How to really achieve your goals

Want to achieve your goals? Try something different…

Standard advice to achieve your goals can lead you down a primrose path.

Chances are, if you’re reading this article, you’ve already studied the oft-stated rules of how to achieve your goals.  We should set goals that are specific, measurable, that are stretch goals (but not such a stretch that they feel unattainable). We should use rewards, and make public commitments, and break larger goals down into bite-size steps.

So, if you know all this, why aren’t you always able to achieve your goals?

There is excellent research into what really works and what doesn’t and here’s the kicker….

Some of the research into what really works flies in the face of “common knowledge” about goal setting.  Even things you’ll hear from other hypnotherapists and self-help “experts.”   So, take a look at these tips below and make the changes that are going to supercharge your goal-attaining abilities! (After all, it’s really about ATTAINING your goals, not setting them, right?)

1.  Believe it or not, stop fantasizing.  Yeah, I know. But Cindy!!!!  Research on fantasizing in goal achievement shows that those positive fantasies are associated with failure to achieve the fantasized goal.  There’s a trick to this….positive fantasizing is motivational as long as it is done FIRST, and then you come back to your present day and recognizing that you actually don’t have what you desire and allow yourself to feel the desire for the achievement.  That engages both the carrot and the stick.  Otherwise, if you just imagine/daydream/fantasize already having the goal achieved and leave it there, yes, it will feel good.  But your subconsciouss mind can’t tell the difference between reality and fantasy and may decide to cease taking action because it believes the goal has already been achieved.

Don’t believe me?  Ever think about doing something in such detail (composing that email in your head, for example) that you thought you did the deed?  And then the person who is looking to receive the email shoots you a message saying where is it?  And you HONESTLY think, wow!  I really thought I sent that!  I guess I just thought about it but didn’t really do it. Uh-huh.  Same deal.  Your subconscious mind will close the loop if it feels a sense of satisfaction.  So if you’re going to fantasize, make sure you include an emotional element of DESIRE. This is called mental contrasting and it will spur you to take action to achieve your goals.  Here’s the research: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11374746

2.  Commit, commit, commit. It’s not just boyfriends who don’t commit (sorry guys!); one of the chief reasons we don’t achieve our goals is a lack of commitment. The mental contrasting described above is a good way to enhance your level of commitment to taking the action to achieve your goals.  Remember, it’s not setting goals you’re really looking to do; it’s achieving the goals, and that requires action!

3. So, I mentioned open loops up above.  Your mind hates an open loop and will continue to mentally chew on it.  What’s an open loop?  You desire to reach a goal and you start taking action on it…that creates an open loop.  That keeps the issue/goal in the forefront of your mental processing, so that you don’t forget about it.  It’s called the Zeigamik effect and you can read more about it here.  Thing is, once something is completed, or if no action was ever begun, or if it feels completed because of how your fantasizing, it evaporates from working memory. So, taking those first steps can make all the difference in the world… the really are the most important ones!

4.  Visualize the process more than the outcome.  Regarding visualizing/fantasizing the outcome, refer back to #1 and #2.  What IS really effective is visualizing the process.  Mentally go through and see yourself taking the steps to achieve your goal. This research explains the effect.  This paves the path, both mentally and emotionally.  I’ve worked with a lot of people on procrastination, and one of the most common reasons for procrastination is that the person has not mentally created a vision of how to do what it is that they want to do.  The mind has no path to follow so there is no motivation and no action.  Visualizing your steps help to reduce anxiety and makes it easier to do #3 (take the first steps to achieve your goals).

Yes, I know, this one surprised me too.  I had also read and been told over and over that I need to send out the vibration of achievement, not lack, in order to engage the Law of Attraction, etc.  But consider this.  No, you don’t want the vibration of lack. It’s an unmotivated place.  But neither do you want to have the feeling of “already there” because it doesn’t signal to your mind that you need to take action.  What you want is the vibration of “taking action,” because that tells your mind there is an open loop (see #3) that needs to be closed.

So try this….think of your goal, your desired state.  Go ahead and indulge in the visualization of how it’s going to be once you’ve achieved it.  See it, feel it, hear it, really get into it.  Feel the sense of accomplishment and pride. Really go there. Now mentally float back to the present day and do what is called a mental contrast.  Compare how things are now to how you want them to be.  Feel that emotion of desire, even frustration.  OK, NOW imagine taking the steps to achieve your goal.  Spend plenty of time and energy on this one, go into detail. You’re paving a path for your mind to follow, so get into the nitty-gritty as much as you can, especially for the first actions you need to take. [Alternatively, you can remain in your future state and imagine moving backward through the steps that you took to achieve that goal, using the knowledge and wisdom of that future you.  Depending on how your mind prefers to use time sorts, one or the other of these will feel more effective to you.]

Now, mentally and emotionally commit to taking those first two or three action steps to achieve your goals. Open your eyes, write it on your calendar, and then DO those first steps.  You’ve just improved your chances of actually achieving your goal by 80%!

This is the method I’ve been using to achieve my goals for years, ever since I discovered the research I  and it works for me every time, and the research indicates it will work for you, too!

More on goal achievement in another post later!  For now, please….put this into action and let me know in your comments below how it’s working for you!

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