Your Brain at Work, by David Rock, was my first reading choice from my 2012 reading list. This is the second of three posts on the book.
Rock explains the powerful difference between toward and away goals and why top performers most often use toward goals. Toward goals (e.g., listen more, exercise more, speak up) affect your brain in significant ways. They prime your brain to notice the positive behavior and so make more connections. As soon as you make these connections your brain gets boosts to its sense of certainty and releases dopamine. So toward goals build new neural networks faster. You experience more early wins. And the goals are more likely to self-reinforce and be met.
Away goals (e.g., stop smoking, don’t yell, lose weight) focus your brain on the problem. This problem focus reinforces all the neural networks already associated with bad behavior. So the more you think about this goal, the more the brain reacts negatively, threatening your SCARF variables, and discouraging you from reaching your goal.
So set your goals wisely, always moving toward your new behavior.
Next book I’m reading if you want to read along: Mindsight, by Daniel Siegel.
In my Keep the Change workshop I make the claim that participants can change any habit or behavior – whether health, personal, professional, leadership, parenting, etc. – if they are willing to dedicate 17 minutes and 21 seconds per week to that task. This week I’ll break down the 17:21 so you can make and keep the change you want.
Awareness is key to change. You need to know what you are changing and why. So set a goal that is specific and measurable.
Don’t set a goal to exercise more. Set a goal to workout 4 times per week.
Don’t try to get angry less often. Set a goal to have no more than 2 angry reactions each week.
Whatever the change, make the goal a one week objective and write it down. Then answer the question, “How will my life be better if I achieve this goal?” Come up with 20 answers to this question. Then write down the top 3-5 answers on the same paper or card or post-it where you wrote down your goal.
Now here’s the important part. Read that goal and the benefits every single day. This will keep the change and the value of the change top of mind for you. It probably takes about 3 seconds for you to read it. Three seconds, seven days per week. That’s 21 seconds.
My next blog post will explain where the next 10 minutes goes on your journey to change.
This week I’ve offered two posts on goal setting. But too often I’ve found that goals have that art/porn quality of “I’ll know it when I see it.” Goals like more confidence, better communication, patience, listening, thoughtfulness, etc. – they all have the same tough to measure quality.
How do you know when you’ve reached these kinds of improvement goals?
I often ask my clients to make it visual with this question. What would you have to physically see happen to know you had made this improvement?
Don’t tell me about feeling the difference. Tell me what you would see. What would someone else say to you or do that would show you something had changed? What measurable action would you take that would display the shift that had occurred?
Make it visual, and give yourself something specific to look for as you strive toward that goal.
On Monday I blogged that how you set a goal isn’t nearly as important as just setting some goal, any goal. But if you want a method, here’s a reasonable way to start.
For each of the following areas of your life give yourself a rating from 1-10 as to how satisfied you are in that area.
- Physical Fitness
- Social Life
- Personal Power
Now select three areas that you would like to move to a 10 and define what a 10 in that area would look like. Once you’ve done that, you’ve got yourself some goals.
I was asked how to go about creating a good goal. After thinking about it a bit it occurred to me that “how” isn’t so important. More critical is just that you go and create something, anything.
You have too much to do. You have no time. That’s life. Your time will be filled up forever with stuff someone has asked you to do or just with the daily routines – walk the dog, make dinner, do the commute, etc.
You can easily go through the rest of your life without establishing any goals and it won’t mean you didn’t do important stuff. But it might not be the stuff you really would have wanted to do if you had stopped to think about it.
On the other hand, if you set your own goals, you take back some control – give your life your own direction.
Tony Folino has fast become one of my favorite bloggers. In 2009 he set a goal of reading and blogging about a new book every week. In 2010 he set out to learn something new and blog about it every day. This year his blog is about finding something to teach with every post.
Now that’s some serious goal setting. What about you? What goal are you working on?
After a speech a woman came up to me to thank me for my message. She told me she tried to live by similar principles. Then she told me of her time in the hospital battling cancer.
She described her prognosis as short of terminal, but not short enough for comfort.
But she refused to define herself by her health struggle. Instead she gave herself a job.
She set a goal that however people felt walking into her hospital room every nurse, every doctor, every employee who entered her room would leave happier than they were when they entered.
She created a job that made her a better person. It helped her feel better. And it helped her win her health battle.
So what’s your job?