In a world where 92% of people don’t achieve their goals and New Year’s Resolutions, they beat the statistics. Playing by their own rules, owning their game.
The first experimental studies on goal-setting were conducted by Cecil Alec Mace in 1935 and since then, these questions are still on top of our minds:
“How do they do it?” and
“Why do some people fail to reach their goals?”.
In this article, you will discover 8 problems that are standing between you and the best version of yourself. The purpose is to:
1. Understand your brain’s neurochemistry.
2. Understand the causes of every problem.
3. Understand the consequences.
4. Discover effective solutions for achieving your goals.
When it comes to accomplishing your goals, the biggest enemy standing in your way is your brain. Yes, you heard it right. Scientifically speaking, since the beginning, you are doomed to fail.
But don’t worry, after decades of scientific research, we learn how to hijack our brains. To keep it simple, we will analyze The Triune Brain Analogy.
1. The first component, “The Reptilian Brain”, generates survival reactions and controls automatic functions such as temperature, blood flow, and hunger.
2. The second component is represented by “The Limbic System”, being in control of your emotions and feelings. It is also the center for habit and memory. This component is not very rational and it doesn’t care about the future. It only cares about what is happening right now.
3. Lastly, the third component is “The Neocortex”. This is associated with your psychological self, being in control of high-level functions such as rational thinking, reasoning, conscious thought, planning, and imagination.
When it comes to accomplishing your long-term goals, 2/3 of your brain literally doesn’t care. So, your responsibility is to learn to work with your brain, rather than against it. You should set and accomplish goals according to the natural tendencies of your brain.
CAUSES & CONSEQUENCES: Did you know that, on average, people have about 12.000 to 60.000 thoughts a day? Forgetting about your goals is easy. It’s the nature of your mind to wonder, but it’s your responsibility to free your mind. If you don’t, you risk becoming overwhelmed, anxious and stressed.
SOLUTION: Free your mind by writing your goals down. In this way, you will improve the encoding process. This is a memory function that allows us to analyze a though and decide about what gets stored in our long-term or short-term memory and what gets discarded. By storing goals in an external location such as a notebook or an app, it has a much greater chance of being remembered. Also, it is very easy to access it and review it any time.
A 2015 study by psychologist Gail Matthews showed that people who wrote down their goals were 33% more successful in achieving them than those who formulated outcomes in their heads.
CAUSES & CONSEQUENCES: Why do you want to accomplish a specific goal? Does it help you to achieve your life purpose? If it doesn’t, at some point, chances are you will become unmotivated and uncommitted to that goal. According to researchers, meaning in life is related to higher-psychological well-being and lower levels of depressive symptoms and fatigue.
SOLUTION: Before setting your end-goals and your milestones, you must define your vision, mission, passion, and values. By defining a direction, your goals will become the actions that you must take in order to follow and fulfill your life mission. Select a Life Vector and define the most important end-goals related to it.
PROBLEM #3: YOU DON’T ASSIGN A “LIFE VECTOR” TO YOUR GOALS
CAUSES & CONSEQUENCES: Are you satisfied with every part of your life? What area would you like to improve? For a lot of people, mastering every area of their life is the ultimate challenge. Although many people want to achieve their goals successfully, very few have an overview of their lives. That’s why many people are struggling to find an equilibrium in their life, resulting in high levels of stress, depression, tension, and disappointment.
SOLUTION: If you plan to master every area of your life, you should use a framework for tracking and measuring success in each area of your life. By breaking goals into seven Life Vectors, you will have more control over your life. You can also decide what are the most important areas for you right now and concentrate on them until you achieve your goals. The purpose is not to have a lot of goals, but to select the most important ones and increase your productivity.
CAUSES & CONSEQUENCES: How do you like to define your goals? Are they general or specific? The phase of goal-setting is the most critical step for successfully achieving your goals. Since the beginning, if you set goals without a well-defined structure, the chances are you are setting up for failure. And this is not because you are not motivated or disciplined, but because your goals are too vague, unclear and hard to pursue.
