So it’s winding down towards the end of January and as you settle back into the familiar routine you may be wondering what happened to that new years resolution. The one you made with such gusto and conviction at midnight after a few drinks. This time of course you’re going to follow through. And yet….
New Years Resolutions are interesting because they are often flawed in a number of ways. Which is why you may have had the same experience as one client I worked with. They described writing out a comprehensive, exciting and motivational list of things to accomplish under the header “goals for 2010″. And then at the end of the year were able to pull out the same sheet of paper and simply cross out the “2010″ and replace it with “2011″. Well I guess it makes for efficient time management when you can keep recycling the same list.
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One of the problems with New Years Resolutions is that the idea itself is flawed. The idea that there is something special about the start of the new year which means you set some big hoary goals once a year and that’s it. As with anything outcome setting is a case of little and often. We tend to be more successful when we attend to our desired outcomes on an ongoing basis rather than set ourselves up for a one hit wonder at the start of the year. And yet I’m sure many of you have found that as the calender rolls over and you’ve had some time away from the grindstone to contemplate some things that there are changes you’d like to see show up in your life over the next twelve months.
Many of those changes will be goals you’ve set yourself before but never quite got there – like the client I mentioned earlier. So lets take some time to think about why it is that even when we sometimes think we’re sure on what we want, we can’t seem to make it happen. Whether it’s for the big resolution at new years or any goals you may be setting as you go through the year. Because the pitfalls come in some distinct categories.
1. The goal is not well formed
Sometimes the problem is simply in how we’re structuring the the goal. It’s not specific enough for us to feel it when we’re making progress – so we miss out on the all important momentum that comes from that. A very common problem is when we are talking about what we don’t want rather than what we do want. ”I want to get out of this damn job!” or “I want to stop fighting with my spouse”. The problem here is that when we put our focus on what we don’t want it sets up our neurology to focus on more of that. So the more we think about not wanting to fight with our partner the more we seem to.
Often by just changing your goal intto “towards” langauge – e.g. “I want a new job that is inspiring and challenging” or “I want to foster a more loving and safe relationship” clients notice immediately that it creates a different feeling inside of them. Try it now for yourself, think of a goal you have and state it first in terms of what you don’t want. Notice the feeling that generates in your body. Now try it again by stating what you do want. Notice the difference.
That is just one of the criteria of a well formed goal out of many and it’s a good one to start with.
2. The goal is not aligned with your values
You may be surprised at how often people have goals they can express quite clearly, but they get rather flummoxed when asked why that goal is important to them. Or perhaps examining your own goals you may not be surprised at all. Sometimes the goal is not acutally yours at all but has been handed to you by someone else. Or it’s a goal you think you should have rather than one you actually have. Or perhaps it just felt right in the moment you decided on it but it’s yet to be plugged into and connected to all the other things that are important to you. It’s been said that when it comes to goals, it doesn’t matter how strong the what is if you don’t have a big enough why. By aligning a goal with your values in that area you get the core driver of motivation. Going through a specific process with yourself examining “what is it about this goal, that when I get it, something even more important happens…” is a key step in creating the drive for action. Even in cases where the goal is handed to us by others (such as certain work tasks), when we can align that task with our own personal values we are likely to complete the tasks more quickly, easily and more enjoyably.
3. Unconscious resistance
Ever tried to achieve a goal but find yourself sabotaging your own efforts? As if there was some part of you that didn’t want to lose weight, or get a new job, or stop being angry with the people you love. Often what stands between our current selves and the life we want is the phenomenon known as “secondary gain”. Basically this means that on an unconscious level a part of us perceives some benefit in the current state of affairs which it may lose if the goal is accomplished. What if leaving my current job takes away my sense of expertise in what I’m doing? What if losing weight means people interact with me differently, or I will lose my “barrier” and feel more exposed? What if by not being angry I can’t make myself heard or I become insignificant?
Obviously these aren’t conscious discussions we are likely to be having with ourselves. Because if it came to a debate we could shoot them down easily. But the problem is this kind of resistance exists at the unconscious level and so rational debate will be the last thing to work. In this very common situation it will often require an intervention that communicates directly with the unconscious mind. Depending on the context, the person, and where the resistance is coming from, there are a range for techniques to choose from the world of NLP and Hypnosis. The beauty of these techniques is that because they go to the heart of the resistance they can have immediate effect. Often barriers which people have been consciously battling against for years can be removed at an unconscious level after only a few sessions (or even one!).
So if you find your resolutions this year are the same as last, or that the drive and motivation is already starting to wane, there’s some things to look at. How have you structured the statement of the goal, have you examined your values in that area and aligned your goal with it and what might be the areas of unconscious resistance.