Setting and achieving goals should be a straightforward matter. You should picture what you want to do, outline the road ahead, and follow the plan from point A to point B.
Yet, working towards our goals doesn’t always end in success. We often struggle to focus on the important things or get sidetracked despite our best intentions. In fact, the holiday season serves as the best evidence of these struggles – no more than 3% of all people who make New Year’s resolutions actually keep them.
The question is: What’s the underlying issue that keeps us from meeting our goals? And the answer is simple: It’s our brains.
Provided you don’t have unrealistic goals or aren’t in a specific situation with various factors preventing you from action, there probably isn’t a genuine reason not to achieve your goals. However, your brain might disagree.
When we wish for something, we often equate the wish with setting a goal. But the practical side of the brain doesn’t see the situation in the same manner. This is because wishing for something and pursuing a goal with consistent effort are two very different things.
In particular, achieving your goals requires a strategic approach that will re-program your brain to help you along the way. This article will show you how to train your brain to achieve all your goals.
- What’s Keeping You From Achieving Your Goals?
- Create an Algorithm for Your Brain
- The Goal-Driven Mindset
- Make Your Brain Your Strongest Ally
What’s Keeping You From Achieving Your Goals?
Our bodies have a critical function they try to perform all the time: preserve energy. This principle applies to the brain as well. If our “think box” doesn’t need to spend energy to create new pathways, it won’t do it. And new actions require developing neural pathways. The connection is evident, but there’s a way to work around it.
Due to the “battery saving mode” that seems to be always on, the brain favors routine. This is because routine actions rely on existing pathways, making the information flow as energy-efficient as possible. The brain’s economic approach is why you can remember everyday activities better than new ones and perform them even half-awake.
Yet, we can apply conscious effort to change the situation. Essentially, it’s a straightforward principle: doing what you need to do to reach your goal and making it your daily routine. In other words, you need to make a habit of actions that drive you closer to your goals.
Unsurprisingly, the first steps on this journey will be pretty tough. You might feel less energized and run into many obstacles. The good news is that the process becomes easier with time. As your brain becomes familiar with the routine, it will develop a better neural infrastructure to support it.
This is not an overnight process, but you can achieve it by employing particular techniques.
Create an Algorithm for Your Brain
Comparing brains to computers may not be the best analogy, but there are certain similarities that you can exploit. In particular, you can introduce a simple algorithm and stick to it daily. The algorithm or, in the case of the brain, plan will contain three conditions: “If,” “When,” and “Then.”
Here’s an example bringing us out of computer science and onto more familiar ground:
- If you’re not ill or in an emergency situation
- When your morning routine is finished
Then you’ll work on a particular step toward your goal.
As mentioned, it’s relatively straightforward. The trick here isn’t in a complex plan – it’s in consistency. Once you start implementing this plan, you might run into particular days when all your “If” and “When” are present, but it’s challenging to get to the “Then” part.
In other words, you might not feel like doing whatever you set out to do. And that’s completely natural.
Fortunately, you can set up your goals to make the journey easier. First of all, you’ll need to adjust your mindset.
The Goal-Driven Mindset
Being goal-driven is often associated with those heavy hitters who never stop with the grind and don’t set aside time for anything else but success. The truth is, of course, much different from that stereotype.
Developing the right mindset to achieve your goals relies on a combination of factors:
- Getting clear on what you want
- Overcoming negativity
- Visualizing your goals
- Be proactive with what you have
- Strengthening self-belief
- Accepting new situations
- Practicing mindfulness
Getting Clear on What You Want
In many cases, the main obstacle to achieving your goals is that you don’t know what they really are. More precisely, you don’t have a clearly-defined idea of what you want.
For instance, you might think: “I want a successful career” or “I want a relationship.” But those are only broad brush strokes.
To set a realistic goal for yourself, consider what those general wishes mean. If your goal is success in your career, flesh out what that would look like. Which job fits in with your skill set and the resources you have available to develop professionally? Furthermore, what could you do realistically to improve your circumstances?
Setting your goals will benefit from as much detail as possible. Once you know which questions to ask yourself and understand the answers, you’ll be ready to set out.
Any person who tells you they never thought “I’m not good enough” is either a rare exception or overtly lying. Unfortunately, negative beliefs are often deeply rooted in our minds and may undermine our best efforts.
The key to overcoming those negative thoughts is surprisingly simple: become aware of them. Pay attention to what goes around in your mind and learn to spot a red flag whenever negativity shows up.
Naturally, you might think about obstacles on your path. Still, those will be easy to tell apart from the runaway thoughts that have no other purpose than keeping you down.
