As a coach, I often work with people on achieving goals. Starting a business. Changing careers. Getting in shape.
I’ve learned that under every goal, there is an equation the goal-seeker has made up: If I do x, I will feel y. If I run my own business, I’ll feel a greater sense of control over my life. If I find a job I enjoy, I’ll feel happier and more energetic. If I get into shape, I’ll feel more secure about my health and more attractive.
This hypothesis then guides our actions. As a next step, we spend a lot of time and effort on x goal, believing it will be a means to feeling y. Sometimes we are right in our hypothesis, and often not. Research shows that humans are actually quite bad at predicting what will bring us happiness.
The more I work with people on their goals, the more odd it seems to me that we focus our energy on a particular goal, when what we really want is the desired change in feeling. Why don’t we focus on the feeling?
When I work with clients to focus on the new feeling they want to create, they find a wealth of options for getting there, including many that are available right now.
This is what I call “The Goals Shortcut” and its awesome power is that it allows you to feel the way you want to feel right now – not way off in the distant future after a goal has been achieved.
It has five simple steps.
- Identify your goal. Write it down.
- Ask yourself: What feelings do I think I am going to get from achieving this goal? Write those down next to the goal.
For example, if you have the goal of getting into shape, you might anticipate that achieving it will make you feel energetic, or attractive, or secure that you are taking care of your health. If you want to start a business, you might anticipate that this will make you feel more empowered, independent, and challenged.
3. Brainstorm 10 other ways to get that feeling state. Just brainstorm—put ideas down rapidly. Don’t evaluate their quality or feasibility now.
For example, if you think that starting a business will make you feel more free, brainstorm ten other ways to feel more free, for example, taking an exciting trip, paying back a loan, doing something nonconformist, etc. (Of course, what makes each person feel more free is highly individual).
4. Ask “What can I easily do today that will get me into this feeling state?” You’ll discover some new “little things” you can do in your life – right now- that will have big impact. Come up with at least 5 of these.
Continuing with our example, what would make you feel more free today? Maybe its doing something indulgent for yourself, or doing something new, or saying something you normally feel “not allowed” to say. Again, the answer will be highly individual.
5. Finally, ask yourself, what are the current thoughts or beliefs that are getting in the way of me feeling that feeling state in this very moment? What new thoughts would free me to be in the feeling state I want, right now?
You may need to let go of the thought that you are not free in your current circumstances. Instead, you can cultivate the thought that you are in fact free to make choices in every area of your life.
Here are another couple of examples:
Clara’s goal was to find a more fulfilling career, because she wanted to feel more energized and have a sense of significance about her contribution to the world. So she was working on a job search, but what to do in the meantime? When she brainstormed other ways to get the feeling states of “energized” and “significant” right away, she realized could spend time doing the activities she was passionate about, and focus more on the parts of her current job she was most interested. At the level of her thoughts, she could appreciate the significance of what she was doing now, affirm all the significant contributions she’d made over her career, and let go of draining, repetitive thoughts criticizing her current work situation.
Here’s a second example. Mark was focused on saving up money and arranging a professional sabbatical to take a 3 month trip to New Zealand. He was really looking forward to the trip, and was sure that it would give him a sense of adventure in his life. In the meantime, he was stuck in the idea that life at home was boring. “Adventure” was going to come from this trip.
Mark started cultivate adventure right here, right now. For him that meant meeting new people, be boldly honest with the people in his life, and getting into a new sport. At the level of thought, he realized he could feel a sense of adventure if he stopped telling himself, “Adventure is about leaving town” and started thinking, “Adventure is available everywhere.”
Work on All Three Levels
Mark doesn’t need to give up his trip, and Clara can still pursue her career change. But those particular strategies are just one small part of the big picture.
For any goal, work on three levels, to get powerful and immediate results in your life:
- Pursue medium-term or long-term external goals that you believe will bring about your desired feeling state. (For example, training for the triathalon, writing the screenplay, working for the promotion.)
- Do small actions that bring you the desired feeling state, today. (For example, doing excellent quality work on the task in front of you, eating well today, being fully present with your loved ones).
- Let go of the thoughts and beliefs that reinforce the feeling state you want to move away from. Adopt the new thoughts that allow you to feel your desired feeling state today. (For example, if you want to feel free, let go of “I’m trapped in this job” and cultivate “I’m free to make choices in every area of my life.”)
Bottom line? You don’t waste the next few months waiting for a particular external goal to be achieved so that you feel how you want to feel. You can have what you really want right now, through daily actions and changes in your thoughts.
Tara Mohr helps people live more authentic, thrilling lives. She received her MBA from Stanford and has a degree in English from Yale, focusing on Shakespeare. Visit her site www.sophiashouse.wordpress.com for more.