How are you or your clients doing with your New Year’s resolutions? Almost 6 months into the year, and the majority of people have either forgotten their resolutions or feel like a failure for not getting anywhere with them.
In winter, they were so convinced that come January 1 they would exercise more, eat less chocolate, smoke less, answer emails immediately, study Italian, etc. And yet, things are back to how they’ve always been. Why is that?
When we define our resolutions or goals, we normally don’t take into consideration how our limbic system (our emotional brain) and our non-conscious respond to them. If a goal gets defined as “lose ten pounds by March,” “smoke only five cigarettes a day,” or “learn five new Italian words per day” they sound really good. They are focused on the outcome, which is what we are trained to do. So, how can this be a problem?
Here’s why: This outcome-orientation simply doesn’t get our non-conscious on board. Our limbic system and our non-conscious play a powerful role in what we end up doing. Their evaluation of external stimuli and ideas of what feels right are much faster than our conscious thinking – and much more powerful and influential. Just like with Facebook, our limbic system’s evaluation is either “like it” or “don’t like it.”
And for our limbic system, terms like “learn five new Italian words per day” or “lose 10 pounds” equals work, effort, and change, sometimes even restrictions. Our non-conscious takes words literally, and these goals simply don’t trigger a “like it” response in our limbic system.
However, if our inner motivation isn’t on board, it’s almost impossible to get anywhere. So, how can we engage our non-conscious and limbic system and get them to respond “like it”?
Try this for yourself first, and then with a client:
Instead of defining an outcome-focused goal for yourself, start with creating a motto that represents a positive and compelling attitude. For instance, instead of “learn five new Italian words per day,” your motto could embrace something like, “Speaking Italian, I’m living the Dolce Vita,” or” I’m bringing out the Italian in me.”
Instead of, “I shed five pounds by May 15,” your motto could be something like, “I’m releasing my true inner beauty,“ or “I’m now creating a body built for sin.”
It might take some time to find a motto that really resonates. To check if it does, use “somatic markers” – a simple check if that motto really has a positive connotation in your complete system.
Here’s how you can do that: Do you know these particular physical responses when seeing a certain sender or subject line in your email inbox or a particular caller ID on your phone?
Most of us know this immediate sense of “oh yes” or “oh no, not again” or even, “Sh*t!”, followed by a physical sensation, even before they open the mail and read it.
These “like it” or “don’t like it” somatic markers appear within 200 to 300 milliseconds. They are a true miracle of information processing. Paying attention to somatic markers is an effective way to communicate with the non-conscious. It is actually one of the best ways of self-management.
To get your non-conscious on board, your motto should resonate positively with your somatic markers and trigger this “YES!!” response. If it does, make sure you “prime” your motto and create as many reminders and hints as possible (e.g. put images that represent your motto in many different places in your house, in your car, on your desk, or repeat your motto to yourself regularly while doing a particular physical movement).
The more your brain is reminded of the compelling attitude that the motto represents, the faster it creates new neuronal connections necessary to actually take the necessary steps to achieve that goal with ease.
Read on in Goal Setting Part 2