Remember your last vacation? How long did you take to decide where you were going and plan what you would do there?
Planning a vacation is, for many, much easier than planning their goals. Why? Apart from being something people look forward to, it is easy to decide on a destination and then it becomes easier to plan the steps. Often the hardest part is agreeing on the destination! Once confirmed, the other elements, like the duration and budget, come together quickly.
Planning our holidays also satisfies our need for immediate gratification; we can soon see the result of the goal, of the effort we put in to make it happen.
Now think about the difference when deciding on the goals around your life, business and relationships. For many, once they begin to think about these areas, a level of anxiety begins to creep in.
WHY DO WE RESIST?
People want to avoid planning for the future for a myriad of reasons. One of them is that they might be disappointed in where they are and what they have achieved so far.
It is difficult to confront the truth, which often is that perhaps you could have acted but chose not to.
For many, this close examination of their life is far too brutal.
To find ourselves lacking will challenge our self-concept. This is unsavoury to us; we will all do virtually anything to protect our own views of ourselves or our personas. These views are in fact closely related to our own beliefs. Let’s face it, who likes their beliefs challenged? No one!
Why? Because this would be a direct attack on our past judgement and the decisions we have made, and no one likes to be proved wrong.
The act of going after your goal is a lot about self-image. Generally speaking, people who are confident in their abilities and have a strong belief in themselves will set out their goals and then methodically go about seeking them.
The other side to this is someone who is not so confident of achieving what they want; they will avoid the entire chapter of planning and setting their goals. They will then be able to seek safety in blaming other people or circumstances for not achieving what they imagine they set out to do. The frightening aspect of this is it is really difficult to confront the truth, which often is that perhaps you could have taken action, but chose not to.
If you think you fall in the second category, the first thing is to recognise that awareness and thinking are the areas that need to be addressed. Pay attention to your thoughts, such as, ‘I am too old to change’, or ‘I never had the opportunity to…’. These become your beliefs. Remember, beliefs are completely internal and linked closely to self-image.
We are instinctively wired for fight or flight when faced with a difficult situation. Whenever we need to take stock of our lives, the flight instinct kicks in automatically. Facing the facts shows the evidence of your progress in life, which you might not be entirely happy to face; thus the flight instinct immediately wants to block that activity. Instead, it is much easier to blame other factors for your lack of progress or avoid dealing with this situation. It becomes easier to make excuses and create valid reasons for your lack of progress.
SO WHAT DO WE DO?
Going back to planning a holiday, what makes it easy to plan? It is easy because we feel we are in control of virtually all the steps and we know what we are going to get as a result of our actions.
Here is the key point: we already know what we will get as a result of taking action. In our minds it is a known outcome, not a variable. We think we know the end result. We think when we plan a holiday we will have a good time. The fact is, you don’t know before you are on your holiday if it will be a great holiday or not. You believe it will be, so you make an effort to make happen, so it does.
It is interesting how beliefs impact all our decisions. Our beliefs have a very powerful control over our feelings, because they also influence our actions – which ultimately make us feel successful or unsuccessful, in control or out of control.
The future frightens many people when it comes to their goals, because they don’t know what will happen. Any marker or indication of time is an unwelcome reminder that your life is passing you by. You prefer to keep life vague, a stream of events and memories without any structured progress towards your goals.
Facing the facts shows evidence of your progress in life, which you might not be happy to face. It is better to have regrets about things you have done or attempted than not to have done them at all.
Now, let us apply the same belief to goals that we do for holidays. We take the fearful view out of the equation. We believe that we will achieve the goal we have set our sights on. Immediately, we see going after goals in a different light. We are eager to plan and execute this plan to get to our destination.
HOW DO WE START?
The first thing to do before making a change is to realise what you are thinking. Write down everything you want to happen or want to avoid. Sometimes becoming aware of what we don’t want is a lot easier to work out than what we do want.
Take responsibility for, and control of, your life. Stop blaming outside influences such as the economy, your parents, your boss, your education, school teachers or the lack of opportunities in your life. This is a time to face the music and face facts. You probably have a vague idea of what you wanted: now is the time to examine those goals.
When you take responsibility for your circumstances, you take control of your life – which is the point where you take action. See responsibility as a reward; to quote Billie Jean King, “Pressure is a privilege”.
Accept uncertainty brought about by change and give up the need to know what is going to happen as a result of taking action. Focus on the process rather than only the end result.
A simple fact is that to make progress in our goals and careers there needs to be change. Another fact is that change means stress, getting out of your comfort zone, which means more pain. This is the stage where you need to be aware and accept that the past gave you comfort while changing the future will come with a degree of discomfort.
An important step in moving towards your goals is to forgive people who you feel either hindered you or did not give you the help or guidance you needed. This step helps you to take back control of your emotions. Without forgiveness it becomes very difficult to move on in your life, especially towards goals.
TAKE A RISK
Start by taking a risk. Start planning! What are you going to do this year, this month, this week, this day?
Successful planning is done on several levels, macro and micro. Planning daily actions is just as important as having a glowing plan of the final outcome. Planning daily actions creates momentum and this is where the initial focus should be. Planning needs conscious thinking, not habitual thinking.
Take time to plan and write your activities for the month, week, every day. You will notice an immense emotional benefit; the lack of stress, not to mention increased motivation to achieve what you set out to do.
It’s never too late to plan your life. Put pen to paper and plan your business goals, personal goals, financial goals and/or health goals.
The best time to start is now, to move towards your future aspirations. Be thankful for your current experiences. Seeing the positives out of these experiences is important.
To help you get started, answer the following questions to engage in self-reflection:
- Find out exactly what the goal is you don’t want to commit to. Write it down.
- Think about why you are not committing. Write it down.
- Plan constructive action. Write the actions down in detail, limited to five key actions.
- Pick a start date.
It is better to have regrets about things you have done or attempted than not to have done them at all.