The four phases and five strategies required to actualise your potential and achieve your goals. Words by Vicki Writer.
As a busy specialist investing so much time, energy and care into the lives of your patients, what time and care are you giving to yourself to help build your wellbeing and achieve your own goals both personally and professionally?
Have you ever consciously thought about what things make you happy, what goals you would personally like to achieve or perhaps where you want your business to be in the next three years? Where do your biggest opportunities lie?
Regardless of the goal you want to achieve, there are always four phases to any goal pursuit and we would be well served to understand the goal achievement process first before learning how to set goals or committing them to paper.
Learn here why 85% of people fail to achieve their goals and how to avoid being one of them.
The 4 phases to any goal pursuit
1. The selection phase
When you think about something in your life that is important you want to achieve, how does it make you feel? What do you actually do in your mind when you begin to think about the achievement of that goal?
In many instances, the emotions the image evokes in you will be generally quite positive. One of the reasons for these positive emotions is that we actually begin to see ourselves as already being the person who has achieved that goal.
The reason for these feelings is that the brain does not differentiate between what is real and what is imagined. Our internal images (things we imagine or visualise) and our external vision (things that actually occur) create the same emotional state and/or feelings for us because our brain does not differentiate between the two. The same goes for sounds. We have external auditory and an internal auditory, or self-talk, and our brain does not differentiate between the two. Both will stimulate the same feelings.
However, as we get closer to the start date whereby we need to start taking action toward achieving the goal, our emotions change and become quite negative. They actually reverse and we begin to feel anxious, nervous and busy.
Our brain begins to create an excuse, a justification or a rationale that will get us out of taking the required action.
How many of you know someone that this has happened to? How many know this person intimately?
The reason that 75-85% of people fail to achieve their goals is that most people don’t even start. Most people fail to initiate the action required to start any sort of progress toward the accomplishment of the goal.
The two principles that must be abided by in any goal is the ability to initiate and then sustain ongoing and consistent action toward the achievement of the goal.
2. The beginning phase
If you are lucky enough to overcome the negative emotions that take place the closer you get to the start date of the goal, you will hit the beginning phase. This phase is also a danger as there is a risk of quitting at this point.
A PhD study on Goal Achievement by Dr Stephanie Burns showed that a large portion of people will quit the goal within three to six weeks of commencing. The reason that this phase can be a risk is that once we begin taking action we soon come to realise how far we have to go to reach the goal or any level of competence.
We begin to compare ourselves to other people. For example, if your goal is to lose weight and become more healthy, if you are at the gym, you begin to look around and compare yourself to all of the people who look very fit and toned (and who have likely been going to the gym for a long time).
Realistically, the only person that we can compare ourselves to is the person we were yesterday. We can only measure our own growth and how far we come as an individual. We need to measure our success backwards and when we do this, all progress is seen as an achievement because we have moved forward.
We need to train ourselves firstly to be consciously aware of how we are thinking and our self-talk and secondly to learn to attach meanings to situations that are useful for us and that move us in a direction toward the fulfilment of goals and aspirations.
If you are fortunate enough to get through the beginning phase you will hit the middle phase (but beware).
3. The middle phase
The middle phase can be a danger period – this is the boring repetitious phase where we learn to do what we have learned to do over and over again.
Unless you are armed with a set of strategies to get you through this phase, you can often face the risk of quitting through sheer boredom.
If you persevere and survive the middle phase you will come to the final phase, which is essentially the completion of your goal.
4. The completion phase
The completion or the end phase also comes with a risk. We can begin to think that being close enough is good enough.
Unfortunately, our brain is very good at storing memories. This is one of the prime directives of the unconscious mind. If you have unfinished business in certain areas of your life – things that you committed to do and didn’t – then you will likely be reminded of these things throughout your life when triggers or anchors remind you about those unfinished things.
This can have an impact on what things we go on to achieve. The way we interpret events and how we explain events to ourselves will have a huge impact on how we see our lives and how we live it.
5 strategies for the achievement of any goal
Strategy #1: Always be future orientated (and measure progress backwards)
If we go back to the selection phase and remind ourselves about what we do when we begin to select a goal and how the achievement of that goal makes us feel, we will have our very first strategy for overcoming negative emotions and we can begin to remove some of the risks associated with goal abandonment.
If, when we select a goal, we visualise that goal and see ourselves already being that person and we feel good about our choice then this must be a strategy for the achievement of goals or important tasks.
