You’ve heard it time and time again – write down your goals as it will increase the chances of you achieving those goals. Some state that they can keep their goals in their head. However, there is research that shows that when you write your goals down and post them in visible places to remind yourself of those goals, you will be more able to achieve those goals.
The reality is that we only have a limited amount of energy and attention to direct toward our goals. Evolutionary speaking, our brain is designed to conserve energy. We’re either focusing on:
- Dealing with threats in our environment and learning how to put out fires, or
- Focusing on ways to master our environment and work toward higher order goals that are important to our well-being.
Obviously with goal achievement, we are more interested in the latter, – learning how to master our environment by achieving our goals, because it brings us pleasure, rewards, life satisfaction and of course some degree of security as well.
A key factor that prevents us from staying focused on our goals, and achieving those goals is that it’s hard to direct our attention on those goals all the time or often enough. There are so many distractions and demands in our everyday life, that it seems almost impossible to stay focused at times. Our RAS helps make this process of paying attention and being focused a little bit easier.
Specifically, research in goal setting and motivation states that our arousal systems help us focus on our goals. The reason we have arousal systems to begin with is that evolution has hard wired us to conserve energy, and we are only meant to be aroused when we have a concrete reason – protecting our safety in some fashion or increasing our resources in some way.
Our brain only gets super focused if and when it needs to, otherwise, just like a computer, one could argue that it goes to sleep and does the minimal amount of work needed. When a person has no clear goals, doesn’t write their goals down and doesn’t have plans to achieve those goals, their level of goal arousal, passion and overall enthusiasm is low. As a result, they do not recognize or identify the people, opportunities, situations or resources that could be helpful to them.
How do we increase our levels of arousal to help us achieve our goals? By learning how to activate your reticular activating system (RAS) which is part of your cortical arousal system, you can increase your chances of being much more efficient with your goals.
So what role does writing our goals down play in helping us to achieve our goals? By writing down your goals and your plans for achieving your goals, you learn to focus your attention on what really matters. Doing so gets your reticular activation system aroused and working in your favour.
How does this work? When you write down your goals, you make a point of being specific with a direction that is important for you to move in. You pinpoint specific destinations that you want to move toward, and the specific steps that you need to take to get there.
As you get in touch with what is exciting and rewarding to you, you increase your levels of arousal, and become crystal clear about what matters. As you are doing this, your reticular activating system in your cortex is aroused and promotes you being ready and alert to respond to cues in the environment that are relevant to your goals. When the RAS is activated, we can process and reorganize information much more efficiently in ways that support our achievement of goals.
A classic yet simplified example of your RAS working would be when you identify an article of clothing that you would like to purchase. You try on a beautiful blouse and you write down the size, brand, colour and store where you found it. In the meantime, as you are waiting for it to go on sale, you see other people wearing that blouse because now you are primed to spot it! You’ll also recognize similar types of blouses perhaps by other designers. Your brain is automatically aroused when it notices this blouse because you have indicated that it is something important to you. The same thing happens when you identify a new car that you want to buy. You begin to notice that car everywhere, because you’ve signaled the importance of this car to your brain.
To learn strategies and tips on the how to activate your RAS to support your goal setting and achievement efforts, read these tips on visualization!
Do you have a long list of dreams and goals that you hope to achieve one day?
Most ambitious women do, however I can bet you that a lot of women haven’t taken the time to prioritize their dreams and goals in such a way that they can truly become focused and productive. This is not an easy task and it requires a lot of reflection.
Here are 4 Reasons to Prioritize your Dreams and Goals
1. Limited Time: Everyone has a limited amount of time during the day. We can’t create or add more time into our day but we can prioritize the ways in which we spend our time.
The reality is that many women are working eight hours at their day job while trying to pursue some of their career goals and personal projects on the side.
This isn’t an easy task when you consider all the demands we have on our schedules such as our children and their activities, exercising, working over-time, relaxing, spending time with friends and family, and so on.
With limited time, don’t you want to be certain that you are focused on the right goals, – the ones that will bring you the most pleasure, happiness and success?
2. Big goals = big efforts! For women who have really big goals and dreams they can’t waste time diddling and dawdling around. They need to be focused.
Working toward the attainment of big goals usually requires specific expertise which often times means hiring consultants and/or a team of people to help you realize your dreams.
In some cases a lot of research, reading and specific education is required. If your efforts are scattered on achieving several completely unrelated big goals all at once, then chances are you aren’t taking enough action steps to move quickly enough toward any of those goals. As a result you will probably lose motivation, momentum and confidence.
