Our brain is a goal seeking mechanism and our ability to set goals is our master skill because goals unlock energy for change, confidence and focus
Even thinking about your goals can be both scary and overwhelming but without goals, we simply drift and flow on the currents of life with very little purpose and meaning. It’s important to remember that our brain is a goal seeking mechanism and our ability to set goals is our master skill because goals unlock energy for change, confidence and focus.
A large part of our personal resilience is based on our ability to problem solve, strengthened by our ability to formulate goals and achieve them. That’s because setting goals is about intention and taking control of more of the things that shape our lives, rather than letting events dictate and determine the outcome for us.
When it comes to setting goals, many of us freeze. Sure, we all have hopes and dreams but to state them out loud or plot a course of action for achieving such things seems pointless. The trouble is that if we get stuck in just “hoping”, it very rarely leads to action. When we’re working towards something that’s important to us, things rarely go smoothly and this can undermine our confidence. Often we’ll go back and forth with our feelings and our beliefs, hoping then doubting our ability to achieve it.
Goals connect our present to our future so make sure they’re right for you.
Before you can set a goal, much less achieve one, you have to know what you want. You have to be clear about who you are and where you want to end up in life. Working towards meaningful goals is one of the most important ways to become happier. Such goals could be connected to work, family, the wider community, our personal development, hobbies or anything that is personally meaningful and valuable to us.
Loss aversion is a cognitive bias that favours avoiding loss over receiving gain.
It is part of our DNA and can often get in the way of achieving what we want but we can learn to use this bias to our advantage. Loss aversion means that instead of stretching ourselves to achieve, we prefer taking small tiny steps to reduce the likelihood of failure. If setting goals is something you are new to or nervous about, focusing on short term goals can be the ideal place to start.
Already in the habit of setting goals?
Choose a goal that both scares and excites you. You need to ask yourself if this goal really stretches your capabilities and takes you outside of your current comfort zone. It can be scary but setting a long term stretch goal and matching it to smaller daily goals that are easier to achieve means you are more likely to get to where you want to go.
How to make it work for you.
Continuing to wholeheartedly commit to a goal can be hard work. Full of dips and troughs, highs and lows. Writing the goals down and breaking it into key priorities and actions whilst really exploring what you need to tell yourself at each step of the way is incredibly important and something you may want to re-visit on your session material. Finding ways to trip over your goals daily, monitoring your progress all helps to retain focus and the confidence to take action. Make your brain chemistry work for you to achieve your goals.
Your brain as a rewarder.
Our brains have a ‘pleasure-producing reward system’ that helps drive our behaviour towards the good and away from what we perceive to be bad. With every achievement along the path to our goals our body releases dopamine into our brains that elevates our mood and keeps us motivated and focused.
Your brain can PUNISH you
Until we’ve achieved our goal our brain treats it similarly to the way we perceive the loss of a valued possession, acting as a motivator to find solutions and ways forward. That’s why it is common to feel anxious or overwhelmed, a completely normal process experienced when moving towards our goals. Being aware of this ‘trap’ is the first step in combating it and finding ways to trip over our goals every single day helps us manage any low motivation we experience.
If achieving stretch goals was easy, everyone would be doing it. Remember that often the most important thing is to fail forward and adjust if necessary to work out new ways to continue moving forward. Set a few goals rather than too many at once and make sure the stretch is appropriate and not over reaching. If you set five goals and achieve two, then it’s human nature to focus on the failure.
Beware of all talk and no action.
Receiving lots of compliments from people for simply being a person who sets goals can make you feel really good but can sometimes backfire. Psychologists call this creating a new “social reality”. In other words, you provide false reassurance that lull your brain into feeling it’s already achieved the goal and this takes away the chemical motivation to achieve the goal.
Guard against the “social reality” effect by making sure your goals are measurable and monitored for progress. This way the praise will contribute to your motivation instead of hijacking your brain’s natural tendencies.
Practice Makes Perfect.
As you build momentum your goal will seem easier to achieve, it will become a habit and you will soon reap the benefits. Remember that as you continue to achieve your goals, your confidence will grow.
“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine – John. C. Maxwell”
Please note: This post was specifically written for people attending week eight of our nine-week resilience programme where we showed you how to direction and tap into your drive.