The Problem with the Way Most of Us Set Goals and Go for Visions
I have been doing a lot of work recently in my counseling sessions with various people who are having difficulty achieving what they really want to do in their lives. One of the things that I have discovered is very revealing about the process. Most of what I have read in the past about goal setting and envisioning emphasizes the aspect of clarity about the future targets. You are supposed to see what you want to do as clearly as possible and then go for it. While there are issues around questionable goals using this process, such as in the way you acquire financial wealth, for the most part it is a sound process. The problem is often not in the goal and its clarity.
The bigger issue is the “me” that it is trying to achieve the vision. So here is the problem. The vision or the goal that I have set is one thing, but the me who can actually achieve the goal is not yet living in the real world. I can set a big vision, but can the person who I currently am achieve it? Often the answer is no. It turns out that achieving a goal is not often about what the goal is, but more a question of who do I have to be to accomplish it. Who I need to be is often wanting.
The process of achieving the what, the specific target, is mainly about the degree of clarity along with the appropriate action to get there, but the process of developing the who is not so much about clarity, but about understanding how the person who can get to the target actually does the work. It doesn’t do much good to go after a goal like doing abstract art until you can understand the state of mind and being that an painter is in when they paint. When you have uncovered the patterns of the mind that do the activities to get to the goal, then it is relatively easily to begin doing the new patterns. You cannot become an abstract painter when you are not in the correct state of mind, when you don’t answer the who. Who is a person when they do abstract painting?
What further complicates the process is the limitation of not believing that being a certain type of person is possible. You will hear people even from a very young age making self limiting statements like I am not the kind of person who…… It is a way of saying no to doing new types of activities and protecting yourself from failure.
The more helpful process at the beginning stage of doing the goal related behavior is to not jump into identity beliefs immediately such as feeling like you have to be Picasso, but rather to explore questions about what is the state of mind that someone like Picasso is in when they do their art. What is the state of mind that you need in order to run a marathon or fix the plumbing or sing in public? Each person, the runner, the plumber, and the singer has a unique state of mind that allows them to do what they do. When you can discover what they do in their minds, then you can start achieving the goals you set related to a specific area.
As a therapist for instance, I have the ability to internally walk side by side with a person as they are exploring their own version of their own hell. It is like I am holding hands with them through hell. I actually get excited when I am in there with them because I know it is going to be where I find the answers to unlock the positive potentials in them. When I get to the darkest places, I get really joyful. I am with them so that they don’t get totally into a dysfunctional state. My excitement lets them know that it is ok.
So when you are thinking about a goal like planting a garden or learning a new instrument the starting place is with who do you need to be to plant a garden and what is the best state of mind to achieve that goal. Ask someone who is good at it how they do it.