3. Great Achievements Require Knowing Your Strengths: Another reason to prioritize your goals and dreams is so that you can ensure you are choosing goals that are aligned with your strengths.
If something is your strength then it means you are passionate about something and skilled at it. You need passion and skill to be successful at achieving a goal.
When a woman knows what her strengths are, she is going to be much more confident and enthusiastic about pursuing her dreams because she knows that the odds of success are that much more in her favour to achieve something extraordinary.
4. Do you Love it Enough to Risk a Lot? Achieving a big life dream is going to require that you be open to seizing opportunities as they present themselves to you.
This requires that you be open to taking big risks and experimenting with actions that can often be scary for women as they enter the terra incognita with their dreams.
You’ll be presented with many opportunities which bring with them a financial cost, an investment of time, energy, resources and support of other people around you.
When you are crystal clear on the fact that this dream is worth it to you, then you’ll be much more likely to take the necessary risks that are needed such as: investing your own money into an opportunity, hiring a consultant, coach, researcher, employee or whatever it is that you need to invest your money, time and energy into.
In addition, if your big goals are career related, and if you are wanting to turn your dreams and goals into something entrepreneurial or infopreneurial, you will be faced with the tasks of opening a company, creating a website, developing a logo, printing business cards, finding a niche and so much more – all things that require time, energy and come with a cost sooner or later (if you want to be competitive).
All of these tasks will only get completed if you are the passionate driving force behind them!
So, this is yet another reason to prioritize and choose your goals carefully, so that you can accomplish big things for yourself and the rest of the world. For these reasons, you want to get clear on what sorts of goals and dreams you should be putting a lot of time and energy into.
So, hopefully you are convinced on the reasons why you should prioritize your goals and life dreams. If you’re super serious about setting goals that are aligned with your strengths, you’ll want to purchase my most recent book How Smart Women Achieve Big Goals, which is full of powerful questions that will help you develop clarity on what goals you should be focusing on.
Alternatively, if you want a quick-fix, you can begin prioritizing your goals by jumping to step 2 in my free online goal setting program!
Do you create time to do what you value? Do you find yourself waking up most mornings and not looking forward to your day? Do you wakeup and ask yourself, Why do I have to do this today? If you have answered yes to this question, you are like many other people. We live in a world that is full of things we feel we should be doing. Or even worse, we feel that we have no choice and that we have to be doing these things.
We have the power to choose what we want our lives to be filled with. It is critical to remind yourself that all things you are spending your time on are decisions that you chose. No one truly forces you into your unique situation. Whether your decisions occur consciously or as an automatic response to your previous habits, you are still responsible for making your decisions. You are responsible for the rules and beliefs held in your own brain. That is not to say that other people don’t influence your decisions and thoughts, because I will admit that people do influence others’ decisions. What is helpful to remember is that you are ultimately the only one who is in control of your decisions, and you are the one that lives with the consequences of your decisions. Not others.
In my experience, I have always found it helpful to leave open a small portion of time in my schedule to do the things that are important to me. There is nothing worse than waking up in the morning and thinking of all of the things you have to attend to, but sometimes aren’t interested in doing. I love Eddie Cantor’s saying:
What’s the use of running when we are on the wrong road? There’s a big difference between being busy and being fulfilled. Eddie Cantor makes my point clear – Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.
The point here is that when you are always busy and tied up to your regular scheduled routines, you have no time to step back, reflect and evaluate what’s actually going on in your life. Sometimes people get so caught up in their regular routines that they miss out on, or forget about the potentially meaningful opportunities in life, and fail to recognize their other talents, desires or callings. When we create a little bit of extra time for ourselves, we honour a space in which we can make more conscious and effective life choices, which consequently empower us and give our lives more vitality.
Decide today that you will not over commit yourself to a schedule that is jammed packed with “shoulds” or activities that you feel pressured to participate in. I think that over-commiting ourselves can be one of our biggest stressor. Decide today that you will not be in such a rush to get to your destination.
There’s a famous quote that says, Life is a journey, not a destination. Slow down and learn how to enjoy life along the way! Realize that you will always be trying to achieve something, finishing a project, putting out a fire, or attempting to make a life transition. Life will always present circumstances to keep you busy, distracted or occupied with important things. Do not be in the habit of putting your passions off until ‘tomorrow’. Ultimately, tomorrow is today!
