Pursuing a goal is all about creating a new neural pathway in your brain.
And creating that new neural pathway is like striking a new trail through a deep snowbank. The first time you walk through it, you are going to expend a lot of effort. Lifting your feet high above the deep snow before plunging your foot into the next step. It is very deliberate… and uncomfortable… and slow… and tiring.
However, over time, the more you walk that same path, a trail will start to emerge and deepen. Until finally, that trail will become so well-worn that you won’t even think twice as you walk briskly and efficiently to your destination.
This is the way it is for all change. With slow and steady progress, the new behaviour is less effort and becomes more a part of your routine. There will come a time when it is so automatic that you don’t even have to think about it.
It is at this point that success has become a habit. Maybe even a part of your identity:
“I am a runner”, vs “I am someone with a running habit”
For a list of my favourite titles on the subject of habit change, check out the Productivity Library.
The 4 C’s of Goal-Setting
Curiosity & Clarity
The first stage of goal-setting is to get curious about where you currently are. What do you want? Why? Take a look at the reasons that drive you towards your goal and the reasons why you haven’t achieved it yet. This self-awareness is the basis of causal coaching.
The first “why” that your brain offers you is likely to be something negative about your abilities or your character. As an example, if you aren’t getting up in the morning at the time that you had planned, your brain may offer to you that ‘you are lazy’ or ‘you lack discipline’.
What if your inability to follow through had less to do with an inherent character flaw and more to do with the fact that your survival brain is hard-wired to avoid pain, seek pleasure, and conserve energy?
Achieving a goal is not about self-discipline. It is about understanding your underlying motivations and consistently taking small steps in the direction of the goal.
Following curiosity, the next step is acceptance and compassion. Goals are about how you want to feel. Whether you want to feel successful, or accomplished, or valued, or competent, or loved, it is all about the pursuit of a feeling.
The truth is that you can not hate yourself to feeling better. First, you feel better, THEN you accomplish the goal. Accepting yourself as whole and complete at the beginning of the process affords you the opportunity, and the patience, to fall in love with the process. There is no urgency to get there when you already feel better. Start by adopting the mindset that overcoming obstacles and solving problems is what makes life interesting and meaningful.
From a place of acceptance and self-compassion, you can create any result for yourself.
Self-compassion drives you to take actions that serve you. From that place of self-compassion, what actions will you take to achieve your result?
With the knowledge that you can create any result, and the clarity of the result that you want to achieve, the only thing left to do is practice.
Break your goal into small actions. As small as the very next step. Practice it every day. If your goal is to run a marathon, it is much better to run 5 minutes every day for 7 days, than it is to run 60 minutes once per week.
This is because achieving a goal is more about training your mind than it is about training your body.
Small changes practiced consistently are the steps to building that new neural pathway in your brain. Consistency is key. Continue to take small steps every day. Even if you miss a day, start right back again tomorrow. Success is not a destination. There really is no finish line; the formation of the habit is the destination.
In order to get started on your success habit, join us for a 30-Day Challenge!