I’m not sure I’m supposed to utter these words as a coach…. but traditional ‘goal setting’ leaves me cold. Really. Even the words sound corporate and sterile and make me shudder. I can barely believe I’ve used them in the title of a blog. What was I thinking?
Well let me tell you what I was thinking. If I want to inspire you with some ideas and guidance which will serve to light your path into 2017, which will ignite your passion and excitement for the year ahead, which will fuel your creativity to design the year of your dreams, which will indeed give you wings….. I must make some distinctions.
Goal setting is often a hollow, box ticking exercise in the same camp as the dreaded ‘New Year’s Resolutions’. At the very least goal setting can often be pointless (yes I’ve read all the coaching books, and I still stand by this!) and at worst it can be toxic and actually feed our patterns of self sabotage. The first problem with what we tend to call goals, is that we are taught to set them around things, stuff, quantities, titles, status and money. We need to be putting much more emphasis on how we want to feel, rather that what external ‘benchmarks’ we think will deliver us a dose of feeling good.
The second problem with setting goals is the intense irony in using a ‘process’ which in the wrong hands just formalises how we routinely disempower ourselves. The beliefs that we are ‘not good enough’, ‘not enough as we are’ or ‘not worthy’ are rife and endemic in our culture. Every single client I work with as an executive coach, life coach and therapist – whether they are outwardly seen to be ‘successful’ or ‘stuck’ – we are inevitably working on some shade or fragrance of these core beliefs, embedded in childhood. So without the holistic approach of coaching and it’s emphasis on many deeper aspects, other than just the ‘goals’ for the future, the whole premise of goal setting tends to just reinforce the idea that we are not OK yet, not there yet, not good enough yet. BUT when / if we meet that condition, reach that level, do that thing, accumulate that stuff, earn that salary, meet that guy, buy that house etc…etc… THEN we will be OK. Only then will we be good enough. Only AFTER we have ticked the box can we start living, feeling satisfied and deserving. It’s the most ridiculously routine way we hand over our power to some future version of ourselves that doesn’t exist yet, whilst the current version is still stuck here is the present moment feeling a bit overwhelmed by having to get so much done in order to start the ‘feeling good’ chapter – the ultimate irony is that with this mentality that chapter never really starts, because no matter how many goals we think we are on track to score, the part of our subconscious which houses the ‘not good enough’ belief simply keeps moving the goalposts, and to mix up the metaphors….has us jumping through hoops.
Which leads nicely onto the third problem with setting goals, especially in the ‘dream big’ school of personal development… We set them so high that what we feel is the LACK of where we are now in comparison to where we want to be. Instead of feeling the warm glow of joyful inspiration. We feel the cold heavy weight of being miles away from our destination. Nothing kills our enthusiasm faster than a toxic goal. A goal which just reminds all us the more what we are NOT yet, and what we DO NOT have yet.
If you are still with me, and wondering when I’m going start talking about the wings, thank you for hanging on in here. But I’m sure you will agree it’s worth moving away from the old paradigm because like me, you have probably already realised it doesn’t really deliver what it promises.
What I’m going to present to you here is designed to help you fly this year. When I think of flying, as well as wings, I think of… Ease.. Passion… Fun… Gracefulness… Intuitive skill… Pleasure… Thrill… What the heck has all that got to do with creating and attracting a year of holistic success? A lot…
Our greatest progress towards our goals will always come from pleasure, from feeling good. In turn, making progress towards our purpose also brings us pleasure. Even before we start making progress, pleasure is our most important foundation when it comes to creating and attracting what we want in our lives. This is because we must set our intentions, make our promises and commitments to what is a priority and focus our ideas and planning from a state of feeling good, from a holistic high vibration inner environment. This is the vital ingredient missing in old paradigm ‘goal setting’… If you want to plan for pleasure you have to plan with pleasure.
So with this in mind, here is my step by step guide to bringing passion, and awareness to your planning process…. Prepare to fly…
#Reflect & Review 2016
Before starting anything new, it’s always a good idea to review what came before, just the same way you would start your new year business strategy with a review of the previous year’s performance, you can adopt this approach for yourself too.
1/ Begin by Celebrating Your Successes – Put emphasis and time into this part of the process. Give yourself permission to be your own best friend. Pat yourself on the back for what went well, where you performed well, where you achieved what you set out to, where you acted resourcefully in the face of challenges or where you gained important insights about yourself or others.
One very useful and interesting fact about our brains and emotions, is that when we remember events from the past, and really associate and connect into the feelings, we actually produce the biochemistry of those positive emotions all over again – the brain does not know the difference! – All the neurological pathways of chemical and electrical messages get sent around our whole bodies once more. Feel how good it feels to relive your finest moments, to appreciate yourself for your skills and talents, be grateful for the way you handled yourself through dilemmas.
