Reflecting On My Goals

One night recently,  I was sitting on my balcony enjoying the warm night air whilst gazing down at the water and then towards the bustling center of town.

I had my trusty journal and was just writing down my thoughts, my challenges, and resetting my goals for the coming week, month, and quarter.

I was using mental rehearsal and visualization to help me see where I would be after hitting these goals. Where I would be in life.

I started to think about all the material and content out there on goal setting, goal achievement, and the many acronyms and so forth.  No wonder it’s so easy to get completely overwhelmed and drift back to just surviving mode.

Traditionally it has been taught that we use positive reinforcement when it comes to goal setting and the pursuit of goals. What will our life be like when we achieve our goals, how will our lives and the lives of others change for the better? These images have been believed to drive us forward.

Learning and Neuroplasticity

According to the latest research, it is when we actually make errors that we improve our learning. When we learn something, we should be setting a goal of making the learning 85% achievable with an error rate of 15%.

Now I know that making errors can be extremely frustrating but it appears that 85% -15% is the sweet spot for learning.  The brain is not going to change or learn if we do everything perfectly every time, it’s not being forced to change and adapt. 

To break it down you must challenge yourself when learning.

There is an excellent paper on this,  The Eighty-Five Percent Rule for optimal learning published in the journal, Nature Communications 10, Article Number 4646 (2019) Jonathan D. Cohen et al

Back to my Balcony.

When I was on my balcony I thought that we have been taught to focus on our goals and how they will affect our future or others’ future.  We supposedly get and maintain our motivation by imagining the results of our goals.

Then I thought about how fear is something that is common amongst all people. I’m not talking about the beneficial fear that stops us from swimming with the gators or walking too close to the edge of a building or a mountain.

I’m talking about the irrational fears that hold up back, the fear of putting yourself out there, the fear of speaking in public, of what people will say etc.

What if we used the fear of not doing what is needed to achieve our goals as a motivator. After all, fear is a very powerful human emotion, and being so powerful can we turn this around as motivation for taking action towards our goals.

Now I know that this may throw a spanner in the works of traditional methods of goal setting but hear me out.

Fitness Example

I will use the goals – action – result illustration of physical fitness. It’s very tangible and common to most people and easy to understand.

So, we set a goal is to hit the gym five days a week for cardio and resistance (weights) workouts all before 7 am.

We can sit back and envisage how great it will make us feel and how we will look better as well and of course how we will be improving our health, our immune system, and our longevity.

Here is a Different Thought

This is when I thought about harnessing fear as a powerful tool. What if we focused on the negatives of not training and not getting it done by 7 am.

 Obviously, our health would decline with not reaching our fitness goals. We would be more susceptible to various diseases due to poor cardiovascular health, our bone density would suffer and would be more prone to injuries from falling, our self-esteem would suffer and disappointment would set in if we didn’t get it done by 7 am.

So I started to look into it and it seems that this way of thinking about what would happen if we don’t achieve our goals nearly doubles the likelihood of us actually achieving our goals.

Contrarian Thinking

I’m not suggesting that you focus solely on the negative but use the reasoning of what will happen if you don’t achieve the goals as it is a much more powerful motivator.

Blame our ancestors but our brains and bodies are more driven to escape what causes us fear than moving to what causes us comfort. There is an actual increase in systolic blood pressure and an early onset of fight or flight when we envision failure. This kicks us into action.

So when the alarm goes off for us to get up and hit the gym think of what will happen if you don’t follow through on your goal.

Such an interesting take on goal setting and I look forward to more and more research and data emerging either supporting or disproving the theory.

Friends we all have a choice success or excuses, it’s clearly your decision.