain why: you need to understand that the part of the brain that really motivates you and makes decisions for you is not your conscious, rational mind but your subconscious mind. The subconscious mind can’t process the negative, i.e. it can’t handle the ‘don’t’ in the ‘I don’t want to be fat’ sentence. What it hears time and time again is ‘I want to be fat’.
To illustrate this here’s a little test:-
Close your eyes for a moment and whatever you do don’t think of a pink elephant with a little monkey on its back banging a drum – Don’t think of that.
After you have done this, open your eyes. Most likely you haven’t been able to not think of the elephant and it’s monkey!
The same goes for setting goals – when you ask for what you don’t want you get what you don’t want. Instead focus on the desired outcome or solution rather than the problem. Focus on what you do want e.g. I want to be healthy or I want to grow and develop my skills.
2. Clarify why achieving this outcome is important for you
Once you have reframed your goal into a positive outcome the next step is to consider in more detail what achieving that outcome would give you or do for you. You need to get really clear here on what’s really important about achieving this outcome. Often the reason most resolutions fail is that we make up our minds to consciously do something but we haven’t looked at our deeper beliefs or values, and why this is really important for us.
This step helps move you away from a vague daydream to a more specific reality. So to take the example of losing weight ask yourself: ‘What will being healthy do for me?’, your answer may be ‘it will give me more energy’, then ask yourself ‘what will having more energy do for me?’, your answer may be ‘ I can get more done’… ‘and what will that do for you?’ ‘I can spend more time with the kids’. By repeatedly asking yourself these questions you will get closer to what’s really important for you, what aligns with your values, and it is this that will sustain your motivation to take action over time.
3. Develop a compelling vision for your goal
A sustainable goal is a dream that pulls you rather than a fear that pushes you. So what does your successful outcome look like and how will you know when you’ve got there? This step requires that you clarify your vision for your goal.
This is a vital stage in preparing our minds prior to taking action. Just like an architect visualises in his mind a design before committing it to paper and then physically building a house, the same is true if we want to successfully achieve our goals.
If you are visual you could create a collage of your desired outcome in pictures and words, or write a description of the results you would like to create with your goal. It is important to write it in the present tense, as if it has already happened and be as specific as possible. See it as a wonderfully successful outcome, describe what is happening, what are you doing, what are you experiencing, what you are seeing, hearing, feeling?
To explain why this works we need to understand that our subconscious mind cannot differentiate what is real from what is imagined , so the more we develop and revisit our vision, the more the subconscious mind begins working out how to create this reality. As any successful athlete will tell you a large part of their professional training is the mental preparation, the repeated visualisation of the desired outcome and mental rehearsal of moves, so when it comes to performance it’s already mapped out in the brain.
Having created a compelling vision the focus can now turn to what you will do to achieve this outcome. What steps can you take to move this forward?
Each time you revisit your vision it will reconnect you with the energy of why achieving this goal is important to you and maintain your momentum as you take the necessary steps to make it a reality.
How about you?
What goals are you setting for your new year? Why are these important and what results are you looking to create? I’d love to hear from you!
Want more help to stay inspired and achieve your goals?
Take a look at my ‘There’s More in Me’ career coaching programme. You can fill in the form there and then schedule a FREE consultation to get some clarity on the situation you are facing.