Have you ever set a goal, had all the best of intentions and then … flop. You/your goal fell in a heap, never to see the light of day again … or at least until you tried and flopped … again.
I have some good news for you. It’s not you! It’s your brain.
You are not any of the things you may have been calling yourself. You are not hopeless, you are not lazy, you are not useless. You are just the victim of your primitive (subconscious) brain’s programming.
You see there are a few reasons why your brain sabotages your efforts to achieve a goal. We often think it is us sabotaging ourselves, but in fact it is our brain.
Our primitive brains are hard-wired to do three things, seek pleasure, avoid pain and be efficient by not using or wasting energy.
So when we set a goal, it all starts with a new thought. We get all excited thinking all the new thoughts of this new thing we want to achieve. It could be losing weight, a career change, a new business, a relationship, a new habit or behaviour, anything. And just as we are thinking all the exciting new thoughts, our primitive brain is coming up with all the reasons why it won’t work, or won’t happen. These are called Obstacle Thoughts.
There is currently a gap in between wherever you are in life right now and where you want to be, and it is that gap that keeps us growing and wanting more, with direction and purpose in life.
When we don’t have any goals or aspirations, we live on autopilot, but without growth we become stagnant and that in itself turns into a problem that we then want to solve.
Have I ever mentioned how contradictory our brains can be? Everything is a cycle!
So once you’ve decided your goal you are faced with all of these obstacle thoughts, because our brain is trying to protect us from what it interprets as a threat or danger. You might be thinking, ‘but losing weight isn’t a danger to me, in fact it’s good for me’, or ‘that new job isn’t a danger, I’ll make more money”. Your logic is perfect, but your brain doesn’t perceive things as we do.
All your brain knows at this point is that what you are proposing is NEW. It is not normal and will require lots of ‘hard work’ to make these changes. Remember, our brain likes to be very efficient and avoid doing stuff, if it can. So it will flood you with reasons why you cannot do the thing you want to do.
Hence why self-doubt is such a huge issue for those of us who are either unaware of what our brains are doing or aren't managing our brains.
No one doubts us as much as our own brain does!
Your brain is sending you some pretty strong messages as to why ‘it won’t happen and that if it hasn’t already happened, then it probably never will’.
So, when our brain does this, we need to make a list of all the things, all the thoughts, all the reasons that our brain is giving us as to why we can’t do the thing we want to do. Write down any thought that are in contrast to what you want.
We need to listen to those reasons, but not believe them, because they're telling us what our obstacles are to achieving our goal. So instead of listening and believing these obstacles and obeying our brain, we need to turn them around, by using these obstacles as strategies, which then formulate your plan for achieving your goal.
You can choose to believe these thoughts and not do anything. You could also choose to listen to them, but not take notice of them and then end up in a world of procrastination, going round and round in circles, pretending there are no problems, but ultimately not achieving anything.
The number one way anyone achieves a goal is by overcoming the obstacles along the way. That is what life is all about.
If you find there are no obstacle thoughts arising from setting a goal, then your goal hasn’t been presented to your brain in a way that is actually believable. So if you said ‘I want to make one million dollars this year’, your brain has probably thought ‘that is so unbelievable, you’ve got more chance of marrying Prince Harry’, so it then won’t produce all of the obstacle thoughts, because it doesn’t need to. Your goal was ‘ridiculous’ and your brain isn’t going to waste any energy telling you otherwise. So you are left in a kind of fantasy world.
When we do set goals that our brains believe are real, that’s when it springs into action with all of it’s obstacle thoughts.
Obstacles thoughts can seem like an observation, but if you continue to listen to that, it becomes real.
If you observe that ‘you don’t know how to create a video for your business’, that can be just an observation. But if you keep thinking that, it will become a belief.
You can’t keep thinking that you ‘can’t create a video’ and actually create a video at the same time, because if you are doing it, then you know how to do it and if you keep thinking and believing that you can’t do it, then you never will.
Essentially, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Think it can’t happen and it won’t!
How can you turn your obstacle thought around and use it for good and not evil? How can you turn it into a strategy or an action towards achieving your goal?
