We spend a good part of our life planning goals and trying to achieve them. Our proactive nature allows us to achieve important goals, but it can also become a problem, especially when we don't realize the goals we set ourselves. Unfortunately, setting goals and achieving them is an art. Fortunately, it is an art that can be learned.
- Giving up on a goal is a physical and psychological cost
First, I must warn you of one thing: planning goals and trying to achieve them is risky. When you start to accumulate losses and doubts arise, you soon come to a crucial point where you experience an internal conflict. Part of us wants to continue while another part wants to leave.
A study conducted at the University of Zurich found that before giving up on the goal completely, the most common thing is for stress levels to rise and consequently our brains to produce more cortisol. If levels of this hormone remain elevated for any length of time, we will not only pay a high price on an emotional level, but also on a physical level, as cortisol has been associated with increased blood pressure and a weakening of the immune system.
- Being specific helps us achieve the goal
At certain moments in life you need to be flexible, but sometimes it's better to be more specific and stick to the script we had prepared. In fact, a very interesting experiment published in the Journal of Consumer Research demonstrates the value of preparing a specific action plan and staying faithful to it, even if to do so we must maintain rigid positions.
The problem is that ambiguous goals and overly flexible techniques usually lead nowhere, they just make us procrastinate. Instead, drawing inspiration from a fixed sequence of steps or activities helps us narrow down our options for the future, which saves us a lot of time as well as a lot of emotional and cognitive effort.
- The inner voice is an instrument
The inner voice is a double-edged sword, it can help us achieve our goals or it can become a heavy burden that slows us down and prevents us from realizing our dreams. But if we check all those negative thoughts that often assail us when we are on the path, the inner voice can turn into a particularly powerful tool that helps us achieve our goals.
A study conducted at the University of Toronto showed that internally repeating phrases such as "go ahead, you can do it" while we are engrossed in a task improves our performance and helps us achieve our goals. Plus, it also helps us fight the urge to give up when the going gets tough.
- Share goals with others
A study carried out by the Dominican University of California showed that when people write down their goals and share them with friends or family, the chances of them succeeding in achieving their goals increase by 33%. Surprisingly, those who designed their own goals and kept them to themselves only had a 50% chance of seeing their dreams come true. But among those who talked about their goals and small achievements, the probability of success increased by 75%.
It's not an incredible discovery, as talking to others about our concerns and goals we have set ourselves not only helps us relieve stress, but can also provide us with new perspectives on how to proceed. Furthermore, these people are likely to feel more supported and this acts as a driving force.
- Excessive motivation is harmful
When we set ourselves a goal, it is essential to be motivated, but if the motivation is excessive it can compromise the achievement of our goals. In fact, excess motivation is almost as harmful as lack of it, since it promotes a state of hyper-arousal in the brain that causes excessive dopamine production. When this happens, no matter how hard you try, it will be particularly difficult to be productive and find the right path. As you can imagine, the key is to find the right balance between motivation and demotivation.