2/ Acknowledge What Was Challenging – without getting stuck into lamenting mistakes and mishaps! Do this succinctly to allow you to move on to point 3
3/ Now Reflect on what Lessons you have Learnt from the above. Note how you will take these forward in a way that will support you.
4/ Let the rest GO! Yes just set a clear intention to let it go, the least useful thing you can do is to hang on to old emotional clutter. When you carry frustration and resentment forward with you, it shows. And more importantly you unwittingly send it out as an unspoken message. Every emotional state has a vibrational quality to it, and you will be broadcasting out your message, whether you intend to or not! Neurologically, physiologically and energetically it can assist us to release old outdated information or ideas if we choose a combination of writing, speaking out loud, visualising, or even actually throwing out objects, clutter or anything which is a symbolic association of the ‘old’. You can choose the best approach for yourself, but don’t skimp on this stage, let your consciousness indulge itself a little in this process of release.
#Dreams & Desires
After letting do, dreaming and desiring are next in line. Getting creative is important. Feeling good is important in getting creative.
When I work with my clients on specific projects or problem solving, I walk them through the ‘Disney Strategy’ (I won’t cover this in full here). Walt Disney was a man who knew the power of dreaming, and conjuring up ideas…so much so he built it in to his business strategy. In fact he put so much emphasis on creativity he spent whole days or even weeks intentionally immersed in a creative, fluid mindset which he ensured was unhindered by being too practical, logistical or problem focussed.
So I would encourage you to do the same, here are the rules to adding ‘Dreaming Time’ in to your planning for pleasure process:
1/ Only dreams and ideas are allowed – schedule in your ‘Dreaming Time’, and when you have set the time aside, this time is only for IDEAS. Do not start criticising them, or checking them for practicalities at this stage. Just let the ideas flow, and make a note of them. You don’t have to plan and focus on every idea you come up with, but it’s important to nurture ideas from which you can choose.
2/ Ask yourself this – ‘If I could guarantee it would work out, what would I do?’ – this question can help you start the flow and be more imaginative.
3/ Relax & Expand– We are at our most creative in relaxed and expansive brainwave states – our brains are constantly sending out electric waves of information to other parts of our brain, to our bodies, and to the space around (including other people). Brain wave frequencies affect our thoughts. The busy brainwave state that we are in most of the time is called Beta, it is fast, analytical and logical – the opposite of what we need for creative thinking! To help us be at our most fluid and inspirational, we need to slow our brainwaves down into the Alph and the Theta waves. Whatever you need to do to relax and to feel good, do it. Whether it is yoga, meditation, reading, listening to music, lighting candles, laying crystals around you, bathing in bubbles… Give yourself permission to do this, it’s an important part of the planning for pleasure process. Overlook pleasure at your peril.
#Be Elaborate – Ask yourself what you want to BE, to DO and to HAVE. The more elaborate you are the better, this will help with all of the following steps. So you will be wanting, dates, colours, locations, people and all manner of details. It’s important. Make it real, make it personal to you. Connect with what you want. This leads nicely on to….
#Embody the Experience
For the most powerful results, for the strongest wings, we must learn to bring our bodies into this process of connecting with what we want to create in our future. This means cultivating the feelings, the emotions and the bodily sensations by setting the intention to do so and by using our minds, our imagination as the force to fuel our flight. Step in to the future, to already having, being or doing what you want. Now notice how you feel inside from having done it already. Notice your external environment, people, settings, notice how you look, and really get in touch with your inner experience as you observe all this from your mind’s eye, feeling how good it feels to see it. Your brain will be forming neural connections for you, which will already be creating an inner antennae to align you with this future by helping you to form a sort of ‘perceptual filter’ through which to take in messages. Most important of all is this inner experience of emotion, feeling and sensation. This will be some sort of positive feeling; maybe satisfaction, contentment, freedom, love, happiness, joy, abundance. Whatever it is, really make a note of it because this is what you are going to be motivated TOWARDS. Using this embodied experience will help you to express what you WANT in POSITIVE language. Most of the time, left to our own devices, we talk about our goals and futures by telling ourselves and others about what we DON’T want or about some PROBLEM we are trying to solve…..eg, get out of debt, stop feeling anxious, get away from an ex, move on from a bullying boss etc.
When we express ourselves in this language we are setting off all those neural pathways in our brains and bodies associated with the problem, and we are also triggering our emotional response to that problem too eg, fear, frustration, anger, sadness. OK it may be a diluted response, but still we are sending it to every cell of our bodies, and because emotions have a molecular structure, they also have a vibration. If we vibrate negative emotion we attract it back in, just like a human tuning fork, we resonate with other negative vibrations. Now this might all sound a little ‘woo woo’, but actually it’s science, Albert Einstein, who put it like this:
“Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy, this is physics.”
