It always amazes me when I have a new client and ask her how she wants me to help. “To get better.” I always have to encourage them to go further into their heads and think of something more specific. To save your reading time, I will tell you that the goals usually end up similar to this: I want to be a Champ/Super Champ, I want to be number one on the middle school team, I want to be in the top six on the varsity team, I want to beat (name) in my next challenge match. Once we get to this point, it becomes easier for them to learn the benefit of setting clear goals. Clear goals are easier to achieve.
Let me be clear. This is not new neuroscience; however, it is consistent neuroscience. I can do the same thing over and over, and achieve the same result. Every time. The more precise a goal, the easier it is to figure out the steps to reach that goal, and the easier it is to achieve the exact goal. When you state a specific goal and ask yourself, “What do I need to accomplish this goal?” the entire top half of your brain lights up, and different parts of your brain work together as your most precious commodity figures out what it needs to do, what it can do, to help you. Christie Marie Sheldon tells her clients to ask the question, “What would it take” to accomplish a specific goal.
The broader or less specific a goal, the harder it becomes to reach that goal, simply because you don’t know what you truly want. This confusion actually serves to light up the amygdala, and your fight or flight reaction is activated, which shuts down the frontal lobe of the brain that deals with problem-solving skills in the brain.
For instance, let us say that I am working on serves with a student. Her toss is inconsistent, she keeps changing her grip in the middle of her motion, and the balls are landing all over the court, sometimes in the net. On an “easy” day (she is a little unfocused), I can just ask her to name her target before she serves, and when she succeeds X amount of times, we can do something else of her choosing. On a hard day (her mind is on planet boyfriend), I put cones in the serving box and offer a Gatorade of her choosing once she hits five targets. Now she has a specific goal. Her form suddenly improves as she remembers everything I have instructed in the past. As she aims for a specific target, her serves now go into the designated serving box. The more she focuses, the more successful she becomes. When she hits five targets, we celebrate and I put down the flavor of Gatorade that I will buy for her next lesson. Then we move on.
The more specific goal, the easier it is to achieve that goal, simply because there will be a path to that goal. Pass a class? Do the homework and pass some tests. Make an A in a class? Do all the homework correctly, ace the quizzes, and write an awesome final paper. Build a business? This may be too broad. Build a specific business? Now you can do research and figure out what steps need to be taken to succeed in it. You might be able to do certain steps the same, but the more specific you make your idea, the more specific your steps will be. For instance, while advertising matters in all businesses, advertising for a book will be different from advertising for a new cupcake bakery. There will be different images, different words used in the ad, and different strategies to gather a following.
Still doubt me? John Assaraf did this in a class one time. He asked students to find the arrow in FedEx. He insisted that if students asked their brains to find the arrow, their brains would respond with success. Then he asked them to find the spoon. Take a second, if you haven’t done this already, and see if you can find them in the FedEx logo.
- Be specific. What is your goal? Can you make it more specific by adding a certain number, building a certain kind of place (how many stories, how many rooms, how big is each room), or giving it a specific name?
- Let your brain work for you. Ask yourself, “What would it take to achieve this goal?” and be patient. The answer will come when you are totally relaxed, so do not expect enlightenment when you are paying your bills or looking at a leaking faucet or waiting on the cable guy.
- Write. Write down ALL of the steps—yes, every one of them–that your brain gives you. While several steps may look intimidating, the more steps you have, the easier it is to focus and achieve them, and the more you get to celebrate your achievements (way to go, cupcake!).
- Ask again. Ask yourself, “What would it take to achieve this step?” for each idea you listed in #3. By the time you start writing here, your brain should be humming, and it will release its feel-good chemicals as you work. This is a win-win moment.
- Go achieve your goals, cupcake! And celebrate EACH STEP as you achieve it. Do not minimize or ignore your “smaller” achievements. They are the foundation of your success. Celebrating reminds your subconscious that it matters, that you matter, and it will be easier to access this part of your brain the next time you need to solve a problem. Once again, celebrating releases the feel-good chemicals in your brain, and this reaffirms your ability to accomplish your goals.
As always, let me know how it’s going. What are some things you do when setting your goals? When do you celebrate? How do you celebrate? Feel free to share, as you are sending yourself a Karmic boomerang.
By the way, if you didn’t find theFedEx optic illusions, here they are.