In order to overcome negative emotions, feelings of discomfort and to assist in overcoming the excuses and justifications your brain will make up in order to get you out of taking the necessary steps or actions toward your goal, we need to always think about how we will feel once the goal is achieved or the task is completed. We need to imagine the end result and how we will feel once the task has been accomplished.
This strategy works for any goal – personal or professional. If the goal is to do a load of washing or to do the washing up – go out to the future in your mind and see the task complete. See the washing on the line or the washing up done and packed away.
If the goal is to call a difficult patient or perform an arduous or difficult task – the strategy is to go out into the future and feel how it feels to have this task done and ticked off. See yourself putting the phone down after the phone call or see the difficult patient file on your desk with a big tick next to it marked “completed”. The strategy is always future orientated.
Strategy #2: Get it done
If you think too much about the goal or the task and you begin to think about how long it is going to take to complete, or you think about all the time and effort and what you have to do or give up in order to achieve your goal or task, then your brain will very quickly create an excuse to get you out of the action and to make you feel better about your choice.
We should avoid at all costs thinking too much about what needs to be done and the work involved in achieving whatever it is you want to achieve. The moment we begin to think through the effort and the hard work involved, the emotions will change to be quite negative and the brain will come up with excuses to get you out of taking the action.
We walk around with a set of emotional scales constantly weighing things up and our brain will do whatever makes us feel better. It is truly extraordinary what lengths our brain will go to in order to make us feel better about our choice so that we don’t have to feel so guilty for not doing it.
Remember, there is no relief in avoidance of the task. There is only relief in getting the task done.
The strategy to overcome avoidance, procrastination or even in the extreme case of quitting the goal completely is to not ask yourself any questions like “do I feel like doing it” or “do I feel like going to the gym” or “do I feel like putting $2000 away this month” or “do I feel like calling this angry patient”. What answer do you think your brain will give you? “Of course not! You’re tired. You went to the gym yesterday. You can’t go tonight. You already look amazing.”
Your brain will come up with an excuse, a justification or a rationale to get you out of taking the action so you don’t have to feel bad for not doing it.
You simply need to avoid asking yourself limiting questions like “do I feel like doing the task” and simply give yourself a command like “get it done”. Use a strong voice and just tell yourself to get the task done. Don’t ask a question, ‘just do it’.
Strategy #3: Just start
The danger with any goal or difficult or arduous task is asking yourself if you feel like doing it or asking if you should do something else instead because your brain will give you the answer you want to hear.
Another strategy is to just start. Don’t ask – just start the task.
Strategy #4: Just do 10 minutes
It is truly amazing what happens when you give yourself permission to stop. I do many things in my life now in 10 minute bite size chunks. When you give yourself permission to stop – it becomes easier to keep going and so 10 minutes turns into 20 and then 30 and so on.
If you have a difficult task to get through, give yourself permission to stop working on that file after doing just 10 minutes.
Use the 10 minute strategy for any goal or task that needs to be done.
Strategy #5: Ask better questions
The questions we ask ourselves determine what we focus on. The way we feel is based on the questions we ask ourselves. Our brain is like a computer – when we type in a question, it fires off an answer.
Ask better questions and get better quality answers. How many times a day do you ask yourself a question that limits your intelligence, ability or skill?
Here are some good quality questions you can ask in order to have your brain generate good quality answers.
• How can I learn to do the task without necessarily liking it?
• What is odd about this situation that I have not noticed before?
• How can I increase my revenue by 25%?
• What do I need to do to generate new leads?
• What can I do to triple my income in the next three years?
About the author
Her vision stems from a career in financial services spanning 20 years. She is a highly sought-after speaker, trainer and coach in the areas of peak performance and sales best practice.
Vicki helps people to take a fresh look at the way they operate by providing them with a platform to create personal breakthroughs so that they can discover, define and realise their greatest potential.
People who have worked with Vicki have experienced a transformation. Through restored clarity and confidence, she has helped them to create a new framework for re-shaping their futures by transforming their vision into reality.
She is a passionate educator and coach and has written a number of articles in various publications and spoken internationally. Vicki was invited to speak at the prestigious Million Dollar Round Table in the USA, an annual meeting for the world’s best financial services professionals.
As a certified Master Practitioner and Trainer of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming), specialising in the development of human potential, she has helped hundreds of people over the years and assisted them to dramatically enhance their lives.