The art of goal setting is one of the most difficult skills for a lot of people to master. Unsurprisingly, simply setting goals is not the real problem, but finding the discipline and commitment to achieve them is; somehow, obstacles always seem to arise when trying to stay on track. And, once the goals are set, it can become increasingly difficult to cultivate the necessary patience and piece of mind to attain them.
The inability to do so can leave people feeling like failures since they judge themselves for their inability to make their goal a reality. This can create a negative loop, where the failure to achieve something prevents the individual from trying again due to their fear of repeating it, which only deepens the disappointment. But, practice is the only thing that can get us closer to perfection, so in order to master the art of goal setting, we must learn to keep calm and carry on through those uncertain times.
Keep Calm and Carry On
According to Margaret Moore, the co-founder, and co-director of the Institute of Coaching at the McLean affiliated with Harvard Medical School, modern life has the ability to overload and exhaust the brain’s CEO region, the prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain plays a key role in planning, reasoning, and problem-solving, hence the difficulty many of us experience with goal setting. As such, Moore recommends taking control of our “emotional ships”, before we hit stormy weather in the murky waters of goal setting.
One of the first things Moore recommends you try to take control of your “emotional ship” is engaging in light exercise every few hours. Doing so can significantly assist in keeping calm while giving the prefrontal cortex a little energy boost. The reason this is effective is because directing attention to the heart and limbs give the brain a break to reframe and recharge. If, however, exercise is not an option for whatever reason, the next best thing is to get regular sleep, which includes strategically planned naps.
Next, Moore suggests hitting the Pause and Reset button. Interestingly enough, the button is located it the middle of the forehead. Simply pressing on the forehead with your forefinger while taking deep breaths can help you shift your focus from your head to your breath, which is basically the essence of meditation. Saying the word “Pause” out loud can create an even more powerful cognitive break. To enhance the impact of this exercise, try pairing the activity with some calming aromatherapy blends for extra positive reinforcement.
Finally, Moore suggests experiencing our emotions in full as they come along. Surely you’ve had moments when you worked hard to suppress an overwhelmingly negative emotion that causes you true suffering. Instead of pushing it away, try to appreciate your own suffering while tuning into why you are feeling what you’re feeling. The science of self-compassion reveals that by embracing pain or disappointment, we can keep calm enough to push through the negativity.
The Elusive Art of Goal Setting
Now, let’s take a look at the actual steps you can take to master the elusive art of goal setting. Brian Tracy, the author of Flight Plan, gave readers an excellent overview of the process. In it, he explains how setting a goal is like flying a plane; most will reach their destination but will likely go off course due to turbulence, crosswinds, and other unforeseen circumstances. In other words, it’s OK to go encounter problems along the way, as long as you keep moving towards the destination.
Determine What You Want to Achieve
When engaging in goal setting, clearly define what you are trying to achieve. Consider tackling only one big goal at a time when starting out. This means thinking about what the goal entails, putting a timeframe on it, and accepting it as a conquerable challenge.
Step It Up
A big goal can be achieved by following small but concretely defined steps. This, by the way, is where most people encounter a problem. A realistic plan that breaks up the big goal into small and easily-to-follow phases can take a lot of anxiety and uncertainty out of goal setting. Since you can take small steps towards your goals on a daily basis, you are not only developing a healthy habit, you are also avoiding the frenzy of trying to do too much, which is why we often fall off the wagon.
Write It Down or Tell Somebody
This step is important for establishing accountability. Because for some, goal setting is synonymous with wishful thinking, it’s important to convince the brain that you’re serious about attaining the goals you set for yourself. By jotting them down or sharing them with others, you are actively committing to reaching them. Think of it as investing time and effort into fulfilling your dream, and because people hate losing out on their investments, this can be the needed push to keep going in the face of difficulty.
Don’t Give Up
OK, now that you’ve defined the goal, outlined the steps you need to take to attain it, and created a system of accountability – keep going and don’t give up. This is where people tend to fall behind. If you find yourself slipping, try using positive affirmations to keep yourself in line. Remind yourself of your goals, know that you are worthy of achieving what you want, and stick to your game plan. Goal setting is great; achieving what you want is better.
Baby step it
When it comes to goal setting, people tend to think they have to tirelessly work towards their goal every single day. That’s only half right. Doing something that brings you closer to your goal on a daily basis is key to success. However, giving yourself too much to do in a single day may kill your motivation to invest effort into achieving your goal the next day, or the one after that. Whether you can dedicate five minutes or two hours to an activity that brings you closer to the finish line, the investment needs to be consistent.
When it comes to goal setting, it’s important to keep calm and carry on – and Merkaela’s got just what you need to make it happen.