There is a plethora of scientific evidence that shows how the different parts of the brain engage when goals are set, and how a goal can save energy in the brain by narrowing the focus and channeling attention into the achievement of that goal.
One thing I notice is that goal setting is not optimized because
- We do not set goals at all
- We do not set goals which align with how the brain works
The problem with number 1 is obvious. You will not meet 100% of the goals you do not set.
The problem with number 2 is that we don’t often set goals that are the just right level that engages that emotional part of the brain but doesn’t overwhelm the rational thinking part of the brain.
There is definitely an art to setting effective, specific, actionable and yet aspirational goals.
I recently attended a webinar by one of my favorite authors on human performance, Steven Kotler. He has a new book that has come out today, called “The Art of Impossible: A Peak Performance Primer”, which is like a workbook on how to harness the power of goal setting to create change. What I love about his writing is that he weaves the most current neuroscience without losing the mystery of this thing called life. I have not read it yet as it literally is hot off the presses, but in the webinar, he spoke about some interesting things, which is something that I have experienced personally as something that prevented me in meeting my goals. In thinking about it further, I realized that I had also seen this phenomenon trip up my friends and even some clients.
One of the biggest things that may be affecting your ability to achieve your goals may be because…….you are talking about them.
You may be saying, “WHAT? That’s it?”
I think we have all had the experience of setting a goal, getting going on it, and losing steam/momentum/motivation. I think we have also had the experience of having a to do list and getting to check off the box when you’ve completed something.
When you complete a task/activity/goal and you can check it off your list, your brain gets a boost of dopamine which makes you feel pleasure.
When you talk about completing your goal or going to do something, your brain gives you a little shot of dopamine, for just thinking about it, not DOING anything about it.
In another one of Steven Kotler’s books on achieving flow states ( The Rise of Superman ) he says that the pressure needed to launch one into the flow state is like the force needed to draw back an arrow on the bow.
This is like trying to cook something in the kettle, but continuing to open the nozzle before it can build up enough pressure to make the whistle sing. Each time you talk about working on a goal, you are releasing that pressure that one needs to build the momentum to break through the inertia of habitual patterns.
So every time you tell someone what you are going to do, are planning to do, there is a little pressure relieved and you get a little shot of dopamine which is what you’re going to get when you finish the goal. But the brain thinks, well, if I can get it now, why follow through with the hard work? And little by little the motivation to keep going goes away and you don’t finish your goal.
Has anyone ever had that experience?
So according to neuroscience, the best thing to do to create the change you want, is not to talk about the change you want to make, but rather make a plan, set your course and take action.
The best time to speak about a goal, is actually when it is complete!
Some of you who come to do private sessions with me may be a little confused at this point.
But we always set a goal in a session…..so are we not supposed to talk about it?
No that is not the case for the sessions because the goal is just the starting point, and it is closely followed by specific action to reorganize our learning, movement and behavior around that specific goal. The goal in the session is set up to remove blocks to achieving that goal so that when you leave the session you are in an optimal place to take action with the least amount of friction inside your nervous system.
Does doing a brain gym balance make it so that you do not need to practice the skill/activity/goal? Not at all. There is NO SHORTCUT in life to practice and repetition, as that is truly how the brain learns. However, the brain gym balance puts your brain and body in a state where you are in an optimal place to make new choices and work in the most effortless way possible. That being said, even after a balance session it is still best to not talk about what you are going to do, but rather take actions in a consistent and measurable way.
So starting today, do your goals a favor and stop talking about what you’re going to do.
But rather start talking to people about what you have done!
Let me know what goals you are working on this year! I would love to hear how they are going and see if this information has been helpful!