Do you ever wonder why some people seem to hit every goal they set, while others struggle to even take the first step towards their goals? The difference may be in the finer details of how the goal is being set.
Communication, whether with ourselves or with others, is critical in today’s society. When we are setting goals, we are communicating our wants and desires with our unconscious mind. Yet despite the importance of being able to communicate effectively, rarely are we ever taught how to communicate or what the meaning of communication is.
The majority of the population choose their words carelessly and assume that the recipient of that communication will understand what they meant.
We’re typically even more careless when it comes to communicating with ourselves, because our own brains should understand what we mean…right? Wrong. This is why 95% of the population never achieve their goals. This is why New Year’s Resolutions have a shelf life of 3-4 weeks.
We don’t communicate in words. For everything we say, the person we’re speaking to (including ourselves) gets an image in their head. How they interpret that image determines how they interpret what has been said to them. Allow me to demonstrate.
“I want to travel to an isolated beach and stay in a hut over the water for a week”. What picture do you have in your head? I’m guessing a beach, with a hut over the water. Pretty cool right? Here’s the thing, if we’re choosing our words carelessly, then we lack control over the picture that is created. This is a FATAL goal setting mistake.
Within our unconscious mind (the part of our mind that drives behaviour) is our filtering system, the Reticular Activating System, or RAS.
The RAS is like our internal GPS. When we set a goal, the RAS holds onto a picture of that goal and becomes like a homing device towards making it happen. How do you know you’re putting the right image into your RAS?
Here are 3 simple self-communication tips to ensure you set yourself up for success in achieving your goals:
1. Watch Your Mouth!
No, I don’t mean no swearing. The words we use when setting goals are critical to our success. There are certain words the unconscious mind processes in a negative fashion. The first word we need to remove from our vocabulary is “not” or any derivative of not (ie. don’t, can’t, etc). The unconscious mind is unable to process negatives.
Here’s an example. “Don’t think of a purple frog” What picture do you have in your head? A purple frog! When we use negatives in our communication, the unconscious mind has to get a picture of what we’ve said, then the conscious mind comes in and gives a new directive to picture. If we set a goal like “Don’t have any debt” or “I don’t want a partner who cheats on me” then we give the RAS a picture of what we don’t want. The RAS then sets out to find us what we don’t want as quickly and easily as possible. Instead focus on what you do want!
Another word to eliminate from your goal setting (and your vocabulary in general) is “try.” To the unconscious mind, try means “this isn’t important enough to commit to so I have an excuse to fail.” Anyone who “tries” to do anything rarely succeeds. Instead, remove your excuses and commit!
“Aim higher. Stay focused.” – Brandon Adams
2. Be specific!
We’ve all heard of setting SMART goals (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timely). Being specific when communicating your goals is particularly important to the unconscious mind.
If the goal or end result is too ambiguous, the unconscious mind won’t be able to create a picture to move towards. In the absence of a specific picture, it will continue to move towards whatever beliefs or programming is already installed in the unconscious.
For example, setting a goal to be “financially free” won’t move the RAS into action. Instead, set a specific dollar amount you want to see in the bank! Paint a clear picture for your unconscious mind to grasp. It’s worth spending time creating this picture so it’s as clear as possible. You can even print out pictures if you need to!
3. Get Emotional!
Emotions drive our unconscious minds into action. If the goals you set aren’t making you emotional (in a good way) then you’re unlikely to take action. At the same time, if your current situation isn’t making you experience negative emotions, you also won’t be motivated to act.
“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” – Tony Robbins
There are two types of goals we can set – towards motivated goals and away from motivated goals.
Away from motivated goals are when the pain or discomfort of our current situation is so intense that we have to take action.
Think about people with unhealthy habits like smoking. When they witness someone close to them die, or they have a brush with death themselves, they can easily and quickly stop smoking. People who are overweight are typically spurred into action when they are unable to fit into their wardrobe anymore.
The problem with away from motivated goals is that the motivation only lasts while the pain or discomfort is present. It’s not uncommon for someone with a weight loss goal to completely lose motivation at the halfway point because the intensity of their situation no longer overwhelms them.
Towards motivated goals focus on a reward at the end creating a strong emotion such as pride, excitement or sheer bliss.
Examples include brides wanting to look slim in their wedding dress or people who reward themselves with cars or houses remain motivated to continue taking action towards their goal. This is because even once the pain of their current situation dissipates, they are still aiming for the emotion of the reward.
It’s ok to use pain to motivate you to take action, just make sure your goal also contains towards motivation and the emotions you’ll feel once you reach the goal.
Contrary to what Freud may have caused you to believe, our unconscious mind wants to help us get what we want! We just need to communicate effectively and give our GPS (aka the RAS) the proper information so it can find the fastest, easiest route to the future we truly want!