Setting Goals That Matter

The following is a transcript from my recent TEDx talk: Setting Goals That Matter (link coming soon)

I was in a van. It was small and felt familiar. I was taken up a mountain, one so steep that I thought if we stopped, we might start rolling backward. It came to a halt and I was told to walk and not stop until I reached the top. Unsure and out of breath, I continued.

Eventually, I found myself 300 feet above the trees and when I looked behind me, the path I took up seemed to have disappeared.

I felt hopeless when I realized there was no turning back. My palms began to sweat, my knees locked, my muscles seized and my heart was racing; I felt paralyzed. I looked down and all I could see was death by a thousand jagged rocks, but I knew the only way down was to take the leap.

Though this was my first time about to bungee jump off a canyon in the Swiss Alps, that feeling was terrifyingly familiar. For me, this is what the fear of failure felt like.

When I was afraid of failing, I had blinders on. I wasn’t thinking of my full potential or the world of opportunity that awaited me, all I could think about was backing off the ledge and crawling back into a small and familiar place.

That kind of paralyzing fear kept me in my own way for many years. As a child, I dropped out of every extracurricular activity I signed up for--and avoided sports altogether at the risk of not being good enough. And as a young adult, I followed the path of my peers, too scared of what a path of my own might look like.

I literally took a leap off a cliff to silence the voice that was telling me “I can’t” and prove to myself that I can. My fear turned into excitement and the idea of failure dissipated. This was a pivotal moment and was the catalyst for the development of my proprietary way of goal setting, which I developed as a way to harness the fearlessness that I felt when I finally found the courage to jump, and use it for future goals. It’s called the REAL goal methodology. REAL is an acronym which stands for:

Resonant

Empowering

Actionable

Lucrative

Using this way of goal setting, I earned 5 promotions in 5 years, I doubled my income in that time, I now have a successful business of my own and I wrote and self-published my first book in under a year… real talk.

No matter what your goals are, whether they’re personal or professional, this way of goal setting has the potential to rid your life of the fear of failure and open the doors to an abundance of success.

Most goal setting methodologies don’t account for why you want to achieve certain goals; they serve as a comprehensive checklist and allow you to measure progress with ease--but they are missing the innate emotional connection to your innermost desires, leaving you poorly equipped to readjust when things don’t go according to plan. This can leave you chasing your tail, not making progress, lacking motivation, and eventually giving up.

REAL goals are different. They are built on the foundation of emotionally stimulating criteria that guide you to set and achieve objectives that matter. This method takes into account that your goals and emotions change according to their context, and focuses more on accountability rather than trackability, supporting more active engagement with your goals than simply measuring them would allow.

With a REAL goal:

You are reminded of why you wanted to take the leap in the first place

You learn what it’s like to be liberated from fear and in control of your journey

And you know exactly what you need to do to prepare you for taking the leap

Everything you stand to gain becomes clear and you feel more alive than ever before. That’s the reason you take any leap, isn’t it? To feel?

Developing this methodology started with wanting to understand what mental wires were causing a short circuit and keeping me in a state of fear rather than fulfillment. To my surprise, I discovered that my brain is indeed “wired” correctly and both sides of my brain were actually working in perfect harmony. I just wasn’t using them properly.

Creativity, imagination and visualization are all right brain activities. Whereas logic, sequencing and reasoning are left brain activities.

This meant, if I believed I would fail - consciously or subconsciously setting myself up to do so -  I was equally capable of believing I could succeed. But supporting those thoughts with actions would require some unlearing of old behaviors… or soft-wiring, if you will.

Studies have shown that our emotions evaluate our thoughts, experiences and circumstances -- to inform our actions. So, it came as no surprise that if I didn’t stop to think about how I wanted to feel, my actions would never lead to success. From that point forward, I was determined to make my emotions work for me, rather than against me. I practiced activating my right brain and consciously getting it to work in conjunction with my left brain to create an infinite loop of possibility by eliciting positive emotions and creating a process that would support them. In so doing, I came to believe that my sweaty palms, weak knees and racing heart were not signs of life-threatening danger, they were signs that what I was about to do mattered.  

