Pull Out the Stops And Finish Any Hard Life Goal
What’s the secret if you want to finish any hard life goal? I can only remember the gist of the very first words of M. Scott Peck’s book, “A Road Less Traveled.” He said that life is difficult. But the paradox is that once you stop expecting anything different, your life experience gets a lot easier. And if you can actually start looking forward to and even enjoying life’s challenges, it transforms you into a total bad-ass.
So it boils down to how you perceive obstacles in life. Letting them feel like unnecessary nuisances blocks us from moving forward in every way… mentally and otherwise. Every goal is in serious jeopardy the moment you set them.
So, with that said, here are some insightful, tested pointers that will keep you focused on achieving any goal that you put your mind to. Use them to perform a kind of goal audit whenever you find yourself falling short of executing the plans you set towards your goals.
1. What are goals for anyway?
We set out to do things because we believe they will make us feel something we want to feel… or will make us stop feeling something we don’t. This is true even for the most altruistic of goals. Even if the idea is to help people, it’s useful to consider that you wouldn’t do this if it made you feel bad about yourself.
What’s so useful about this? What if you found out that accomplishing the goal wouldn’t really make you feel what you thought you would? Or even if it did, it wouldn’t last? Would you still be motivated to get it done?
Here’s the honest-to-goodness truth. Accomplishing any goal, no matter how big, will never return any emotional state you seek. At least, it won’t do so permanently. A quick look at your personal history will reveal this truth. Was there anything you ever accomplished that gave you a feeling that didn’t lose its shine over time?
Welcome to the wacky human brain. Goals were never meant to do anything more than give you a worthwhile path. Arriving at the destination wasn’t the deal. It was always about the journey and how THAT made you feel each day you got on its trail.
I have more that’s eye-opening to say about this in a little bit. You may have heard it said that it’s not the destination, but the journey. But if you really haven’t let that land inside you in a way that affects how you approach each moment, now is the time. It doesn’t necessarily mean you give up on the goal. Instead, get clear on a pure reason for accomplishing it; one that’s not grounded in the falsehood that it will make you feel different.
2. Is the goal yours?
This one is powerful in solving stuckness. Forgive me if that’s not a word. But I’m sure you can relate to setting the same goal, maybe for the umpteenth time, and despite being a peak performer in other areas, you find yourself unable to get past a certain point yet again.
If you love doing hard things you’re more than likely at that point right this minute with at least one of your goals. For some, it’s losing those last (or first) stubborn 15 lbs and ordering huge desserts after swearing off them.
I don’t know what yours is. For me, it’s tapping on the cancel button on my phone’s notification. The same one I’d set to remind me to go to bed at 8:00 p.m. This was almost a year ago. It’s a huge deal because I listed it as a “linchpin goal” that would make room for my writing habit, and therefore other things I’m chasing. The best I’ve been able to do has been 9:45, and that’s only been once or twice. Most of the time so far I’ve only been able to get in bed by 11:00, which means no writing at 4 ‘O clock the next morning. This one’s been a beast thus far, but I’m not backing down.
Goals from your former self
If you’re aware enough, there’s a point where just when it happens that you’re supposed to get to work on something, you can clearly sense being controlled by your brain’s past conditioning. I teach a process of becoming a witness to your own mind doing its antics, yet all of us have moments like this where the awareness doesn’t seem enough. You literally observe yourself doing what you’ve always done or saying what you always say, despite having planned to do otherwise.
It might not be so clear, but there’s another set of competing goals from a past you don’t even remember. It’s the residue of thoughts, beliefs, and their chemical components still in your physical nervous system of neurons, firing away because that’s still the dominant programming. The obvious question here is, whose goals do you really want to pursue? Would that be goals from your past self or the ones you’re chasing now?
It’s not a rhetorical question either, because it’s quite possible that your past goals are a better match for whom you want to identify with today. So don’t gloss over this. Your identity, the person you believe yourself to be deep inside, is the person who shows up and does work, regardless of your current intentions.