The fear of the unknown will often be behind the negative thoughts and feelings. After all, we’re programmed to fear unfamiliar situations – it’s a survival instinct. That’s why, when we push ourselves towards the unknown, our brain sends discouraging messages to keep us away from the adventure and in our comfort zone.
Whenever uncertainty scares you, remember that those feelings are normal. Then, remember it’s just your instinct for self-preservation kicking in when it’s not needed and move past it.
Visualizing Your Goals
Visualization is more than a hack that you may or may not incorporate. It’s among the most powerful and helpful techniques for training your brain.
You can practice visualization as a form of meditation. Relax, take your time, and picture yourself doing the steps necessary to reach your goal. Then visualize your life after you’ve achieved what you wanted. The most important thing here is to not keep the visualization abstract – picture actual situations from everyday life.
The power of visualization comes from the network of connections it creates. First, you imprint the imagery and ideas of success into the brain, bridging the gap between imagination and reality. Second, immersing yourself in the visualized experience creates an emotional connection to your goal. These two factors can become a mighty driving force moving you forward.
You can also use actual images like photos or illustrations. Create a board with a collage of the visual representations of your goals and spend some time looking at it daily. You’ll be surprised at the results of this technique and the motivational boost it may provide.
Be Proactive With What You Have
Once you’ve set the foundation for achieving your goals, it’s time to stop thinking about them and start acting.
You’ll need to keep track of two factors: what resources you have available and what you can do with them.
Depending on the scope of your end goal, you probably won’t have everything you need to achieve it straight away. But, as the old saying goes, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Take note of what actions you can take now with the resources available. In virtually every case, you’ll already have the most critical resource – yourself. And you can improve yourself almost without limitations.
If you want to progress your career, take action that will set you apart from others professionally. If you wish to improve your looks, implement a particular diet and start working out.
Most importantly, understand your limits and not push too far past them. Do everything you realistically can with what you have. Start from your current position and work your way up.
The closer you get to your goal, the more your self-belief will grow from previous victories. However, you’ll need to build a solid base to get through the initial challenges.
A lack of belief in oneself is among our most significant obstacles. If you let yourself feel powerless and inadequate at the beginning, you’ll have difficulty picking yourself up when you feel down. That’s why you’ll need to use every technique possible to boost self-belief.
Affirmations can go a long way in this regard. Even if you find repeating positive statements in the mirror a bit cringy, be confident that the technique will yield results. Affirmations work on the subconscious plan – they slowly work their way deep into your mind and grow into actual beliefs.
If you say to yourself, “I can achieve my goal,” every day, you’ll start believing it. And that sensation will eventually override any self-doubt standing in your way.
Another way to bring your self-belief up is to initially give yourself some easy wins. Instead of pursuing a massive goal right away, do something small, but do it well. Commit to the tasks that will give you a sense of achievement. Of course, you shouldn’t take this principle too far – always leave some space for a bit of a challenge.
Finally, you could spend more time with people who support you and believe in your abilities. These will usually be close friends and family members, but a good mentor could also fulfill this role.
Accepting New Situations
Venturing forward to meet your goals halfway could mean getting away from your comfort zone. Besides the fear of the unknown that we’ve already discussed, you might see another obstacle here.
We tend to grow attached to our everyday life and particular ideas we’ve formed about ourselves and the world. If these attachments are too strong, they might keep you from embracing new situations and challenges.
Worse yet, your plans could become a part of that matrix. If your plan doesn’t follow your imagined path, you could be brought down.
When thinking about how to train your brain to achieve all your goals, a large part of it will be in letting go of the old and accepting the new. Make it a habit to stop yourself whenever you start obsessing over your preconceptions. You already have an action plan – follow it the best you can and adjust it whenever necessary. Don’t grow too rigid in trying to make every step of the way perfect.
The common theme of many of these brain-training techniques is to be mindful and aware of what’s happening within and around you.
Mindfulness can be built in several ways. Firstly, you can train your brain to focus on the present moment. After all, many would argue that the present is all we have – everything else is either a memory or a potential that hasn’t yet come to be.
Living in the present means paying attention to where you are and what’s happening. This mindset can help you become more vigilant and observant, making your actions as efficient as possible. Even better, you won’t be burdened by ideas and thoughts that serve no purpose but to distract you.
Naturally, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about the future or reminisce about the past. Instead, you should set aside your alone time for such thoughts. But when it’s time to act, you should be entirely in that moment.
Meditation is another beneficial technique for building mindfulness. Make it a habit to meditate daily and clear your mind of all the noise accumulated during the day.
Make Your Brain Your Strongest Ally
If you were wondering how to train your brain to achieve all your goals and if something like that is possible, the methods described in this article could give you a definitive answer. Yes, you can train your brain to help you reach success. And if you do that, you’ll have the most valuable ally in the world.