How to Reach Your Goals Without the StruggleNone By Homaira Kabir
Think back to January 1st for a minute—did you make a New Year's resolution? If you’re like 62% of the population, then you likely did. But did you achieve that goal you made all those months ago? Not unless you’re one of the lucky 8%. Have you ever wondered why?
Research conducted by Professor Hal Hershfield at the UCLA Anderson School of Management may have the answer. Making plans and setting goals may come easy to us, but we struggle to achieve them partly because our brains are poorly designed to make an emotional connection with our future selves.
The regions of our brain that light up when we think about ourselves in the future are the same that light up when we think of another person. It sounds weird, but think about it—how much does your future self feel like you?
I was reminded of this last week when my daughter brought home an art assignment. It was on entropy, and she decided to paint a picture of herself at 60. (I guess when you're 15, 60 can feel really old....)
And so she downloaded an app to help her. Now, it could be the rather morbid topic of her project, or the fact that the app was particularly good at generating terribly bad pictures, but what really surprised me was her refusal to believe the digitally "aged" images of her future self before her eyes.
Our disconnect with our future selves may well be due to the emotional power of the present moment. And emotions are the way we relate to ourselves. Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am” certainly rang true in the 17th century. But neuroscientist Antonio Damasio’s work shows that “I feel, therefore I am” would’ve been the better phrase all along.
Is this a neural defect that smothers our chances of ever reaching our goals? Quite the contrary: It is nature’s protective strategy to eliminate our certain demise from the forefront of our minds, so we can actually pull our socks up and work toward what’s important. Here are three steps that can help:
Step #1: Create the Right Environment
The emotional mind is impulsive—and quick. Before we can get the "long-term" brain to kick in and speak up, we’ve already been hijacked by the present moment. Which is why making the present both distraction-free and temptation-free is to our advantage. If you’re trying to finish an important project, make sure your social media accounts are turned off and your phone is out of sight. And if you’re trying to stick to a certain diet that’s beneficial for you in the long term, do NOT leave that brioche on the kitchen counter. In fact, don’t bring it home at all!
Step #2: Visualize with the Ecosystem in Mind
Visualization is a powerful tool that pulls us toward the future. But Dr.