Setting Goals: What Do You Aim For?

Imagine this…you’re playing miniature golf, you see the hole. There’s also a little rip and loose cloth of the green to the right of the hole. You’re checking your posture and grip, you look toward the hole, then you look at the ripped green. In your mind you’re thinking “don’t aim toward that rip”, and you keep darting your eyes toward the rip. What do you think will happen? Most likely, you hit the ball directly towards the rip. Why? Well, because that’s where you placed your attention.

Did you know that most people focus on Negative Goals? Here’s an example…let’s say you bite your fingernails. You might state your goal like this: “I want to stop biting my nails”. This leaves your brain trying to figure out what to do instead. Your brain is registering the words “biting nails”. Even if it registers “stop biting”, your brain has to search for what else to do. 

In that example, you are focusing on what you don’t want – a Negative Goal – rather than on what you do want – Positive Goal.

This works as well with other types of goals such as emotional goals. Let’s say you experience anxiety. You can track what environments or people trigger anxiety. Then, instead of avoiding those things and people, you can write down small, manageable goals. For example, you feel anxious going into the grocery store by yourself. Instead of avoiding it altogether, you can go with a friend and arrange that for a couple minutes you walk down some food aisles by yourself and progress step by step. This is better than avoiding situations because avoidance reinforces your mind’s response that it is unsafe.

Here’s another example I just thought of and tried on myself. “I don’t want to be depressed.” Just saying that didn’t feel very good. I then said, “I want to feel happy more often” and immediately my mind started thinking about what I can do to feel happier.  With the nail biting example, you might say something like “I want long, healthy fingernails”. Your mind then is open to figuring out what to do to accomplish that. Magical!

Thinking of what you want will spark ideas for actions in the direction of your goal. Give it a try this week and let us know about your success in the comments!

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