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  • Writer's pictureLorna J Westley

Not Setting Goals

Ever heard the old adage: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”? Does it work for you? It doesn’t work for me, not one little bit! Unfortunately I’m a bit of a smarty-pants and I know that even when I don’t plan to succeed, I can still experience some level of success. Might not be the monumental success I could achieve if I had planned, but its still not complete failure and therefore that statement doesn’t carry enough weight to inspire me to plan for my future.

Why? Because I don’t attribute enough pain to those words to make me change what I’m doing. Did you know that most people will do more to avoid pain than they will to gain pleasure? This means that if it seems more painful (read difficult/hard/tough) to start doing something different, most people will stay with what they already know. How many people do you know who sit in the same old boring job because it’s safe, secure and pays the bills? How many others do you know who are settling for an unfulfilling relationship because it’s better than being alone? And I’m sure we all know people who complain that they just can’t kick that alcohol/cigarette/food habit because they don’t feel good without it. These people (and I’ve been one of them) have convinced themselves that it would be more painful to change what they are doing than it is to remain within their comfort zone or pattern of safety. They allow certainty and status quo to substitute pleasure, and so they resolve their focus on staying where they are, and funnily enough, that’s exactly what happens.

Can you relate to this? Is there an area of your life that deep down in your heart you know you want to change, but when you start to think about it, it all becomes too big/hard/scary and so you just continue doing what you know? Or have you tried to do something about it and it hasn’t worked so you’ve gone back to what you were doing before? The devil you know…

Have you ever been to one of those motivational seminars where the trainer gets you all pumped up and excited about setting your goals for the next 5 or 10 years? Be specific they say, make it big they say, make it amazing! Oh, I know how to do that exercise. I’ve got it down pat. In 10 years time, I will be living in my dream house on the beach, driving a new convertible sports car, travelling around Europe with my husband once a year and taking a tropical family holiday with the kids annually. I’ll be financially affluent and able to afford to live as I please as well as contributing back to the world somehow by assisting a charity in my spare time (of course! Any successful and decent person does, right?) Blah, blah, blah….. Considering that I’ve completed these sort of exercises numerous times over the last 15-20 years, then surely I am already living this lifestyle, having easily achieved the goals I’d previously set, over and over again. But am I? Absolutely not!

But WHY, I hear you cry. Well, listen closely because I’m about to tell you a secret that I haven’t admitted before and there’s a chance you might be shocked. Are you ready? Here goes then…

Because it was all rubbish! I didn’t mean a word of it, I made it all up and none of it really mattered to me!

There, I’ve said it and wow, does that feel better! I feel like a weight’s lifted off my shoulders. The truth is that I know how to come up with an easy (and shallow) vision to get that exercise done and feel that I’ve participated enthusiastically and played at 100%. That’s what you’re supposed to do at these seminars, everyone knows that. The music’s thumping, you’re leaping out of your seat and thrusting your fist into the air. “ARE YOU READY TO PLAY?” “YEAH!” “ARE YOU READY TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE?” “YEAH!” “ARE YOU READY TO SET SOME GOALS?” “YEAH!” “ARE YOU READY TO LIE TO YOURSELF?” “YEAH! YEAH! YEAH!”

Does any of this sound familiar? I guess that right now some of you might be thinking that my goals were worthy and that you would like those things too. And you’re right, those things would be very nice to have but the thing is (and this is the key) they are not a MUST for me! Whilst, it would be lovely to enjoy those things in my life, I’m not experiencing any pain without them and am, in fact, experiencing plenty of pleasure without them. In other words, those particular goals contain no leverage for me to change. They are obviously attractive, appealing and desirable and yet, I have no compelling reason why I need them or why I should take immediate action to attain them. And this explains why I don’t have them.

Had I taken a different approach to setting my goals, perhaps I could have achieved entirely different results. It’s easy to let go of something we’ve never had and that’s why we don’t really feel any pain about not realising some of our dreams or goals. But what if I had turned this equation upside down? Instead of imagining where I could be in 10 years should all my dreams come true, what if I had imagined my life in 10 years should everything stay the same? What will happen if I keep going down this path? What are my choices costing me? What are the consequences of my behaviour? What will I still be settling for and/or tolerating? What will I still be missing out on? What feelings will I still be experiencing – frustration, disappointment, dissatisfaction, disempowerment? What negative beliefs would I still hold about myself and my life? How much pain am I feeling?

And what if I had gone on even further to discover a compelling reason to change? What must change to avoid this pain in my future and bring pleasure instead? What is the most important benefit for me to change this outcome? What is the worst thing that could happen if I don’t change? How could I turn this around? What could I start doing differently right now to get better results? What would be the downside? How fantastic will I feel when I start getting great results? How much pleasure, love and joy will I feel?

Let me give you a simple example. Two years ago I married my high school crush. I bought a beautiful white dress, which although gorgeous in its own right, would look even more stunning if I just lost the extra 7 kilos I had gradually accumulated during the last year of romantic wining and dining. For those of you who know me, I’m a very curvy girl and not known for my love of sport or exercise. In the past, I’ve really only lost weight through practically starving myself or unintentionally through stress. Unfortunately though, both of these methods included unpleasant side effects such as looking tired, dull skin, loss of muscle tone, brittle nails, hair breakage, lack of energy and a general feeling of lethargy and exhaustion. Not really the description of a radiant bride is it? But carrying this extra weight made me feel heavy, unattractive, less confident and less sexy. That didn’t suit my idea of a glowing bride either! There was no way around it; I had to lose the excess kilos in a healthy way, through sensible dieting and exercise. It was an absolute must for me and so I took action.

Not easily, not effortlessly but I pounded that treadmill with a vision of how wonderful I would feel walking towards my smiling husband when I knew how good I looked in my white dress as opposed to how disappointed I knew I would feel looking at myself in the mirror and knowing that I hadn’t lost the weight. I knew that I would look at the photos of myself afterwards and feel sad and annoyed that I hadn’t made the effort to look my best. Those feelings of disappointment, sadness and annoyance brought me enough pain to leverage my commitment to change. Pretty good was not good enough in this instance. At this point, I need to clarify that this was not something that mattered to my husband. Had that been the case, I don’t think I would have achieved my goal. He would have thought I was beautiful whether I lost the weight or not. No, this was something that was important to me. I wanted to be a beautiful bride and for me this meant feeling healthy, attractive and confident. And for me to feel like that, I knew that I must lose 7 kilos before the big day. My reason was compelling enough for me to change and make it a reality.

Looking back at those Wedding photos now, I remember what a perfect day it was and how completely fantastic I felt. I exuded happiness and love, as every bride should. Was it worth the effort? You betcha!

As I said, this was just a simple example, and not a life-changing decision of significant consequence, but I know you get my point. You may have some much bigger and more critical issues weighing on your mind as you head into 2008. So let me ask you this: where will you will be and what will you be feeling in 2018 if everything stays the same and what are you going to do about it right now?

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