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The beginning of a new year brings so much promise; it’s a fresh canvas ready for its artist to paint their masterpiece.
There’s something exciting about dreaming how we want things to be and plotting a plan for how we will get there.
Except it often doesn’t work out quite the way we imagined, does it? Those goals we were so determined to reach have somehow floated away on the breeze and evaporated into nothing. Whether they’re related to health, work, relationships, or a new hobby, it’s not uncommon for us to find ourselves plodding through January and realizing none of our aspirations are ticked off the list.
Why is that? Is it because we’re lazy and unmotivated? Do we lack discipline? Do we just not want them badly enough?
Possibly. I mean, there’s plenty of lazy and unmotivated people in the world. But deep down, we know we’re not that person. We’re willing and committed; we’re ready to dig in. We know what we want, and we know how to get there!
Or do we?
Therein lies our stumbling block. We might think we know how to get there, but there’s one thing we haven’t considered. This one thing can make or break our success, and it is the most powerful and fundamental component of goal setting that exists.
We must identify our “why.”
When we are absolutely clear on why we want to make changes in our lives, we are more likely to follow through and more easily able to get back on track when our commitment wavers. Our why will be unique to us and likely different from our spouse’s or best friend’s reasoning.
In other words, we must focus on the driving force behind our goals. What will provide us with the total and absolute push to make our dreams a reality.
For example, our driving force for getting healthy might be so we can backpack around the world. Our driving force for changing careers might be so we can utilize our creative talents. Our driving force for publishing a book might be because we’ll deeply regret it on our deathbed if we don’t.
It’s not enough to say, “I want to be healthy” without having a clear understanding of the true reasons behind it. This is because when the trials and stresses of life get in the way and threaten to derail our progress, we must have a rock-solid reason to pull us back on the straight and narrow.
“Being healthy” is vague. But “I’m desperate to backpack around the world” is powerful.
Perhaps we know we want to achieve a certain goal but are struggling to find our why. If so, it can be helpful to draw up a list of possible consequences for not following through. What will happen if we can’t travel, or work in a job we love, or publish our book? What will that mean for us? How will we feel? What will the rest of our life look like? Can we live comfortably with those regrets?
Let’s take this a step further.
Self-help guru Tony Robbins perfectly sums up the importance of knowing our why, and the consequences of failure, with this well-known quote:
“People will do more to avoid pain than they will to gain pleasure.”
In other words, the pain of not getting healthy must outweigh the pleasure of eating junk food. The pain of not changing careers and fulfilling our talent must outweigh the pleasure of being “comfortable” in our existing job. The pain of not publishing a book must outweigh the pleasure of sitting on the couch and watching Netflix.
When we drill down deep enough and find our pain point—bingo! That’s when we find our why, our driving force.
And while avoiding that pain may feel like enough to propel us toward our dream, we turbo-charge the process when we allow ourselves to get really, really excited about what will happen once we actually achieve it.
Visualize yourself at the end of the year, basking in your new-found achievements. Where are you? What are you doing? Who are you with? What do you look like? How do you feel? What are you able to do that you can’t do now?
Go deep with this and see what pictures you’re able to conjure up in your mind. Visualization can be incredibly powerful because it activates our subconscious mind, programs our brain, activates the Law of Attraction, and builds internal motivation.
Goal setting is one of the most important things we can do to extend and challenge ourselves, and make our lives more rewarding, but the disappointment of not reaching our goals can be crushing.
So this year, let’s step toward our fresh canvas with our why confidently and firmly in place. Allow yourself to tap into the sense of loss and pain of not following through. Then picture the triumphant rewards and satisfaction at the end.
Now go and paint your masterpiece.