Have you ever set new goals, stuck to them for a week or so and then talked yourself out of it, or just “forget” one day? Here’s a simple 3 step process for keeping yourself on track for your goals by outsmarting your devious subconscious mind.
When you get off track it’s not because you’re lazy, stupid or forgetful, or whatever other label you choose to beat yourself over the head with. You’ve just fallen victim to the wily ways of your subconscious and its attempts to protect you.
The subconscious is suspicious of change and often resists new routines quite vigorously, derailing your best efforts when you least expect it. Use these cunning tricks to outsmart your mind and take control of your life.
Step 1 – The Practical Plan
Self-improvement goals are usually achieved day-by-day, step-by-step. If you over-commit in time or effort, or fail to prepare in advance you risk sabotaging your success. You don’t want to give yourself the ready-made excuse that it’s too hard, or flat out impossible to follow through on your goal today. Set yourself up for success with a practical plan.
Make sure your daily action steps are bite-sized and easy to achieve.
If your goal is to learn guitar or read more books, don’t commit to an hour every day. One day you’ll find it’s late and you’re tired, or you have too busy a schedule. An hour will seem just too much. Commit to 20 minutes a day with the option to do more if it feels good.
If you have an exercise goal, don’t commit to running 3 miles a day if you haven’t run for years. Pain and exhaustion make for excellent excuses! Instead get yourself a proper exercise plan that incrementally increases as you grow in strength and skill.
Diet goals require advance preparation. You may be programmed to make sure you don’t run out of milk and bread, but that won’t help you when it’s green smoothie time. Write a list of meals you’ll cook and also a shopping list so you’re sure to have the ingredients you need in the house
By doing this you’ll eliminate any excuses before they exist and it will be easy to follow through on your goals, building on your successes every day.
Step 2 – The Pattern Interrupt
If you find yourself “forgetting” about your goal until it’s too late to act on it, it’s not that you’re forgetting; you’re just going onto autopilot. Your subconscious doesn’t like change and prefers to keep the status quo – you need a pattern interrupt to turn it off and take control.
Use visual cues to snap yourself out of autopilot and make conscious choices
If you get home from work, sit on the saof and turn on the TV every day, interrupt that flow. Leave your guitar or book in the middle of the sofa and hide the TV remote. When you sit down, the next natural thing to do will be starting to play or read.
If you plan to exercise first thing every day but find yourself in the kitchen making coffee before you know it, leave your training gear in the kitchen doorway where you’ll trip over it. Stepping over it would have to be a conscious decision not to do the exercise.
If you’re getting halfway through a bowl of Cheerios before you remember your healthy diet goal, tape a picture of green smoothies or fit bodies to the cupboard door. Leave your blender and a heap of fresh fruits and greens on the counter. And stop buying cereals!
When you do this you’ll keep your goals in view and in your mind. You’ll have a much better chance of consciously choosing to stay on track.
Step 3 – The Contingency Plan
No matter how well prepared you are there will still be days when the little voice inside your head says “You don’t need to bother today”. You try not to listen, but your subconscious can be as creative and devious as it is persistent. “You’ve been good all week, skipping one day won’t hurt” No! “But you’ve had a hard day, it’s getting late. You can do it tomorrow”.
Expect it. Be prepared. Have a contingency plan in place.
Make a commitment to at least take the first step before deciding what to do.
Commit to at least picking up your guitar and playing something easy before deciding whether to practice. At least pick up the book and re-read the last few sentences where you left off. Only then decide if you’ll carry on and read more.
Commit to just putting on your running shoes and stepping outside before you make the choice to run or have a day off.
Commit to browsing some recipes and savoring the smell of some fresh, juicy fruits before you choose between waffles and syrup or a delicious, nutritious smoothie.
When you need to use your contingency plan it’s possible you’ll still decide to skip a day – but now it will be a conscious choice and you won’t have simply been railroaded by your subconscious. But most often you’ll find that you do actually follow through, and feel much better for having done so. Win!
Step by Step Success
Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgement, repeated every day. It is the accumulated weight of our disciplines and our judgments that leads us to either fortune or failure.
~ Jim Rohn
Follow these simple steps to keep yourself on track, taking daily action towards your goals.
- Make a practical plan, breaking down your goal into easy to take action steps
- Use pattern interrupts to avoid slipping into autopilot and forgetting your goal
- Have a contingency plan for when your subconscious tries to derail you
Success builds on success – celebrate your achievements, knowing that you now know how to achieve any goal you set your mind to.
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