This means you’ve more work to do on your identity if the old you is still taking you in a direction you’re sure you don’t want. To finish any hard life goal, it must mesh with whom you believe yourself to be. I said earlier that awareness doesn’t always seem enough. Actually, that’s only half-true. There are levels! The identity work I refer to is mostly about broadening your consciousness so you can stay present for longer intervals while you’re awake. That course is on the horizon, so stay tuned.
Goals from outside yourself
Sometimes the mismatched identity comes from other people’s agendas. The source doesn’t matter… parents, friends you interacted with a generation ago, the media, people you report to on the job, a peer group you respect, or whatever. Do the work to recalibrate internally.
I’m not going to say a whole lot more about identity work here. Just know that this is work that can take years if you’re trying to do it all by yourself. The wise old adage is true. It’s hard to forge a new reality with the same mind that created the old one. And the older and more set in your ways you become, the harder the struggle to change if you’re not properly equipped. Having a trusted other person with you through the process can save you a lot of time. Money too, depending on your goal.
3. Finish Any Hard Life Goal With Unconditioned Emotions
Here’s the other piece about the inspiration a worthwhile goal can provide: It’s not automatic, but it’s always within reach even in moments when you feel you don’t have the right kind of energy to push on to the finish of any hard life goal. It’s a cinch those moments will come at you too, and often… even daily! This is why I believe we need more of a reliable system than just a hack. Some pundits prefer having drive over motivation, and I like the distinction too.
Long-term goals are often complicated and multi-layered projects. The planning trajectory may look something like this: To get from A all the way to J, you may be able to get D done almost any time. But you may not be able to even begin with F until A, B and C are all complete.
Even when the long-term goal isn’t something you can put inside a project management tool, you’ll still have to fight your way through mind traps. For example, you’re tempted to go with, “Before starting to work out, I need to get myself several pairs of yoga pants and nice-looking sneakers for the gym. Let’s see. That’s beyond my budget for this and next month, so I guess I’ll have to start in June, but then I may just make a clean go of it and wait until summer vacation.”
See where I’m going with this? Summer may be 4 months away and by then the whole thing is no longer on your radar, so you wipe it off your list when it shows up. If you don’t have a coach or accountability partner, it’s too easy to then protect your ego by pretending it’s not a big deal. It’s one of the most common ways not to finish any hard life goal.
Feel it now
So let’s talk about a powerful way to fuel those low-energy moments in general. You access the infinite potential of something we’ll call your “unconditioned emotions.” Ask yourself the same questions a good life coach might ask. “What’s the ultimate feeling I’m looking for with this long-term goal anyway?” That inner conversation may go something like this:
I need to increase my income by at least an extra $1,500 per month in the next 8 months. Why?
There’s stuff I can’t yet afford but still want. Why?
Who doesn’t like to splurge even just a little? I’ll be a little more comfortable and I’ll be able to have just a little more fun. But why do I want to be more comfortable and have more fun?
I deserve it. I’ll feel less deprived and more accomplished somehow.
This means right now I don’t feel as accomplished and fulfilled as I would like.
The idea is to drill down to the old “conditioned emotions” keeping you back. I’m sure you’ve just noticed that if this person feels deprived and unaccomplished, that’s not going to fuel peak performance towards any worthwhile long-term goal. Once you get to those emotions you can access a more useful “unconditioned emotion” that can fuel the massive action you want to get yourself to take. The inner talk thus concludes with something like:
What if I can feel accomplished and fulfilled right this moment instead of waiting? How can I do that?
Drive vs motivation
Your inner voice may conclude with something like:
Well, there’s a whole lot in my life right now that already brings me great joy and fun. I have my two daughters, a good job, great friends, and people who think very highly of me. My bills are mostly paid on time. And even though it’s not as often as I would like, I do get to splurge every once in a while. I’ve learned that gratitude for what you have actually opens the door for getting more. I can do that whenever this deprived feeling comes back trying to sap my strength.