Perhaps you are already busy with meaningful endeavours, but you never take a break. Be careful to not get stuck in the vicious cycle of achieving one destination and then immediately running for the next. Take time to learn how to enjoy your achievements. Do you work or run a business so that you can ‘get by’ and live, or, do you live to enjoy the process of the beautiful moments of your work? If you are a workaholic now and want to slow down your pace of life, it is possible. It’s not easy, but it is possible. The best way to get started is to take baby steps. You have to understand that overworking and over-committing is a learned habit. We must learn to question why we do the things we do. Are we doing them out of guilt, pressure or prestige? Are we doing it not because we like it, but because we just want the credential for it? Or do we like what we’re doing but we are spending too much time on it?
How do you know if you’ve over-commited to something? The answer is simple. You always find yourself wishing you were somewhere else instead of where you actually are. You wonder why you joined what you joined. You wonder why you are doing it all. Perhaps you did not leave yourself enough time to make a good decision, and instead immediately jumped into something spontaneously.
Be very careful in your decision to commit to something. that will take up a considerable portion of your time. When you are thinking of taking on more work, joining a club, organization or are planning to register for a course, think your decision over carefully in the beginning. Examine your reasoning behind your decision. Is this really what you want to do? Is this activity going to bring you closer to your goals? Will this make you happy? Who’s idea was it for you to engage in this anyways? Was it your own or someone elses idea? A lot of time people make commitments because they think they ought to. They are constantly concerned with peoples’ judgments around them. A person takes on a new project at work thinking about how it will boost her resume, which will land her a higher-paying position within her company. Just thinking about carrying out the tasks makes her feel sluggish and de-energized. One must ask one’s self what alternative, creative options are available that would be a more efficient means of achieving his or her end goal.
Don’t engage or participate in things simply because you think you should. Your passion will never be unleashed because your energy or vibrational level will be too low. Instead, engage yourself into activities that inspire you and would hold you enthusiastic! Many times we find ourselves committing to things for other people’s sakes, and not our own. We do things to make other people happy and forget our own needs and wants.
What will happen if we don’t regularly incorporate this special time into our schedules, whether it be time to pursue our passions and desires, time to reflect and explore new opportunities, time to relax, or just plain and simple quiet time? The answer to that question is that we might develop a sense of unworthiness. When we do not schedule time for ourselves we are unconsciously telling ourselves that we are not worth it. We are not worthy enough to do what we want to do. This will result in low self-esteem and lead us into the cycle of not believing in ourselves. When we don’t believe in ourselves we end up following the mainstream footsteps of society and engage in a way of life that is already designed for us.
There is a saying, Design your life before the circumstances of life design it for you. Let this idea be something you ponder when you make decisions with how you want to spend your time.
Reflective Questions – Create Time to do what you Value:
1. How can I give myself permission to create the time and space needed for self-reflection and/or the pursuit of meaningful endeavours?
2. What do I always wish I could give myself time for?
3. What do I admire about how other people spend their time, and how could I incorporate something similar into my own lifestyle?
4. When I consider the possibilities for how I might use my extra time, which uses of time will I immediately look back on and regret? Which uses of time will I look back on and not regret, but be proud of for giving myself permission to use my time in that way?
5. What limiting beliefs or rules stand in my way of giving myself permission to spend more time doing what I value?
6. If my morals stand in my way, how can I be moral and still give myself the time that I need?
7. Am I worried about what others might think regarding how I want to spend my time? If so, how can I overcome other peoples’ judgments regarding the way(s) that I desire to use my time?
8. What excuses, reasons or justifications do I use to prevent myself from having time to focus on what is important to me? Although these reasons are all ‘valid’, you must realize that they still prevent you from being able to spend your time in your own personal way.
9. In what ways do I conform to social norms when it comes to how I spend my time? Which of these are truly necessary?
10. How will I raise my standards when it comes to freeing up more time?
11. What things do I want to enjoy and have time for in my life, but am avoiding taking responsibility for?
12. In terms of how I spend my time, which habits in my life have I absolutely got to get rid of?
13. Which patterns of my time use drain my energy?
14. What is out of balance with respect to how I spend my time?
15. Which decisions have I been putting off regarding how I am spending my time?
16. How does thinking in ‘black or white’ or ‘all or nothing’ prevent me from taking time out for myself?
17. How do I want to design my life?
18. What could I do or focus on during this extra time that would give me momentum and a forward moving feeling in life?
19. What things or activities am I currently pursuing or participating in that I don’t feel good about?
20. Are there any particular people whom I constantly give my time away to, or spend too much time with when I don’t want to?
21. How can I raise my standards or expectations about how I use my time?
22. If I can give myself this needed time, how will this produce a positive domino-effect on the other areas of my life?
23. Who will I be a great role model to, if I start using my time in this purposeful way?
24. Who will admire me for what I accomplish or do with this time?
25. How might valuing my time in this particular way change my life forever, in a positive way?