It’s that time of year again! Another twelve months have flown by and you’re thinking to yourself, ‘I was supposed to find a new job this year’ or ‘I was hoping to get a payrise’….Never mind – 2015 is another year, right? Before then you can kick back, over-indulge at Christmas, catch up with family and friends and generally take a break from the daily grind of life.
But then the New Year will be upon you and you may be giving thought to what you want to achieve over the next year. I appreciate though, that sitting down and thinking about it does not an achievement make. Writing a few goals on a piece of paper is certainly better than nothing but then they stare back at you, daring you to take them on! And once they’re written down, the excuses start to kick in – as well as the day to day pressures of normal life – and before you know it, they’re gathering dust at the bottom of your in-tray.
So how can you make it easier? We’ve all achieved goals in our lives – you may not think so but every day, we set ourselves goals: when we get up in the morning, we set ourselves the goal of getting dressed, ready and on our way to work for a certain time. It may be routine but it’s still a goal. So before you short-change yourself and feel that you are someone that doesn’t do goals, think again. It’s possible for everyone – it’s just knowing the best way to go about it.
Be Smart About It
Most of us will be familiar with the term, SMART. This is commonly used when setting objectives within business and the number of you who have been fortunate enough to receive thorough appraisals, may have had to base your own personal objectives around the SMART structure.
Bear with me – don’t switch off because I’m suggesting a process which now sounds harder than simply writing one line on a piece of paper. Let me explain to you a few things that perhaps weren’t highlighted to you when you learned about SMART objectives.
Our Unconscious Mind Makes it Happen
Do not ever underestimate the power of the unconscious mind. I’m not talking in a hypnotic, Paul McKenna kind of way. I’m talking about the grounded, day to day stuff. Our conscious mind may set the goals but it is down to our unconscious mind as to whether we achieve it or not. Were you aware that 90% of our processing power comes from the unconscious mind? Therefore, in order to carry out something effectively, it is necessary to know how the unconscious mind works and how you can help it work hard for you.
Why Do I Need to be Specific?
Imagine that your mind is a ship, the conscious mind the captain and the unconscious mind the crew. In order to steer the ship successfully, it is necessary for the captain to provide clear, respectful instructions to his or her crew. Think about when you’re telling a child to do something: you have to be incredibly clear and simplistic. It’s the same here. This is why we talk about a goal being specific. Never mind whether your conscious mind grasps it! Your unconscious mind is dealing with so much information, that you need to be as specific as possible when assigning it a goal to achieve.
It’s Meaningful as well as Measurable
It’s easy to see why you can get bogged down in why a professional objective has to be measurable: you need to be able to back up the achievement with hard data. This usually takes the form of outlining success in terms of strategy, feedback and profit – amongst other things. But what about when you’re setting your own personal goals? What then?
Your unconscious mind filters information through your five sense: sound, sight, touch, taste and smell so sit back for a minute, think of a goal you want to achieve and imagine or fantasise (whatever you want to call it) about when you’ve achieved that goal. Where are you? What are you doing? What can you see? What are you saying? What are you feeling? What are you wearing, smelling, tasting? You get the picture, I hope. For personal goals, this is how you will measure whether you’ve achieved it.
Creating an Image
I once learned that if the brain has a picture of what you want to achieve, it will naturally look for similarities within your daily life that will pull you towards this. It’s referred to as ‘structural tension’ if you’re interested. This is essentially a process where your mind naturally works to close the gap between your current reality and the vision of what you want to achieve. That process involves filtering through information that is necessary and relevant to helping you achieve your goal. But also, your unconscious mind does not like the disparity between your current position and where you ultimately see yourself. It therefore works on your behalf to draw you nearer to that end goal. Believe me – until it was explained in these terms and I tested it on myself (I had a goal that was eluding me due to my limited beliefs and this approach worked), I too would be sceptical.
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Think about it in these terms, it has long been established in sports psychology that in order to improve their game/technique, many successful sports people engage in visualisation. This is all that is happening here, except instead of visualising something in your head, I am suggesting you create something akin to a ‘mood board’ of your end goal. Collect images and phrases that relate to it and stick them all together for you to be able to view. Make sure you look at your collage at least once a day (preferably twice – once before sleep and once when you wake for optimum mind absorption) so that your mind is retaining the image. This is a great alternative for those that struggle to form an image in their own mind (as I did) and need something more tangible.
Always Use Present Tense
The other important factor with goal setting is to make sure you’re setting something using the present tense. Again, this is important for the way your unconscious mind works. Think about the structural tension and your mind wanting to pull you towards what you were imagining? Well, it’s the same here except this time, we’re using language, not images. So instead of writing, ‘I will own my own business’, write ‘I am the owner of my own business’, even if it isn’t true. Don’t worry – it will feel odd and unnatural but go with it. It’s what your unconscious mind needs to see and hear to help you achieve it. Remember: your unconscious mind is responsible for 90% of our processing power.
Is it within your Control?
Another important aspect of this is not just whether it’s realistic, but also whether it’s in your control (think ‘R’ for responsible as well as realistic). For example: you may want to aim for a pay rise in your job. However, there would need to be others involved in you being able to achieve this – your boss would have a large part to play. You would therefore need to rethink your goal so that the outcome is totally within your control. For instance, set yourself a target of increasing the number of clients you secure or the amount of positive feedback you receive from senior colleagues and then go about achieving that instead. Once accomplished, this may very well lead to a pay rise but the content of the goal is down to you and you alone. You are not dependent on anyone else to realise it and it is therefore more likely to be achieved.
How does it Impact Everyone Else?
One thing I hear time and again is of individuals setting themselves goals without considering the consequences of their goals on loved ones. Remember to think about what the impact would be on your partner, children or family should you achieve what you want to achieve. Will it affect them negatively and if so, how much? Would this be short term or long term negativity or do the positives outweigh the negatives? Also, if the negatives for everyone else outweigh the positives for you, what will be the potential result of this? Is that something you’re willing to risk? So just remember, think about what the consequences are for others as well as yourself and aim for a positive outcome overall.
It’s about what you Do Want
If I ask you not to think of a pink elephant, what happens? An image of a pink elephant pops up in your head. That’s because your brain cannot decipher negatives. If you tell a child, ‘don’t drop that!’, they’re more likely to drop it as opposed to being told, ‘hold that tight!’. That’s because you’ve introduced the image of dropping something into their brain. How many people have said, ‘I don’t want to be in debt’? All the brain is able to pick up on is ‘being in debt’ and therefore, it is more likely to keep you in debt. Instead, choosing a goal like, ‘I want to be in credit and have savings’. This is a clear instruction to your brain of where you want to be heading and will therefore strive to take you there. Carrying it one step further (and following through with the rule of putting goals in the present tense), you can then transform it into a statement like, ‘I am in credit and have savings’.
So when you’re deciding on your goals for 2015, write them out using the SMART structure bearing in mind the aspects I have raised here. It may feel convoluted but I hope now you realise why it is so important – following these various steps actually enable you to make your aspirations a reality!
Merry Christmas everyone and all the very best in 2015.
photo by: flazingo