This year – instead of focusing on resolutions, what if you focused on routines? When you line your goals up with your behavior, your goals will be yours. While that’s simple to understand, it can be a very difficult thing to do because you have to define what you want, and do the hard work of upgrading your habits.
First thing’s first … what do you want?
It takes a great deal of courage to answer that question. Giving voice to your most cherished desires can make you feel unsure of yourself, but ignoring your aspirations bleeds your energy dry and sets you up for dissatisfaction and disappointment.
There comes a time in every woman’s life when she needs to decide what she wants, and whether or not she’s going to go for her goals. If you’re reading these words right now, you’ve reached that choice point. Don’t panic. I’m not going to ask you to stretch so far you don’t recognize yourself, but I do want you to stretch. This blog will help you figure out what you want, set some goals, and take control of your focus.
You probably haven’t given much thought to your focus, but it’s one of your most critical success tools. The way you direct it dictates how you spend time, determines how you feel, impacts your thinking, and shapes your behavior. Happily, your brain is wired for focus. You just have to give it some coordinates.
There’s something in your brain called the reticular activating system (RAS), which controls what you notice, and helps you laser in on your goals. It works like this. At any given moment, there’s more information available to you than you can process.
Your RAS acts like a filter that scans your environment and serves up the information you’ve deemed important. When you set clear objectives this system helps you identify resources that move you closer to the life you’ve envisioned.
You already have experience with your RAS. Think about the last time you planned to buy a new car. Were you surprised when you started seeing that make and model everywhere once you’d decided on it?
Do you think all of those vehicles just appeared overnight? No way. They were always there, but you hadn’t told your brain they mattered. As soon as you made a mental note of the car’s importance, your RAS adjusted your filter to help you notice those vehicles.
It will work like that with your goals too. There are resources all around you, but you have to decide what you want before your brain can start bringing them to your attention. I’ll help you do that today in three simple steps.
Step 1 – Put a stake in the ground.
We begin by setting clear goals. A goal is a specific aim or clearly defined outcome. You’ll need to accomplish many goals to breathe life into your dreams. To make the goal setting process fun, I’ve developed a tool called a B.A.G. which stands for Big Ass Goal.
I confess to having a major purse problem. I love me some Louis Vuitton. In fact, I like a good handbag so much that I can’t walk into my favorite store without parting with some of my hard earned cash. In my humble opinion, carrying a fab handbag is one of life’s little pleasures, and most of the women I know take equal satisfaction in a great purse. Think of your goals like a new handbag collection. I want you to start sporting them around like you’re carrying the latest limited edition dreaminess.
It’s time to stop settling. Seriously, aren’t you tired of longing for something without acting on it? Don’t you hate being mad at yourself for holding back? Let yourself want. Allow yourself to fantasize. Give yourself permission to reach for the stars. You don’t have to know how you’re going to make anything happen yet. Right now all you have to do is let yourself feel desire.
Take out a sheet of paper, and define at least one goal for each of these seven life categories. Don’t spend too much time with any one answer. Write quickly, and listen to your first inclinations. They rarely steer you wrong. If you want a little bit of help figuring your goals out, check out my blog How to Figure out What You Want.
Life Category #1: Health
Life Category #2: Intimate Relationship
Life Category #3: Family and Friends
Life Category #4: Career
Life Category #5: Financial Abundance
Life Category #6: Home Environment
Life Category #7: Spiritual Connection
Step 2 – Line your habits up with your goals.
A habit is a repetitive behavior you engage in so frequently that your brain has automated the process. Scientists have determined that forty to forty-five percent of our daily behavior is made up of habits, which means almost half of what you do each day happens on automatic pilot. Your brain doesn’t care if your repetitive behavior moves you closer to your dreams or further away from them either. Anything you repeat with regularity will become habituated.
If you want your B.A.G. to come true, you’re going to need to adjust your habits. You’re definitely going to need to start doing a few things you aren’t doing yet, and it’s pretty likely you’ll need to stop doing a few things as well. You are one smart cookie, so I know that you already know what you need to stop doing. Make a list of those behaviors. For help changing stubborn habits, check out my blog on How to Get Out of Your Own Way.
To identify the things you need to start doing – all you have to do is follow the leader. If another person has accomplished what you want to accomplish, they are living proof that your dream is possible, and there’s a pretty good bet they left a path for you to follow. I want you to find someone who has what you want, and begin doing the things they do.
If you want to fund your company, seek out founders who have successfully secured capital, and find out how they did it. If you’re dreaming of landing a promotion or a big fat raise, reach out to colleagues who have climbed the corporate ladder and learn about what they did to get there.
While this might sound supremely simplistic, it’s a highly effective approach used in psychology called modeling. This technique asks you to learn new behaviors by imitating the behaviors of another person who has created the outcome you’re seeking. Modeling is one part short cut and another part insurance policy. When you mimic the behavior of a person who has already accomplished what you want to achieve, you learn what to do, and how to avoid common mistakes.
I want you to say hello to your new friend, Google. This little search engine can show you how to do almost anything. You can uncover step-by-step strategies by typing the words “how do I do X” and following the results. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find a role model who has already achieved what you’re dreaming of accomplishing, and start adopting the habits that helped them get there.
Step 3 – Condition your new habits.
Once you’ve decided on a new habit, you need to consciously practice it for a short time before it becomes second nature. Your brain automates repetitive behaviors by creating neural pathways, which are bundles of connected neurons that help you learn and process information. You can think of these pathways like roadways in your mind.
Initially conditioning a new habit is a lot like building a brand new road. When you begin, you’re working with virgin dirt, which means you have to do the hard labor of clearing a path. After a short period of repeating the behavior, your neural pathway turns into a dirt road, and when you continually repeat it, that road eventually becomes a super-highway … which automates the habit.
You’ve probably heard the old adage that it takes twenty-one days to condition a new habit, but that’s overly optimistic. Science shows it actually takes at least sixty-six days to form the neural pathways that automate habits, and that’s only if you’re practicing the behavior regularly.
If you’re intermittently practicing it can take as much as two hundred and sixty six days to form your super-highway. Fortunately, you can short-circuit this process by pairing your new habit with one you’ve already established. In psychology this process is called habit stacking.
When you link your new habit to a pattern you’ve already conditioned, you increase your odds of habituating that behavior. When I decided to start a new meditation habit, I initially attempted to do it on my lunch hour, but found myself flaking more than following through. Based on results, a lunch hour meditation was not going to work for me. I had to change my approach, so I decided to try habit stacking.
I work out every morning without fail, and have been observing this habit for more than thirty years. It’s a super-highway habit for me. When I added my new meditation practice to the end of my workout, I was easily able to condition this new routine because my trail was already well formed. Which of your own super-highway habits could you use to condition your new behaviors?
That’s it for now. Remember that I never want you to blindly take my word for anything. Only you know what’s right for you. I just happen to have a few coaching tools that can help you get closer to that wisdom. Give this lesson’s advice a test drive in your life, and let me know how it goes. There are three ways for us to interact.
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My mission is your empowerment. That’s why I’m here. If you haven’t already joined my community, please do it by entering your email (www.kimberlyfulcher.com). Until we meet again, know that life is happening for you, and you’ve got this!