The human mind is unique in its ability to time travel. We can go into our past and ruminate until we are on the verge of depression, or savor happy moments and relive the joy all over again. We can enter our futures and create catastrophic scenarios of potential events (that never happen), or envision hopeful dreams that place us on top of the world.
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This ability is what makes us set goals and work towards them. However, without an awareness of who we are and what we truly desire, our goals of who we want to become can be unrealistic and inauthentic, leading to a loss of motivation and a failure to find fulfillment.
Although we assume that we know ourselves well, we are often our own final frontiers. Without a knowledge of our strengths, passions and values, we cannot connect to our gifts, nor bring forth the best of what we have to offer. Nor can we connect to an authentic vision of what we want in life.
Daniel Gilbert, in his fascinating book Stumbling on Happiness, writes about the inaccuracy of our minds in predicting what will make us happy in the future. This is compounded by the fact that we live in a world where media messages and societal expectations can make us pursue hollow dreams of fame, money and material possessions.
By studying our past and connecting to our genuine sources of happiness, we can set goals that motivate us and bring us both success and fulfillment.
Visualize Your Journey
Visualization is an effective strategy – if we know what we need to focus on. Whereas goals are fait accompli and present us with a perfect outcome, the journey to our goals is often a messy path. We stumble and fall, make mistakes and fail, and get discouraged or distracted in the face of unforeseen challenges that are a part of every journey.
By visualizing this zig-zagging journey of ups and downs, we can think of the obstacles we may encounter, the choices we will face and the decisions that will help us stay committed to our cherished goals.
Take Baby Steps
No baby ever learnt to walk in a day. It is the accumulation of endless months of baby steps that finally lead to the confident gait of a toddler. And yet, as we grow older, we become impatient with ourselves.
Imagine how well a baby would do if every time they fell down, we shouted “Loser!” from the corner of the room. Imagine how well they would do if they did have their first success and we shrugged our shoulders and said “Now get onto running, it’s about time!”
It may sound cruel, but isn’t that pretty much how we take our ‘baby steps’. By changing our inner dialogue and being patient with ourselves along the way, we can ensure that our journey gets us to our goals.
Build Powerful Habits
Habits are the brains way of effectively using its energy resources. Given that our brain is merely 4% of our weight, but uses up to 20% of our energy, it is important that we build powerful habits so that we don’t deplete ourselves of the energy we need to stay on track.
Powerful habits are those that make the greatest difference because they hold everything together. When we implement them, we bring into effect a host of other habits that propel us forward. Similarly, identifying and letting go of the ones that hold us back creates a positive momentum that works to our advantage. Small changes can have a huge impact if we target with attention and persistence.
Life is way too precious to be spent living in the gulf between where we stand and what we want. The longer we stay there, the deeper the void and the lower our chances of ever getting to the other side. In embracing our inherent reality and in becoming our own cheerleaders, we can move everyday in the direction of meaningful goals. It is this very journey that allows us to live as the best version of ourselves.