There are many reasons why people say we don’t reach our goals. Some say its commitment, some say it dedication, some say its motivation, some say its accountability and some say visualization. I believe all these attributes play a role in us reaching and not reaching our goals, but I believe the difference between reaching a goal and not reaching a goal comes down to one thing.
Over the last 6 or 7 years I have read dozens of books on success and how to accomplish goals. They all seem to say the same thing for the most part. Write down your goals, post them where you can see them, use positive affirmations daily, have someone close to you hold you accountable, read motivational books, surround yourself with people that have accomplished what you are trying to accomplish, get a mentor, visualize yourself as already accomplishing the goal and so on and so on. None of these things are bad advice by any means. They all work in some capacity or another, but there is one thing in here that is missing. There is one thing that if we don’t control it, all bets are off. That one thing is our mind.
The brain for the most part has one main goal. To seek pleasure and to avoid pain. According to Freud, there are 3 main parts of the brain that influence our behavior and personality to reach these survivalist goals. The Id, The Superego and The Ego.
The Id (chaos) is the hind brain or reptilian brain that is very instinctual. Can I kill it, can I f*@# it and can I eat it?
The Superego (order) is the part of the brain that incorporates values and morals into the equation that seeks perfection.
The Ego is the part of the brain that makes decisions based on reason and logic mediating between the Superego and the Id
What has any of this got to do with setting and reaching goals?
Unfortunately, most of us identify with our thoughts to a point where we think we are our thoughts. Lucky for us, we are not our thoughts.
When we set goals for ourselves, we set these idealistic results, that in the moment, we say we will do whatever it takes to accomplish. Then, when it comes times to act on our goals and consistently perform to achieve the results we aspire to achieve, our reptilian brain, our instincts, tell us that this is going to be uncomfortable. This is going to be painful. Our instincts tell us, don’t do this because it’s not pleasurable. We are wired for comfort. The same goes for food. Our instinct tells us quick, fast and high in calories. Meanwhile our superego starts to berate us for not having the will power to override our instinct. The superego wants perfection and there’s the ego caught in the middle with no foothold.
It is in these moments that most of us lean towards comfort rather than discomfort. We listen to the devil on the right shoulder. Later, we then feel shame and guilt that we didn’t do what we said we would do, and the cycle goes on and on.
What can I do to override the Id?
The brain is like a muscle. The more we use certain parts of it, the stronger it will get. Just like lifting weights, you must lift regularly with increasing difficulty in order to get bigger and stronger. To reach our goals we must not negotiate with the instinctual part of the brain when it comes to acting in the direction of our goals. Look at firefighters, police or military when there is trouble. They run towards danger. They don’t do that instinctively. They practice those scenarios repeatedly, so there’s no fear when it comes to accomplishing what they need to accomplish. We must do the same. We must practice the thing we least want to do time and again until it becomes second nature, until we become comfortable with being uncomfortable.
I do this with daily cold showers. Everyday I do it, my mind makes up 5 or 6 excuses in 4 seconds flat as to why I shouldn’t do it. The thing is, my spirit knows its good for me and necessary. If my spirit knows it, there will be no negotiating because I know my mind only wants to seek pleasure and avoid pain. I will no longer allow my mind to screw me out of what my spirit wants.
The One Thing (Take Action Now)
Pick a small task that you know you should do and do it daily. This one thing is nonnegotiable. It must be done. Once you’ve done that for 60 to 70 days, add something that is bigger and more uncomfortable. Before you know it, a year will have passed, and you will have conquered 5 or 6 of your “fears” and your instinct will be to do the thing that is difficult instead of seeking pleasure and comfort. The key is to act despite what our mind tells us. That is the one thing that is most important in reaching our goals. Take control of your mind or you mind will control you.