Over recent years the self development industry has been growing fast and both personal and career therapists and coaches have been educating everyone about how to achieve their goals.
Your goals must be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely (When will you get it? Don’t insist on immediate results, but expect it in a reasonable time.)
You must imagine in great detail what it would be like if you had already achieved your goal, experiencing it as if it is happening right now ( being in your body, seeing through your own eyes, instead of seeing yourself in a movie ) and feel all the matching powerful happy emotions as you imagine it. Imagining it as if associated into your body empowers the goal as it increases the strength of the positive emotions.
Not everybody is visual, but it’s imagination, not visualisation that is important. Whatever you normally do to imagine is just fine. If I ask you to imagine an elephant or your front door, whatever you do to know what I mean is the way you imagine, and you are able to describe it. You might just have a knowing, a concept, a memory, hear something or get a feeling.
Another technique is to collect pictures, photos, physical items, such as baby socks if you are planning a pregnancy, and make a vision board or have items out where you can see them. This will cause your mind ( especially useful if you do not have a visual imagination ) to accept at the psychological level that this is already in your life.
Thinking about your goal in this way is essential. Talking about it is even more powerful, and more powerful still is writing it down in present tense. Such as “ It’s November 2022 and I am…. I have etc… ”
The normal emotional response to this powerful intention and focus on your strongly desired goal is to feel excited and positive, as you would if your fairy godmother waved her magic wand and you had it instantly. Just as you would, if you suddenly won a life changing amount of money and you can actually see it in your bank account.
Are you shaking your head now? You’ve tried all that and no, you do not have that marvellous positive feeling. In fact you feel even worse than before you started. Plus you are angry about the ridiculous strategy that clearly would never work.
Those techniques do work, but there are some pitfalls. You need some tips and tricks to make it work.
Why does thinking about your goal make you feel worse? Because no sooner have you thought about what you want, you are painfully reminded that you have been wanting it for ages without success, and there is no way you can see how you could achieve it anyway. It’s too expensive, or you’re not lucky enough, smart enough, pretty enough, healthy enough, confident enough or good enough. In other words you don’t really believe you are the kind of person who can have that. So thinking about your ideal goal does not make you feel happy even though the having of it actually would. And yet that has to be in place if you are ever to achieve it!
That’s why they say, the more you have the more you get, the less you have the less you get, and success breeds success. It’s easy to think positively when all is going well. But when you get knocked down, it is hard to climb up again. How are you supposed to think positively when the cards are stacked against you?
Far from optimistically looking forward to achieving your highest positive goals, you are more likely to flip and dwell on your worst case scenario, which is the worst possible consequence of not having what you want, or sometimes the worst possible consequence of actually getting what you want!
There is a way round it, but you have to do whatever is necessary to hold a positive emotional state while thinking about your goal. Here are 4 techniques to help you do that.
If you want to achieve your goal, you need to program your mind to associate pleasure with what you want. If pain is associated with what you want, your mind will consistently work to make sure you avoid it. It is important that you don’t judge or analyse the techniques. This is a case where the end justifies the means.
- Your goal is so far removed from your current situation that it does seem logically impossible for you, and the lack of it depresses you. The remedy is to break down the steps to your end goal into smaller achievable stages. Make your first sub-goal so small that you won’t sabotage it by believing it is beyond your reach. Work on achieving each sequential sub-goal one at a time until you can really believe the end goal is possible. Weight control is an easy example. Aim to lose a few pounds/ kilos with a small goal of feeling more comfortable, rather than an ideal self image radically different from your current size and shape.
- The trick is to get into a positive emotion – but it doesn’t have to be in relation to your goal. Before focusing on your goal, spend some time thinking about a happy memory or a personal success memory, or any positive experience at all that makes you feel those same happy emotions all over again. The emotion will be positive enough no matter how seemingly small the event you choose. It could have been when you learnt to tie your shoe laces, ride a bike or swim, a special relationship with a person or pet, a particular skill you enjoy using, such as cooking or playing a musical instrument.
- Another way to get into a positive emotion is to spend some time itemising all the things you are grateful for, before focusing on your goal. The emotion will be just as beneficial for this purpose no matter whether it is a big thing or a tiny thing. You could feel you have nothing at all, but even those who were destitute or deeply depressed have successfully found things to be grateful for to support their healing. A pleasant sunny day, the gift of a warm comforting meal, a kind word, a helping hand. The emotion of gratitude is very special for this purpose. All emotions have measurable energy frequencies, and gratitude is one of the highest positive emotions.
- Remember that you always have the option of justifying the way that you think, or .. you can talk yourself out of it.
How you are probably justifying it to yourself is to explain the many experiences that you’ve had that logically support your thinking. If thinking about anything triggers negative emotions in you, that will be a reflection of your past and current thinking and beliefs about it. It is based on the meanings you have given to those experiences to date. You might say ‘I’ve experienced this problem enough times in my life to know for sure that it will always be this way’. Now that you believe your future is just an extension and repetition of the familiar negative past, you believe your goal is not available to you and so you will not be able to feel positive about having it. It will only create some sense of lack.
Talking yourself out of it requires critical thinking, or thinking outside the box. It’s your job to convince yourself that your goal is achievable if you really want it. You might reason that the circumstances today are not the same as the past. I am not a powerless child, I am a competent independent adult. The opportunities today are much better than back then. My life, economic, social circumstances are different now. I have more control over my life. There is evidence of many people who had an impoverished or abusive start to life who changed their destiny, and did not stay on the same trajectory. The aim of this critical thinking is to let go of any limiting beliefs that say ‘the goal is not available to me’. Replace them all with a belief that opens the door to the potential that you can have it and you can do it. Talk yourself into being open to experiences that are unfamiliar and unknown, that have no guarantees but have the potential to lead to your goal. When you have come to a consciously reasoned belief that your goal is actually realistic, you can give yourself permission to enjoy imagining your future self enjoying it. This will unlock tips 1-3 if they didn’t help before.
Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right. Think you can and you’re on your way.