So it’s that time of year for self-reflection, dreams of self-improvement and making New Year resolutions – often by this point in January they’re already broken, forgotten or pushed to the side by everyday life. What did you promise yourself this year? How many resolutions did you make? Did you make any? Were they related to your health and well-being, to your career, money, education, travel? Did you promise to stop smoking or lose weight?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary a resolution is a firm decision to do or not do something – it’s amazing just how many people with New Year resolutions do such a fantastic job of successfully not achieving them! A study of 3000 people by Richard Wiseman (University of Hertfordshire) showed that a massive 9 out of 10 people who set New Year resolutions fail to achieve their goal. How many of us say “I’ll stop smoking tomorrow” or “I’ll start my diet tomorrow” and that tomorrow simply never comes…
Well this is all very interesting but, how can NLP, otherwise also know as how to use the language of the mind to consistently achieve our specific and desired outcomes, help?
“The man who does things makes many mistakes, but he never makes the biggest mistake of all – doing nothing.” Benjamin Franklin
NLP suggests five Principles for Success that can help you successfully achieve your goals – be that completing a phone call, a business meeting, getting your kids to do their homework or even achieving those BIG, amazing life goals you dream about. Let’s outline them quickly and then take them one by one, walking through what they mean and how you can use them:
- Know your outcome
- Take action
- Have sensory acuity
- Have behavioral flexibility
- Operate from a physiology and psychology of excellence
Know your outcome: know what you want, know exactly what you want. Define your specific goal and think of this as your business plan or your personal plan for that matter. If you don’t know your goal then you’re a ship without a rudder, steering a random course through a stormy ocean or sitting becalmed by the wind on a mirror-like sea of nowhere. In a future post I’ll talk in more detail about great goal setting and how to test if a goal is well-formed. And no I won’t be talking about SMART goals, is it me or have we heard that darn term once too often? Did Roger Banister really know his goal of the 4 minute mile was achievable or even realistic?!
Take action: how can you achieve anything if you just sit there – well unless you’re playing a computer game of course, though these days even that seems to require a huge amount of leaping around the room! Put simply the learning is in the doing. Consider the fact that there is no failure only feedback. If things don’t go exactly as you wish then you’re gaining valuable feedback and you can flex or adapt to attempt a more successful route. And if that doesn’t work try again and again and again. As a reporter once famously asked Thomas Edison “How many times are you going to fail at creating the light bulb?” Mr. Edison replied, “Son, I haven’t failed! I’ve simply discovered another way not to invent the light bulb!” For those big life goals ask yourself each day – what have I done towards reaching my goal today? Hold yourself to account.
Have sensory acuity: hmmmmmm……sensory what? Sounds complicated. What does it mean? It really means that you need to be as sensitive as you can be to other people’s signals and reactions through their verbal and non-verbal communication by watching, listening and feeling. Watch for changes in a person’s face or body language when you are talking to them, listen for changes in the tone, speed or quality of their voice and be sensitive to feel their reaction to your message.
Have behavioral flexibility: the more flexible your approach, the more willing you are to flex your behavior to attempt every route possible, then the more chance you have of success and reaching your goal. If there is anything you’re not willing to do, then be warned, you may be limiting your own possibility of success.
Operate from a physiology and psychology of excellence: this one has lots of long words, but the philosophy is simple. Pay attention to what you want and ensure the way you act and think reflects that in a positive way. Walk the talk. Believe. If you don’t believe you can reach your goal who else will? So many people say “I wish I was thin” or “I wish I was a non-smoker” or “I wish I earned more money” – why wish, what’s stopping you? Go out there and achieve instead.
NLP’ers often talk about taking responsibility for change and the cause and effect equation. I’ve mentioned it before in the magpies post. On the effect side of the equation you’re at the mercy of the world, you can give millions of reasons why you don’t reach your goals, it’s always someone or something else’s fault and there’s always someone or something else to blame. Funny thing is that those reasons are really excuses as to why you don’t achieve your goals. Listen to yourself next time when someone asks you about a goal you haven’t completed, even if it’s as small as making a phone call. What did you say? Could those be excuses by chance? Are you going to let yourself off the hook again? Could you have done anything differently, could you have prioritized in another way? You might have the will power to achieve your goal, but like so many people have you made limiting decisions in your own mind that you can’t achieve your goal for some reason? Do you have a fear of failure or even a fear of success? Have you decided you don’t have the stamina to successfully complete your diet or to hold yourself back from having that next cigarette? When did you decide that? Is there anything holding you back, except yourself?
Looking at the other side of the equation let’s talk about being at cause, taking responsibility for change, having choices and seizing the power within you to achieve, achieve and achieve again all the results you desire. As Richard Bandler says “Who is driving the bus?”
Are you raring to get out there yet? Well, then you better set your goal. Clearly state what you want, think on how you will know when you’ve achieved you goal – what will you see, hear and feel. Be positive, for example, aim for your new ideal weight rather than focusing on losing the old pounds. Biggest of all make your goal COMPELLING and I mean really, really compelling, so you can feel the passion, the need and the energy to achieve it swell in your chest. Make sure your goal sits well with the rest of your life – how often have people promised they’ll go the gym every day and stop after the first week as they haven’t considered how it can fit in with work, picking up the kids, making dinner and blogging!
So let’s return to Richard Wiseman’s research. It seems that when setting goals men have better chance of success if they set small measurable goals, for example, I am 102kg by the end of next week, compared to the 104kg I am today. For women the best bet seems to be to go public with your goals and get support from friends and family.
Whatever works for you get out there – see the go light turn to green – hear the starting whistle – press the pedal to the metal – and take action to achieve your dreams.
© Jacqui Gatehouse and NLP THIRTEEN, 2010-2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jacqui Gatehouse and NLP THIRTEEN with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.