Obstacle thoughts strengthen themselves by producing evidence to prove to you that it’s right. This is called a Confirmation Bias. Our brains are constantly looking for evidence to support our beliefs and to prove us right, while also eliminating any evidence that proves our beliefs wrong. Because changing our beliefs would be a whole lotta hard work that our brains just don’t want to do!
So when your brain tells you that you can’t create a video and you believe it and keep thinking that, then your brain will strengthen that thought by giving you evidence that you can’t create a video, which then becomes more and more believable, until you are saying to yourself “See, I was right”. You’ve proven and strengthened this thought so much, that you believe it and therefore it is ‘true’. #selffulfillingprophecy!
Some of the obstacle thoughts that you may have are things like; “I’m not capable of this”; “I don’t have the time to do this”; “I can’t figure this out” or “This is too hard”. These thoughts are all very believable and all seem very valid, but they aren’t.
Your obstacle thoughts will prove themselves true by creating evidence, but they will also narrow your focus, so if you believe something, then that is what you look for in the world, which is the premise of confirmation bias.
If we believe people are kind, then we will see tonnes of kind people in the world. If we think people are horrible, we’ll see tonnes of evidence that people are horrible.
If we have an obstacle thought that we don’t know how to do something, or get our business off the ground, or can’t make as much money as we want to make. We will see it is true in our everyday life, because that is what we will inadvertently be looking for.
Our brains want certainty and to be proven correct. Our thoughts determine what we see and our obstacle thoughts are always having us look for the wrong things. Like a Google search coming back with all the believable reasons why you can’t do something.
When turning these obstacle thoughts into strategies, we will often need to use bridging thoughts, because often we will be caught in the middle of two contradictory thoughts, which is called Cognitive Dissonance. So for instance, if your goal is to create a video for your business, but your obstacle thoughts are that you “don’t know how to create a video”, or “you can’t do it”, or “it will be a terrible video, so don’t bother”, then you have cognitive dissonance, a mental discomfort that my coach calls the ‘river of misery’. The place where you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t!
So how do we get from one side of that river to the other?
We cannot solve the problem inside our heads. We must take it out and put it on paper and observe the thoughts from a higher place, as an external separate thing where you start to notice that those obstacle thoughts are actually optional and you can change them.
We can also use bridging thoughts, which connect the old thought to the new thought, via a transition, in a way that the brain actually believes it. So instead of going straight from ‘I can't create videos' to ‘I can create great videos for my business', you might need to put a few baby steps in the middle. Your brain will cope much better and believe a new thought like ‘I am learning how to create videos', or ‘I'm getting better at creating videos', than going straight to the ‘I create great videos'.
Achieving new goals is harder than we think in most cases, because something is much easier to do if it’s already been done. To change ourselves and overcome obstacles is the path of most resistance and we need to embrace that path without resisting it and move towards the hard things.
If you want the great view, you need to climb the mountain, because it will be worth it. Yes, it’s much easier to stay at the bottom, but you miss that rewarding view and the feeling of accomplishment (which ironically our brains love even more than staying in their comfortable old rut!)
Again, I ever mentioned how contradictory our brains can be?
To bridge the gap between the old, comfortable thoughts and the new uncomfortable thoughts and goals, you need to be prepared to be uncomfortable for a start. Your brain will not make it easy or comfortable at all, because it doesn’t want to change. It doesn’t want to do the work. So just like the naughty toddler that it is, it will buck and scream and have a tantrum, so that you go back to that comfortable side of the river.
We need to enlist the adult, the parent, the supervising, conscious, higher brain to manage this primitive, toddler brain through this ‘river of misery’ and onto the bright, shiny new thoughts and goals!
This is called managing your brain. It is not the easiest thing in the world to do, but like anything, once you learn it and master how to do it effectively, it will be easier and so very worthwhile.
It will be hard at first. It will be very uncomfortable for a while. You will want to go back to your comfy spot, like slipping on your old comfy jeans, but we need to be willing to feel the feels throughout this process and move forward anyway. It is the only way we humans can progress.
Until next time,
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