Goals and How to Make Them Stick
It’s exciting, setting a goal and then imagining the life changing outcome that will follow. Stronger abs, glowing skin, less stress or more energy perhaps? Goals are what keep life exciting, motivate us and in the words of go to motivation man Tony Robbins ”turn the invisible into the visible”. We could say goal setting is almost even addictive.
Everyone sets goals, however not every goal becomes a reality or if it does, it may be momentary. Why is this?
Emphasis is placed on the outcome and getting fast results more often then not. Focus instead on the process, how you are going to get there, and take your time to reach the goal. Then, they become really sticky.
Break down your goal. Turn the process into bite sized and achievable steps (micro goals). Look not at how you are going to leap frog to your end goal rather how you tick off your first microgoal. Your first microgoal may be to do five sit ups today, or to meditate for a minute longer this week. The micro goals are up to you to decide and are highly personal because it is your goal. Know your limits and create realistic and achievable micro goals.
A micro goals needs to feel almost too easy to achieve.
If it is too hard it means you are not breaking your macro goal down enough. That’s right, if it is too hard don’t do it. Break it down again. Change is a process, it doesn’t happen over night and it’s a journey not a destination. Turns out all those cliche’s were true and it is all starting to make sense.
Your Brain is Plastic
You may be wondering why it is important to set these micro goals. Can’t you just smash out a big goal over night? It is because your brain is plastic. The malleable, squishy, adaptable type of plastic. The brain shifts and shapes depending on how we use them. When we perform a new task a path is created (synaptic connection). Every time we repeat that activity the path deepens. This explains why you feel exhausted after starting a new job, all these new synaptic connections are being formed in your brain. This also explains why you feel like your switched onto autopilot when driving to work, the synaptic imprints run deep and not a whole lot of brain power is needed to perform said task.
When starting out with a goal it can feel hard to stick with it, often your brain will be telling you to revert to an old action. We can now see why. Over time however the goal becomes easier to achieve as you pave pathways in your brain. The goal then is more likely to stick and you are less likely to bounce back into old habits. Patiently allow these pathways to be formed, even visualise it when you start out to achieve your first micro goal. It is all pretty fascinating really and if you are interested in learning more click here.
Celebrate each win!
Each time you reach a micro goal celebrate the victory. Really, celebrate it. Share the win with a friend or create a reward system that works for you. This will help the behaviour to stick. It will send a message to your brain that the action result in a reward and it will want to repeat the action. (Check out this TED video on habits to learn more about this).
Reset your strategy
Once the partying and celebration of reaching a micro goal is over assess how you reached that goal, the good and the bad. Really analyse it. Then reset your strategy. Take the optimised strategy and apply it to your next micro goal. Repeat this step every time you reach a micro goal. This will make each subsequent micro goal easier to achieve and allow an element of personalisation to you process.
Ready to go!
Now you are ready to go out there and try this for yourself. Remembering the next time you think to yourself ‘I want to reach a goal and reach it now’ stop, slow yourself down and reframe that thought. Allow your goal to marinate, sink in and build deep pathways in your brain.
Take a breather from the stress of having to achieve big goals, step back and actually enjoy the small victories of reaching a micro goal. In the end it takes less effort, is more rewarding and sets strong foundations for the long term change you want.
Jennifer Ward, Adv dip Nat, BCom Econ, Masters Repro Med (studying)
Jennifer is a qualified naturopath with a focus on fertility, pregnancy, hormonal imbalances.
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