Most of us are beyond over 2016, from stressful elections to a number of celebrity deaths, we are all ready to move on to greener pastures. With the pending new year it’s time to think about 2017 and set goals that actually get accomplished. Goal setting is not really about goals, it’s about how you process the world. It’s all neuroscience and your brain is a natural little problem solver. But we too often present our brain with problems that it can’t fully understand or process. It will do it’s best but we end up not quite reaching our goal and feeling deflated. So when constructing goals presenting information in a way our brain can understand is super important. Let’s start by understanding how our brains work on a fundamental level. Please think about the color red. What comes up in your mind next? Probably something you have historically associated with red. Fire trucks, lipstick, anger, roses. This is because your brain organizes information through an associative process which uses hierarchies and heuristics where one thing will remind you of another related thing which reminds you of yet other related things. The whole process works a lot like when you fall down a youtube hole and find yourself watching videos of cats wearing sweaters when all you wanted to do was learn about foundation. So, if you’re not specific when addressing your brain your goal will end up being confusing and un-reachable.
Before you read on ask your self “do I really want to change or am I just writing resolutions because I always have?” If you actually want to make a change in your life continue reading, if not, assess why you aren’t really ready. There are a number of reasons a person might not really want to reach their goals. It’s hard to change, there is a possibility that you may fail, other people may be impacted by your success, that changing the way you view yourself is difficult, or you misinterpreted your goal altogether. This last one is interesting. Let’s take for example the number one New Years Resolution, weight loss. For some, weight loss isn’t truly the goal but a symptom of the goal, you may want love and feel that losing weight will get you there. Therefore the real goal here is to begin to develop self-love. Ask yourself, “Am I running away from something or running toward it?’ If you find that you are running away from something it may be more difficult to reach that goal as opposed to a goal you are running toward. Alright, let’s get to some goal setting tips so you can develop the skills to get what you want.
Declutter: Decluttering is the best way to increase focus. So what are some ways you can declutter your life? Give away clothes you haven’t worn, unsubscribe from emails that you no longer need, free yourself from toxic people, or maybe clean up your social media. I don’t know about you but I can’t work in a cluttered room or on a cluttered computer. So, organize your space, organize your mind.
Write it out: Writing down your goals is one of the best was to make sure you will reach them. It helps organize our thoughts and makes them solid enough to actually reach. Head out to Target and grab a poster board or get on photoshop and create something big and beautiful. Yes, don’t just put it in your phone or in a notebook. Make your goals large and stunning. I tend to frame mine and hang them either in my office or near my bed. It depends on how personal the goals are.
Specific: Specificity is one of the most important aspects of goal formation. The more specific a goal the easier it is for your brain to problem solve methods for attaining your objective. So ask yourself the who, what, where or your dream and it will begin to look more specific. Beyond that make sure you are in control of your goal. If other people are responsible for your goal then it is more difficult to complete. For example, if your goal is to make more money in 2017 but you want to do that by getting a raise at work it may be difficult to control how the HR department and your supervisor feel about raises. There may be things that happen behind the scenes that impact your ability to get the raise. So setting a goal like “I will improve my productivity at work”, or “I will ask for a raise after improving productivity for 3 months.” Allows you to reach your goal without being beholden to the capricious nature of others. Goals are to be personal.
Positive Wording: When I say positive I don’t mean positive and negative judgment wise, I mean positive and negative grammatically. For example, if your goal is to ultimately loose weight and you know you love cake. So you establish a goal to stop eating cake in the new year because you know that will get your iteratively closer to your final goal of weight loss. This is a very good way to think but you should focus on adding something rather than just taking something away. Your brain doesn’t necessarily understand the concept of “no cake” it just hears cake which can increase your desire to delicious cake. However, if you tell yourself “I will eat more vegetables including asparagus, kale, and brussel sprouts in the new year” now your brain has something to focus on. Focus on what you want rather than what you don’t want.
Measurable: Making a goal measurable allows you to keep track of your progress. So ask yourself questions like “how will I know when I’ve reached my goal?” “How much of what I want will result in me reaching my goal?” “How many of what I want will result in me reaching my goal?” If your goal is difficult to quantify add a scale to it. Rate on a 1-100 scale or 1-10. weight is an easy one, the scale is in pounds, stones, or kilos. But measures of well-being are more difficult and subjective. It may be more based on your own creative measure. Like “I’ll know I’m feeling more comfortable around people when I’ve attended 2 social gatherings in one month.”
Attainable: Sometimes we set goals that we aren’t quite qualified for or aren’t quite realistic for us at this time. It’s important to ask this question and set goals that we can actually reach. For example, I’m finished growing so I, unfortunately, will never be 6 feet tall. If that was a goal of mine I would be very frustrated. So, understand what is changeable and what isn’t.
Relevant: Is your new goal appropriate at this time and is it aligned with your values and life? Sometimes we create goals that don’t totally fit our personality and then get disappointed when we can’t get it off the ground. for example, I am petrified when I think about singing in public so I might not want to become Beyonce’s biggest competition.
Time Limited: Set a time limit so you know when it’s time to throw confetti and celebrate your achievements. Your timelines are personal and can range from 2 minutes to 20 years.
Happy goal getting my little achievers!