We want to accomplish something or make some improvement. Perhaps we want to lose weight, change jobs, stop consuming alcohol – or even find a life mate.
Sadly, most of us probably already feel our well-intentioned objectives slipping away. One of the main reasons that people don’t realize their goals and dreams is that they don’t ask for what they want – they ask for what they think they should want. Their heart isn’t necessarily in the game.
When I started studying neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), I came across Tony Robbins’s training. He says: “You get what you focus on.” This fit well with ideas from NLP, so I started creating an exciting, compelling vision for my future. I imagined a home that was warm and dry, a reliable vehicle, an income source that would prevent any worries about money, doing what I love, speaking to groups of people, etc.
But there were problems. I didn’t really believe it would happen for me. I felt frightened of failing. In fact, the main thing that drove me to pursue the visions I focused on was my fear of financial collapse.
I thought I understood that focusing on positive mental images would bring them into my life. But I had misunderstood the word focus.
What I discovered very quickly is that “what you focus on increases”.
Focus is a combination of thought and emotion. Whatever you think about with a strong emotion will increase in your experience over time.
Excessive worry about your credit card debt won’t solve the problem. The combination of thought and emotion contained in worry will likely increase the debt. Instead, you need to focus on the solution and the benefits, not the problem.
Conversely, if you want to become slim, fit and healthy, imagine how good you’ll feel when you reach that ideal weight and how good it will feel along the journey. Like magic, you’ll start to get slimmer. It’s all about perspective.
So how can you make this idea work for you in 2020?
Make sure your intentions are something you want as opposed to something you want to avoid or stop. Our brains struggle to process negative or absent information, so knowing that you don’t want to smoke any longer doesn’t necessarily help. You need to know what you do want instead.
Language creates a context for our brain. If we tell someone “Don’t drop the glass,” they’re more likely to release their grasp while the brain processes what you just asked it not to do. If you’d like to test this, ask a decorator to paint your house not blue.
Make sure the goal is under your control. The more under your control something is, the more your effort will directly translate into results.
And when you focus on the next step in achieving something important, you’ll often get further than when you focus on the result.
Make it tangible
Your goal will be more powerful if you turn it into something you can see, hear and feel. Everything in your brain got there through your senses. Similarly, your brain processes information and ideas using sensory data in a very real and specific way.
When you think of all the people who have annoyed you, you don’t think of all people, you think of specific people and probably a specific person.
Have a clear target
Be specific, not vague. When you set a goal, your brain doesn’t understand “happiness” or “success” or “challenge.”
Test this: When your colleague goes to the sandwich shop, ask for the best sandwich or the most interesting sandwich. See what you get.
Feel good about your goal
Finally, your goal has to be free from side effects and unplanned consequences. When you imagine achieving your goal, does it feel right?
Be honest with yourself – if the feeling is in any way off balance or not quite right, refine the goal until it feels good to think about achieving it.
When you decide what you want, you see, hear and feel it, and that feels good. At that point, you’re already halfway to achieving it.
If you want to realize your goals this year, keep your focus right where it needs to be.
Troy Media columnist Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications.