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Goal Seeking

© March 2009 Anthony Lawrence

A Twitter re-tweet by BrettLegree led me to Mark Hayward's How to Achieve Your Goals Through Reverse Engineering. Basically he points out that if you want to get to point A, it's important to list out the steps required for you to get there. In Mark's case, he wanted to have his own Bed and Breakfast business in the Caribbean and got there after over ten years of struggling toward that goal. He suggests that identifying the sub-goals necessary to reach the main goal is critical to ultimate success. I certainly agree with that.

He also briefly mentions the importance of visualization:

To be sure, "reverse engineering"` is a lot like any other planning exercise. Although, I think it has worked for me because instead of just listing out the steps that you think you need at random, you must actually visualize yourself as having completed the goal. Not only does this help by making the objective seem more tangible, but it can also help to put you in the all-important proper mindset to start taking action.

I want to expand upon that a little. Visualizing goals and sub-goals isn't just a pleasant daydream. It's actually a very important part of achieving your goal. That's because daydreaming or visualizing involves your subconscious mind and makes it aware of what you want.

This isn't mystical mumbo-jumbo or new-age nonsense, though sometimes that kind of babble can sound very similar. For example, the very popular "The Secret" (Rhonda Byrne) book tells its hopeful readers about the "law of attraction" - that thinking about things you want will bring them to you. Of course that's utter nonsense, but there is a germ of truth in it: if you involve your subconscious mind, it will help you find the things you want.

"The Secret" is really exactly the same as Norman Vincent Peale 's "The Power of Positive Thinking" and dozens or hundreds of other books along the same lines. It's also the same reason so many people believe in the "power of prayer" - while there are no gods listening to their pleadings, their subconscious is listening and unlike imaginary gods, it actually can help.

I recently read How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer. It's a rehash of a lot of stuff more fully covered elsewhere, is a little repetitive, but is pretty well done overall. It did remind me of what I already knew: your subconscious notices things around you that you miss and can make connections and judgments based on that extra knowledge it has. It also can churn and grind things that you do know to come of with relationships that you might not notice - and that's especially true when the relationships are complicated. Your subconscious can actually process complicated problems far better than your rational mind can.

Note that this does NOT mean that you just turn all your thinking and planning over to your subconscious. You need the rational part of your brain to analyze the feasibility of things your subconscious may suggest. You need the rational part to create the list of sub-goals that are necessary to reach your final goal. But involving your subconscious by visualization, daydreams or even prayers will definitely help you. Not by magic, not by supernatural intervention, but it will help. So go ahead, indulge your daydreams. Imagine your goals, your dreams. Don't forget to give time to the little steps too; daydreaming about them is just as important.

We are goal seeking machines. Define your goal, wish for it, think about it, pine for it, pray for it - I can't guarantee that you'll reach it, but doing these things will help focus all of your brain on getting there.

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Thu Mar 5 20:01:16 2009: 5611   BrettLegree

Visualization and planning from end state back to the present are both really great tools - and as you say, are nothing new under the sun.

Of course, that won't stop an enterprising person from wrapping the ideas up in a new package and selling them - and of course, that often introduces it to people who might not have otherwise seen them.

Hopefully when doing this the message doesn't get watered down too much so that it seems like magic.

My wife sort of got mad at me when, upon finishing "The Secret" and saying how she liked it, I said "yeah, the core message is kind of the stuff I've been talking about for some time."

If you don't know where you are going, it's hard to know if you're going the right way, or to know which way to turn if you have to drive around an obstacle.

I like what you said about the subconscious. I often go to bed thinking about the end state of some goal I have, and maybe a few of the critical steps along the way, but always focusing on the goal and the good feelings associated with achieving it.

It does seem to help.

Thu Mar 5 20:03:58 2009: 5612   TonyLawrence

Visualize your wife not being mad at you :-)

Thu Mar 5 21:07:31 2009: 5613   BrettLegree

Hey, I think I'll try that right now!

(If you don't hear from me for a few days, you'll know I'm in traction at the hospital...)


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