But if you already feel what you’re going to feel on the other side of the goal, won’t that take your motivation away? That’s the question I hear most often. One wonders if you don’t lose your motivation.
There are many folks in the scientific community who could explain this better than I ever could. For me, it made sense only when I acknowledged that there are limits to tricking my own brain. What I mean by this is that accessing the unconditioned emotion continuously in the present moment doesn’t take anything away from what you sense you’re going to feel when the whole thing is done. But it makes the journey way easier and more fun for yourself and those around you. Sure you know that feeling won’t last. If you follow good advice, you’ll take time to celebrate and bask in your own glow a little, then move on to your next life goal journey.
But even unconditioned emotions won’t get you past all obstacles. In fact, the very first psychic hurdle is the biggest problem. If you’re not ready for it, the chances of it derailing you are almost certain. I’ve dedicated the next section entirely to it because this threat looms so large.
4. Snapping out of the Change Cycle
Besides past programming, there’s another major obstacle working against the transformation required to finish any hard life goal and realize big dreams. It has to do with the very hardware humans come into the world with… a brain that’s partially optimized for advancement, but also partially optimized for survival.
Advancement and survival are at loggerheads with each other. One calls for change. The other demands staying the same because you’re already alive. The emotional centers of your brain abhor thinking and planning. The executive part is obsessed with doing nothing else.
If you’re not paying attention, you live life in a cycle that swings from one to the next. They keep canceling out each other so you only make incremental changes over the medium term. You therefore live a relatively mediocre life that’s unsatisfying because you’re a high achiever at heart.
The 6-Part Change Cycle
- At one point in the change cycle, you become discontent. Being overweight, living on a shoestring budget, not having the love you seek in your life… whatever it is.. becomes unacceptable.
- This increases to a breaking point when something happens that motivates you to make a change.
- So with your executive brain, you make a strong decision and set a major life goal to do the work and get to the other side. You start making plans to start dating again, workout, watch your diet, or build your side hustle.
- But your emotional brain isn’t having it. It’s programmed to treat change as suicide. Fear kicks in. Next thing you know, even your executive brain is thinking thoughts like, “It’s too hard, who the heck do I think I am anyway? I don’t know how to do this. I’m just not good at this. I don’t even know where to start. I’m good where I am, it’s not so bad. What the hell was I thinking? The whole world will be laughing at me for even trying.”
- And if you let it go unchecked, you reach the point where you conveniently forget that decision you made. It’s like a kind of amnesia. You get up in the morning and start moving around like you always have.
- Your emotional brain tries to protect you. It hijacks your executive brain, keeping it from thinking about your goals because you’ve backtracked on them and thinking about it makes you feel like shit.
How to break out
That’s the cycle you have to break if you want to finish any hard life goal. Around and around from discontent, breaking point, decision, fear, amnesia backtracking, and then right back to being discontent with where you are.
But being forewarned is to be forearmed. If you already know fear and amnesia are coming, you can prepare for them. You simply get your executive brain to rehearse what you’re going to do when that inevitable point comes. You’ll recognize it for what it is, smile to yourself, and welcome it because you recognize it. After all, it’s now familiar after practicing for its arrival. You “pat it on its head, thank it for its attempt to protect you, lovingly tell it to calm down, breath, meditate, pray, or whatever is most powerful for you. And stay the course. That’s how you break the change cycle.
Of course, you can also increase the odds by working with a coach, mentor, or trusted companion. But even if you don’t your chances are already way better just by being aware of this cycle and when and how to break it.
So! Those are four “Hidden Power Pathway” secrets that can help you on your quest to finish any hard life goal. There are others within courses and programs we are preparing for you, but honestly, these are some of the most powerful, and all you may ever need. Drop us a comment or question to tell us what you think, and what you’re going to do with them.