Goals and why you need them!

dreams mindset and goals ras resolutions smart goals Jan 21, 2023

So we are now at that time of the year when we start to think about what we would like to see happen in the coming year and to also learn from the mistakes/bad habits of last year.

A lot of us do this by making New Year’s Resolutions. The trouble with making a resolution, is that the first time we don’t do what we said we were going to do, then we’ve messed up we think ‘Well I’ve blown it now – I may as well give up!’  That’s why gyms rent in extra gym equipment for the start of the year and are giving it back by the end of February! As most of the new members who joined at the start of the year are no longer attending.

However, if we decide to call them ‘ Goals’ instead of ‘Resolution’ I feel that that gives us a bit more grace to not quite make it every day/every week, but it still gives us something to aim at. Now it’s almost as if I can hear a few of you saying – ‘Well you should be more committed to making that resolution work!’ and yes we definitely need commitment whether it’s a goal or a resolution. Don’t just say you are going to do it, if in your heart you know that you know you have no intention of doing so. This isn’t just so you can be an honest person, but when we set ourselves goals and then don’t do it, it actually affects our self-esteem. Why? Because we may not have told many people about what we intended to do, but we told our brain, and our psyche realises that we didn’t then do what we said we were going to, and so when we say next time that we are going to achieve something it’s like it says back to us ‘Yeh sure – you said that last time when we were going to do XYZ, and you didn’t do it then, so what makes you think that you are going to do it now?’ . But conversely, if you do do what you have said, then it helps to increase your self-esteem.

So why do we set goals in the first place? Because when we set those goals we give ourselves a target to aim at. By being specific, we can then focus our energies into that area. Think about it like light. When there is no light we can’t see where we are going, we stumble & fall, and don’t get anywhere quickly. When we have light we can see where we are going and are able to avoid some of the obstacles, but when we have really focussed light, like a laser, we can actually blast through the obstacles!.  The goal/target gives us focus which we can move towards. There is research that shows that when you write your goals down and post them in visible places to remind yourself of those goals, you will be more able to achieve those goals. If you don’t write them down and post them prominently, then you are more likely to take your focus off them.

Our brains process between 34 GB and 74 GB ( different articles say different amounts) of information every day. Our brains have been designed to conserve energy where possible, so it then has to decipher as to whether the data it has just received is ‘noise’ or whether we actually want to know about it.

 That’s where our RAS (Reticular Activating System ) comes in. It is the part of the brain that sifts the information, and when we have written down our goals and it sees something associated with that, it allows you to ‘see’ it. It’s like when you are thinking of buying a certain car, you’ve looked at the catalogue, and maybe even gone to the showroom to test drive one, so it activates your RAS to think that it’s important to you and so when you are driving along the road, you suddenly start to see all these others cars of the same make & model which you hadn’t noticed before. It can help us to see the opportunities out there that will help us achieve our goals.

So to give yourself more chance of achieving your goals, write them down and post them in prominent places so that you are reminded of them.

So have you set any goals for this year? As with any goals in life, you  need to know what the definition of success is. It’s obvious for football – it’s when the ball goes into the back of the other teams goal net. But what about for your goals – are they defined? If possible then make them SMART ie Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-related.

After having had a few visits to the dentist this last quarter one of my goals for next year under the ‘Wellness’ category will be to ‘Improve my oral hygiene’ But what does that actually mean? So to make it SMART I could say I’m going to brush my teeth at least twice a day. And I’m going to change my toothbrush every 3 months. And I’m going to floss at least 4 times per week.

These are specific actions – they each have been defined, they have measures with them so I can tell straight away whether it has been done. They are not such lofty goals that they are not achievable, for instance I haven’t said that I’m going to brush my teeth after every meal, which would be a lot harder to do. They are all relevant to keeping good oral hygiene, and they are time relevant, each day, week, quarter for a year. One way to give yourself more grace is to set a goal for a year but not specify it per month or week. For instance, some friends were telling us that they had set a target for a certain number of alcohol free days in the year  - but that they hadn’t said well this is 4 days per week as some weeks will be different than others, like when you go on holiday or have friends to stay. If you stipulate it as so many days, then you may miss the target, but there may be other weeks where you are stricter on yourself – say if you go on a diet you may not be drinking for several weeks. Etc. But if you do it per days per year, you need to have some way of measuring it.

It was Brendon Burchard who I heard say ‘ You can’t manage what you don’t measure’

So how do you choose the goals that you want to achieve this year. Well I guess you need to start by looking at the different areas of your life. Ie the goal could be work, financial, wellness, relationship, or spiritually related. You can choose one or more of the areas, but I would recommend the following:

It’s something that YOU want to do. Someone else isn’t dictating the requirement to you, but you have bought into the idea that that goal will give you benefits in your life.

That the goal is in keeping with your authentic self. If it means going against your core values, then don’t do it.! Robbing a bank can make all your financial problems go away, but if honesty is one of your core values, then it’s not going to sit well with you (Even if you get away with it!)

As mentioned before, Make your goals SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time related). So you understand fully what you need to do to be successful in achieving it.

Pick something that will stretch you outside of your current comfort zone, that you will grow doing. Maybe it includes learning a new skill for example.

Be reasonable on yourself, if you are choosing a goal for each category, then don’t make them all stretch goals. Ensure you also get time to relax in the year as well and do some things just for the fun of it.

Make your dreams big and your goals small!

As per the SMART idea – keep your goals achievable. But I would also say, make them easy– ie smaller, so you know you are going to achieve them, because when you do, you gain momentum and motivation, and also gain a dopamine boost which makes you want to keep going and achieve even more. And of course, achieving the goals that you said you were going to do, then it boosts yourself-esteem.