Secrets to Successful Goal Setting

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It’s frustrating when we make promises to ourselves only to break them. You know the ones I’m talking about… I’m going to cut back on my drinking… I’m going to get in better shape… I’m going to get out of debt… I’m going to network more. I’m going to study more… I’m going to spend more time with my kids… I’m not going to fight with my spouse… I’m going to save up for that beach house…

The list is endless, and the results are the same 9 out of 10 times. What if there was a way to get there? A key to successful goal setting? A process for setting goals that incorporate scientific research to exponentially increase the odds for the following promise you make to yourself?

There is…

BE INTENTIONAL: SET MEANINGFUL GOAL

To drive change, you need to dive deeper into the goals you want to accomplish. Try taking the time to explore further and understand the WHY of your plan.

A few questions you may want to ask yourself are:

“Why do I want to accomplish this?”
“What will it mean for me if I accomplish this?”
“How will it make me feel if I accomplish this?

For example, if your goal is to lose weight, then you should understand why you want to lose weight, what effect will lose the weight have on your day-to-day life, and what long-term effects losing weight will have on your life. Take the time to understand why you want to lose weight and draw motivation from it.

Allow yourself time to explore the goals before throwing them out there. It’s crucial to understand your goals, why you want to achieve them, and what achievement of these goals will look like for you.

EASY DOES IT

It’s scientifically proven that our brains are wired for rewards. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain that plays a crucial role in reward, motivation, memory, decision-making, and even some body functions. When dopamine is released, it gives us pleasure as part of our neural reward system. This motivates you to repeat a specific behavior.

It’s possible to manipulate your dopamine levels by setting small goals and accomplishing them. This is because each time you succeed, the longer your brain stores the information that allows you to do so well in the first place. Why? Because with EACH success, your brain is releasing dopamine! Hence success breeds more success.

SO…

What’s the best way to eat an elephant? ONE BITE AT A TIME

We’ve heard it a thousand times. It makes sense, right? If we try to get it down all at once, we will have some significant indigestion, and it’s just not possible.

The same concept applies to our goals. Don’t think you have to fix everything all at once. Small changes pave the way for more significant changes. Ask yourself, “What can I do today to help me accomplish my goal.” Use this to stay focused each day while rewarding yourself with bursts of dopamine along the way!

KEEP IT POSITIVE

When setting goals, be sure to frame them positively. Focus on what you want to accomplish instead of what you don’t want to achieve. This will increase the likelihood that you will pursue it and increase your success rate. There are hundreds of studies and theories around the idea that positive thinking promotes positive outcomes. Most recently, I read “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne, and before that, I’ve been a fan of “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale. If you want to get rudimentary, take a trip down memory lane and recall The Little Engine’s childhood story, that repeatedly told himself, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”

Across all lines of success, there is one thing that each of them has in common. Positive thinking contributes to positive outcomes.

Consider this if you want to get into brain chemistry for substantial evidence. Any avoidance will trigger inhibition systems in your brain, where positive goals will trigger approach and reward motivation. (Hello, dopamine). Intellectually this makes perfect sense, so give yourself time to frame your dreams this way.

VISUALIZE

Once you’ve identified, framed, and established a few long-term goals with short-term goals, it’s time to kick off.

Vision creates a picture for the subconscious mind.

The subconscious is responsible for 90 percent of the decisions we make in day-to-day life and is also the part of the brain that is mainly in charge when performing creative tasks or charting through unknown territory. Giving your emotional brain a detailed portrait of your end goal also ensures that you will take steps to steer yourself toward it. Articulate your vision with words and pictures; the more detailed, the better. Post this somewhere as a daily reminder and focal point of goals you have set for yourself.

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Episode #32 Patrice Ford Lyn: Executive Coach

Since receiving an undergraduate degree in sociology from Yale University and a graduate degree in nonprofit management from Harvard’s Kennedy School, I have guided the startup of three national-level organizations for over 25 years.

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