Have you ever repeatedly set a goal, only to find yourself making slow or nonexistent progress on it, even after months, or worse, years?
Well, you’re not definitely not alone. I’ve felt this way, but recently I had a personal breakthrough that gave me a totally new perspective on this problem. (Hint: The “problem” might not be the real problem.)
The “Problem” Defined
First, you sit down and write down a goal.
Actually, let’s back up. Many people don’t even get that far. But my experience has shown me time and again that keeping goals in my head is a good way to forget them or distort my original vision. Keep in mind that every time you remember something, you are remembering it slightly differently. The neurons in your brain can’t help but do this.
But you know this. You’re smart. So you write it down.
If it’s a longterm goal, you probably end up writing it down more than once. And if you’re really smart, you turn it into a daily habit. In my case, every morning I write down a vision of my life as I’d like it to be, covering health, social life, relationships, career, and finances. I find doing this extremely helpful in clarifying my vision of the life I actually want to experience. (The trick here is doing it enough, so that you start to shed any pre-conditioned ideas of what you’re supposed to want. This is your precious time, after all. If you want to create a life that is unique to your desires, your goals will be unique, as well.)
I’ve been doing a morning routine for over a year now in a text document on my Mac. I write out the date at the bottom of the file, and below it I write goals for each area of my life. Most mornings, the goals are exactly the same, but sometimes something will occur to me and I’ll make changes. (Full disclosure: I am indeed human, so sometimes I miss a morning; but I always get “back on the wagon.”)
The clarity I get from doing this is extremely helpful. It’s helped me grow this site over the past year, clarify my social values to create a more abundant social life, and helped me maintain a habit of exercising 7 days a week. (To be clear, that doesn’t mean I have a strenuous workout every day, but I do something every day. If I’m pressed for time, even a walk in the sun to make some Vitamin D is better than nothing.)
And if you do write your goals down repeatedly like this, you’ll notice a problem area after a while, something that just doesn’t seem to be moving at all.
I’ll give you an example.
One of my goals was a pretty specific vision of where I wanted to live. This had been a goal of mine for at least a year. Yet over the last few months, I noticed that I wasn’t really making any progress on it, so last month I stopped writing it down in my morning file. I hadn’t looked at any places or done much research. Something was just… off.
Then, last week I found myself researching for my upcoming Hawaii adventure next year. And somehow I ended up looking at ecovillages on the Big Island of Hawaii.
As I read various ecovillage websites, I noticed how excited I was getting thinking about living in the midst of the Hawaiian jungle, if only temporarily. What an interesting way of life, I thought. I could see myself staying at one of these for a few weeks, taking photos and video, and definitely meeting some interesting characters along the way. I’m not sure I’d want to stay at an ecovillage for my entire time in Hawaii, but it would be a good place to explore. Perhaps it could even be used as a home base of sorts, who knows.
I realized that I always pictured myself buying a one-way ticket to Hawaii so I’d have more flexibility about when I wanted to return, but just how long did I really want to stay, anyway?
I thought about this and realized that once I was brutally honest with myself, I wasn’t really interested in the Midwest anymore, so moving within it was a nonstarter. So I’ve decided that, after my book is released, I want to mix things up again. I want to voluntarily add the instability of Movement into my life again. I want to wander more. And that’s what 2013 is going to be about for me. It will be a bit like 2009. But smarter, and retaining a measure of calculated recklessness.
What it Comes Down To
What it comes down to was: I didn’t want to move within the Midwest. And it took me writing the goal down a few hundred times before I realized that. Instead, on Sunday I had a breakthrough in my vision of the future. Next year, after my book is released on 12/12/12, I’m learning to scuba dive. I’m harvesting jungle fruit directly from the tree. And yes, I’m walking up Mauna Kea.
What about you?
What goals are floating around in your head? What goals have you written down lately? Are you sure they’re your goals? Are you sure that they’re what you really want? You can make corrections later, but you don’t exactly have unlimited time to act, either.
Our lives are fragile, and their duration is not assured.
Sometimes when we’re not making any progress on a goal, it’s because, deep down, we don’t really want it. We try to fool our unconscious mind into thinking that we do, but the unconscious mind is much smarter than that. It already knows if we’re hiding from ourselves, and responds to this by slowing down progress, sometimes to the point of outright sabotage.
Don’t fight yourself. Perhaps some of the goals you hold “aren’t the goals you’re looking for.” If so, tell them to move along!
Create a Vision that Resonates
If you’re having trouble with clarity, try imagining different scenarios in your head. What does your gut say about a specific goal? Or your head? Your heart?
Once you have a vision you feel good about, imagine that you are already living in a reality where you’ve reached the goal. What does it feel like? Remember that feeling, and make a point to tune back into this feeling every day. I’ve found that my desires manifest much faster when I do this, so you may want to make a habit out of it. When you do this, events will begin to conspire to make that happen. (It’s an Intention-Manifestation thing.)
But what if you hold a goal for a long time, and it feels stuck? If you feel resistance, ask yourself: “Is this what I really want? What would I write here if I knew I only had 12 months to live? What about 5 years?”
In the end, it’s about resonance. Do you currently resonate with the goals you have in mind? Much like with a person, within moments you’ll already know if a goal resonates with you.
One thing you can do is create a detailed vision of your life that nourishes you, complete with descriptions of what every area of your life looks like, and discern goals from within that. Because, frankly, you’re only going to achieve the goals you actually care about. You can’t convince yourself. You can only embrace yourself.
Perhaps what you really want has been just under the surface. (Perhaps you want to join me in Hawaii. Who knows?) Sometimes, it takes a while for it to bubble up, but it never will if you don’t dive in first. So dive!