Connect with the feelings and sensations in your body, those very bodily experiences that the future you dream about and desire will bring you. And immerse yourself in those feelings, embody them and ignite them into life through your entire human system, through every cell of your body through the power of your imagination. This is why feeling good, taking time for yourself, looking after yourself, ensuring lots of nurturing self care, is SO essential in the grand scheme of us creating and attracting the future we dream of and desire. Feeling good now, even before our life circumstances have changed, is the only reliable route to feeling good then.
Put another way, if you are feeling sad, lonely, fearful, lacking or overwhelmed – this is what you will be broadcasting outwards energetically, like the human tuning fork you will be resonating (i.e. making bigger, fuelling and attracting) even more of this experience and it is highly unlikely you will align yourself with the positive future you desire.
You have to match the frequency of what you want FIRST, in order to create and attract more of it.
You have to begin giving yourself permission to feel good, OK and positive BEFORE you reach your future, and each step of the way as you take your aligned actions to create that future.
If you are simply relying on reaching your ‘goal’ as your only way to feel OK, you will be handing your power over to the future.
#Say it out Loud – Use the power of announcement to express the elaborateness of what you want, and how you WANT TO FEEL – and say it out loud. When we use language and speak (out loud, or in your head) we light up specific neural pathways in our brains, the more positive neural pathways we light up in connection to what we want, the more solid the foundations we are laying, the stronger and clearer the signal from the inner antennae is broadcast. This way our brains can become more familiar with what we want, and send signals through more branches of other positive pathways, so neural information spreads out and can integrate more fully across and through our brains.
The good news is that our brains are plastic, the term ‘neural plasticity’ explains how new neural connections are made as our brains learn. With the right information and intentions, we can feed our brains, we can mold and shape them in new directions, away from old stuck patterns and into new territory.
#Write it Down – same principle, different pathways – writing down information lights up different areas of the brain, this is why journaling has become so popular, there is a science to it.
#Build a Dream Board – get visual – same principle, different pathways – visualising lights up different areas of the brain, and is one of the most powerful ways to fire together new neurons in the brain, so that they wire together. Putting lots of images and key words together in a board can help you to keep reminding yourself of the visual information and connecting up with your future in a way which will change your brain. But remember, there is nothing more powerful than the feeling, so spend time feeling how it feels as you look at your vision board, so you are not just relying on the visual, but using it to help you connect with the fully embodied experience. As with all these steps, allow yourself time and don’t skimp on the experience itself.
#Planning & Chunking it Down – to reduce a potential sense of overwhelm that can come from having lots to do, chunk down your steps, your practical planning into bite size and achievable chunks which are set against REALISTIC timescales. The last thing you want to do is be beating yourself up for not having enough time! Diarise what you are doing, it can help to use a colourful, wall planner which again appeals to the very powerful visual senses which are equally useful when planning as they are when imagining.
#Find an Accountability Partner – tell someone else your plans, and ask them to hold you accountable, to check in on you. Give them key dates when you will be doing certain things and give them permission to chase you on where you are up to. Accountability makes us much more likely to meet our deadlines. We only have to compare our productivity and focus at work with our bosses and line managers with the way we are at home to know this is true!
#Be Flexible – I’m all for having a strategy, for formalising steps and actions and being specific about what we want to create. However, I would encourage a sense of relaxed fluidity and flexibility in every approach.
For many people (myself included) setting rigid action plans can tend to pile on the pressure and have you stressed out, tired and stumbling around in clouds of brain fog. Fact: Stress fogs your brain and switches off your clever, creative and resourceful functioning! This is the opposite of what we want.
So remember, it’s all about ‘Progress not Perfection’. Again, the importance of finding time to relax, unwind and feel good will ultimately fuel our wings for flight.
Finally, through staying fluid and flexible, we might actually find we start to get drawn towards another, even more brilliant and suitable route than the one we had planned. Being too tunnel visioned on an outcome can actually close us off energetically to receiving other wonderful possibilities which might serve our highest evolution all the better! When we stay relaxed and open, we can begin to attract and subtly engineer all kinds of amazing opportunities, potentially quite different to what we originally had in our planning.
Think of this process as etching what you desire deeply into your consciousness, having it resonate through your field of awareness like a loud clear broadcast to the universe. It is for the purpose of channeling your energy, focussing your attention and galvanising your efforts towards the future your desire with momentum and flow. It is of course no guarantee of what will happen, but when we can bring order to what might otherwise have been chaos, we are certainly ensuring we set off in flight, stay in the air, and have a clear idea of where we are heading.
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Lisa Bardell BSc (Hons) Psychology, is an Executive Coach, Life Coach, Clinical Hypnotherapist, Accredited Meditation Coach and Creator of The SHINE Meditation & Coaching Online Program. To read more about The SHINE Program or to access the January only OFFER for just £87 (RRP £107) click here: The SHINE Program
More information about Lisa Bardell can be found on her website: LisaBardellCoaching.co.uk