SOLUTION: If you want to step up your game, you need to create a “Naming Convention”. Your end-goals are your end-games. The final objectives. The most desired things in your life. And each end-goal is composed of multiple milestones. These are the smaller steps you need to accomplish in order to achieve your final objective. For more clarity, you can assign deadlines and due dates. For more focus on action, you can begin every end-goal and milestone with an action verb. The Naming Conventions do not have fixed rules, so feel free to experiment and personalize your own.
CAUSES & CONSEQUENCES: Succeeding long-term goals is unquestionably a challenge for your brain. According to Eric Haseltine, the phenomenon of temporal myopia highlights the interactions between the Neocortex and the Limbic System. When you are focusing only on long-term end-goals and future situations, the rational component of your brain tries to reason with you. However, the emotional component feels demotivated to work so hard right now, for something so far in the future. This component likes to handle current and urgent situations with instant rewards.
SOLUTION: Planning is an essential step in the processes of goal-setting and goal-achieving. When you are splitting end-goals into milestones and you are assigning deadlines, you are creating a sense of urgency. In this way, you are also more aware of your current situation. You can plan your next actions according to your due dates and decide how much time do you need to allow for every step.
CAUSES & CONSEQUENCES: The beginning of the year is the perfect time for setting new goals and start working on them. The problem is that you are working on too many goals… at the same time… According to psychologists, The Goal Competition phenomenon presents that your goals are competing with one another for your time, your energy and your attention. When this happens, you can become overwhelmed and even prone to burnout symptoms.
SOLUTION: Setting deadlines and due dates is the first step to successfully achieving your goals. But if you want 100% success, don’t hesitate to schedule your end-goals and milestone into a calendar. The purpose is to reach a balanced state by having a clear overview of your goals. You can decide for yourself whether you want to plan your goals for one year, one quarter or one month.
PROBLEM #7: YOU TRY TO ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS TOO FAST
CAUSES & CONSEQUENCES: Most of the time, goals and New Year’s Resolutions require incorporating new changes into our behavior. But no matter how beneficial is the goal we are trying to accomplish, our brain’s natural impulse is to resist sudden change. This phenomenon is called “inertia” and is represented by “a tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged”. Our bodies want to maintain a state of equilibrium known as homeostasis.
Homeostasis helps our bodies to maintain body temperature, metabolism, weight, heart rate, and respiration. When we decide to begin a new exercise routine after a period of being sedentary, as an effort to maintain homeostasis, the body’s complex inertia actively resists these physiological changes. Even though they are positive changes, they are seen as a disruption because they go against the neural pathways that have become automatic to us.
SOLUTION: The process of intentionally changing your brain circuits is called “self-directed neuroplasticity”. If you plan to rewire habitual patterns and create new routines and behaviors, you should focus on incremental progress. For successfully achieving your end-goals, split them into milestones and transform smaller tasks into routines and habits. Be consistent and work towards your goals frequently.
PROBLEM #8: YOU DO NOT HAVE A REWARD SYSTEM
CAUSES & CONSEQUENCES: Most of the time, we tend to focus only on the glamorous end-goal, ignoring the process. And this is normal. In most psychological models, humans are believed to act upon the “pleasure principle”. Instant gratification is our desire to experience pleasure or fulfillment without delay. Basically, it’s when you want it; and you want it now. So when you are working on your goals, is it ok to work so hard right now, but only if the reward is also right now. Not somewhere far in the future. When we don’t get fulfillment, our psychological response is anxiety or tension.
SOLUTION: Instant gratification is the opposite of delayed gratification. It is a challenging process, but you can practice it if you implement a “Reward System” and you use dopamine to your advantage. When you accomplish multiple milestones and tick tasks on your to-do list, your brain releases dopamine. You can also spice up the game by rewarding yourself with materials presents everytime you accomplish a new milestone.
For instance, if your end-goal is to write a book, you may receive a spike in dopamine is create a routine of writing at least 15 minutes a day. Moreover, when you write an entire chapter, you can buy yourself that Gucci jacket you’ve wanted for so long.
Keep in mind that hard work equals luck.
In order to successfully turn your dreams & ideas into goals & projects, don’t simply set goals, focus on a systematic approach.