This was a game-changing moment. When I understood why I wanted to achieve a goal, what my intrinsic motivators were, it inspired change--not just success. But understanding alone was not enough. I needed to feel inspired, a plan of action, and a constant pulse on what was in it for me. That’s when my goals got REAL.

RESONANT

Resonant goals draw a correlation between what you want to do and why you want to do it, which is your strongest, most important reason to pursue it.

Without the understanding of why your goals matter, how can your efforts matter? Anchoring your goals to your why gets your right brain and left brain working together to get the ball moving, minimize potential risks and ultimately reduce fear. When your goals resonate, you may stumble, you may even fall, but you cannot, you will not fail.

But if you’re going to accomplish anything, especially something that requires a conscious change in thought and behavior, it needs to empower you. Which is why it is the second pillar of REAL goal methodology.

EMPOWERING

Personal empowerment is about two things: believing in yourself and following through.

You can’t expect to spark long-lasting change if you don’t believe in yourself. Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right. REAL goals force you to face the thoughts that make you feel unworthy and kick them to the curb. Thoughts like “I’m too old”, or “I don’t have what it takes”, or “I’m not good enough” keep you small. Self-sabotaging thoughts do not breed success, but self-empowering ones do. With a REAL goal, those thoughts are replaced with ones like “I’m experienced”, and  “I will learn” and “I AM enough”. Yes, it’s important to be aware of your potential weaknesses and limitations, but what’s MORE important is believing that you are 100% capable of succeeding.

Knowing how your goal empowers you is critical in evaluating what you need to do to feel that way. Which brings us to the follow-through, and the next pillar.

ACTIONABLE

Have you ever been quick to give up on your goals before beginning to see progress?

It’s hard to stay motivated, isn’t it? You want to see immediate results and instead, all you see is a long road ahead and a mountain of a task that is down right intimidating. With your blinders on, you can’t see what’s waiting for you just around the corner. However big or small, remember that every step forward counts. This is why it’s important to break down your goals into actionable steps, a road map so to speak, to satisfy your left brain.

The trick for my clients and for myself, as it will be for you, is to step small but step often. You must start with taking the steps you can do well; enquire about a course, start a conversation, put some feelers out for a new idea. Experiencing small wins early on triggers positive behavioural momentum, which keeps your right brains happy, and builds your confidence as the steps become bigger and more challenging. Before long, without even realizing it, you’ll look behind you and see that you’re already halfway up the mountain.

It’s normal that on your climb you may get tired. This is when knowing “what’s in it for me” can help you to keep going, and why it’s the final pillar of the REAL goal methodology.

LUCRATIVE

Before beginning your pursuit of success, you must know what’s in it for you. Not your partner, not your children, not your colleagues... YOU. They can certainly benefit from it, but in order for you to feel truly successful, you need to acknowledge how your goal directly impacts your life. The lucrativeness of your goal is not necessarily monetary. It might mean learning a new skill that will get you the promotion. It could mean finally forgiving yourself for past mistakes. Or, it could mean putting an idea into action.

Once you see everything you stand to gain from achieving your goal, and you anchor that to why it matters and how it will make you feel, you can see everything you stand to lose if you decide to stop climbing.

REAL goals soft-wire our brains by aligning our thoughts, emotions and actions to achieve success, transforming goals from a simple checklist to a way of life.

Imagine what REAL goals could mean for:

Our education system, if our students were rewarded equally for focusing on their passions as they are passing.

Our economy, if every business got 100% from every employee by helping them to connect what they’re doing to why it matters.

Or our society, if we all helped each other to understand that yes, we may experience difficulty but we needn’t experience defeat

Imagine what REAL goals could mean for YOU

Is there a project you’ve been wanting to start? A few pounds you’ve been trying to lose? A move you’ve been too afraid to make? No matter your goal, think about why it matters, how you want to feel, what it’s going to take to make it happen and what’s waiting at the peak of your mountain, and use that to take your leap.

He who has the why to live can bear almost any how. - Nietzsche

You have your why within you, I’ve given you tools how. What will you do with a life fear-free?

Want additional tools that will help you to live your best life? Get your copy of Bossing Up.