For many it’s that time of year where you might be reviewing the year gone by and contemplating change, setting new year resolutions or deciding on your goals for 2023.
According to various sources the main categories of resolutions and goals fall in to losing weight, getting organised, learning a new skill or hobby, living life to the fullest, save more money / spend less money, quit smoking, spend more time with family and friends. All of these seem on the surface like achievable goals and are attractive to us as human beings. Better health, more connection, more fulfilment and living life to the fullest. It all looks good to me! So why is it then that 80% of people (statistics vary for gender and age), give up often within the first few weeks🤔
In this blog I will consider goal setting from the perspective of NLP, Positive Psychology and mBIT and explore some of the Psychology and behavioural change implications that these modalities offer.
Firstly lets consider the neural networks of the brain(s).
The brains (head, heart and gut) are a patterning system. They have evolved to enable us to repeat learned behaviours. Every time a thought or action is performed, you increase the probability that it will be performed again. Unfortunately what often happens is we end up with habits and patterns that don’t serve us as they have been repeated and hard wired in, out of conscious awareness. This is why it is so important to develop self awareness of the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that become familiar to you and run your life!
As you repeat these thoughts, feelings and actions you become unconsciously competent at them. You get good at what you practice. Your patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving become automated and out of conscious control. You might have learned to be over cautious and worry about things because at one time this pattern and way of being perhaps served you in a certain context. However this pattern may now be generalised to other contexts where it isn’t necessary or helpful. You might find yourself worrying about things that don’t need worrying about – as the quote goes ‘I spent my life worrying about things that never actually happened’. You want a fulfilled life and yet you find yourself stuck in worry and anxiety and changing this pattern feels impossible.
Unwanted habits that we find ourself stuck in work in the same way. A behaviour is started because at the time you believe you are getting something from it. Drinking to relax after work. Smoking to fit in and be accepted. Shopping to feel good. You get a benefit from the behaviour so the pattern is formed. When setting goals for behaviour change it is important to address the benefit of the behaviour so that you can find a more helpful replacement behaviour to meet the need. One of the processes I teach as an NLP trainer is the six step reframe. This process supports you in identifying the unconscious part that is responsible for the behaviour, determining the benefit of it and finding alternative new behaviours and solutions to work towards new patterns that are more healing and supportive of a fulfilled life. Change work at the unconscious level supports lasting change as it re patterns the neural pathways.
So when setting new goals and thinking about what you want for 2023 consider the ‘benefits’ of the unwanted behaviour and how you can still have the benefits with alternative and healthier behaviours.
Also consider the consequences of any new behaviour. For example I have worked with many clients with smoking, over eating, drinking and many other unwanted habits. The consequences of not doing those behaviours were often things like, losing social friendships, not having an excuse to go for a break at work to destress, the enjoyment of a drink or indulging in food and being afraid of not having the pleasure. What will the new behaviour give you that will be more rewarding?
Also consider how important stopping the behaviour is and what will having something else instead bring to your life? This is why it can be useful to access coaching and support when working on your goals as you will be asked questions and directed in ways that you probably haven’t considered when doing it on your own.
Secondly let’s consider self fulfilling prophecies.
If you believe that you will not succeed in achieving your goal then you can pretty much guarantee that is where you are heading!
The filtering part of your brain, the reticular activating system that is responsible for filtering the information through your senses and what you pay attention to, does a very good job setting you up for failure if thats what you expect! Your beliefs, expectations and past experiences are programming your RAS without you even realising. How often have you woken up in the morning telling yourself it’s going to be a bad day again and once again you have a bad day! Or you are buying a new car and suddenly everyone has the same make and colour! Or maybe that person at work who winds you up is always out to get you and purposely does things to irritate you. You know this isn’t true right?
The same happens when you are setting your goals. Your unconscious programmes are already working in the background filtering to prove your beliefs right. Be careful what stories you tell yourself about who you are and what you are incapable of. These stories become our self sabotaging behaviours and limit our happiness, fulfilment and potential. Being more present, learning to slow down and check in with your thoughts, feelings and behaviours and becoming more self aware, will support you in making changes in beliefs that limit you so your self fulfilling prophecy becomes one of success.
Thirdly let’s consider light heartedness and forgiving yourself.
Often we take life too seriously and get stuck in feelings of not good enough, resentment, blame, anger and frustration with ourselves for not achieving our goals.
My invitation is to embody an attitude of light heartedness and focus on positive emotions for yourself like appreciation, love and gratitude. Get curious about what motivates you and what makes you tick instead of being judgmental and giving yourself a hard time. Practice filling your heart and mind with calmness and compassion.
If you have set yourself a goal and not achieved it then what can you learn from it? Was it not that important to you? Did you not have a robust enough plan? Did you need some accountability? What mindset were you in? What can you do different next time.
The success strategy from NLP is a useful guide to help you stay on track –
- Know your outcome: get clear on what you want and state it in the positive
- What sensory evidence will let you know you are on track: what will you see, hear and feel as you are succeeding. How will you know that you are moving towards what you want.
- Give yourself feedback: if what you are doing isn’t working then change it.
- Take action: keep taking action. Nothing changes if nothing changes. You have to do the ‘doing’.
Finally keep is successfully simple!
If you are looking for some new year reading then grab a copy of ‘Avoiding the Enemies to Happiness by Grant Soosalu.
Or if you want some coaching I would love to help. Send me a message on here or an e mail to email@example.com
Happy New year, wishing all the best for 2023 😊