Goals are not dreams!

NLP provides great tools for designing and achieving goals

Here in 'NLP land' we pay a lot of attention to the application of NLP in desiging and following one's dreams and goals.

We do this because without goals we run the risk of meandering through life, aimlessly. Or going through life without a sense of purpose.

One thing, though - goals don't have to require effort and striving, although many do. They can also include having a better quality or life. Or appreciating what we have. Or having peace of mind.

'I'm gonna be a big star!'

Edwin was going to be very successful. Over the period of about five years that we knew one another he was going to have a great business in one area and then in another and then in another. He had great ideas and the richness of his vision was always impressive.

He knew just who his customers would be, where he would be based, how he would publicise his venture, how much money he would earn, etc. He knew exactly what his success would do for him in terms of lifestyle changes.

Yet it seemed that each time he got near to completing his plans he would change his mind and begin focussing on a different venture.

He was also going to become fitter - just like when he was in his teens. And get back into playing rugby. And lose weight. And have a better social life. And have a stable relationship. In fact his life was going to be great - one day...

The problem was Edwin was always 'going to' live his life - and probably still is.

(By the way, Edwin had attended a lot of NLP training - and had certified to NLP Master Practitioner level, in fact. But, sadly, he sort of missed the point which we emphasise in all of our training i.e. 'apply to self'. I other words use these great tools in your own life first!  See also our Future on Wheels article.)

(There is a list of more articles on NLP & goals below)

A goal or a dream?

It's great to have dreams. Whimsical wishes about being successful, having a better social life, having a nice home, being fit, etc. are fine - as long as you know that they are just that, dreams - not to be confused with plans or goals or objectives.

If you truly want to achieve your goals there are a few pieces that you need to have in place in order to distinguish between what is a dream and what is a goal or objective - so that you don't fall into the trap of being always 'going to' live your life:

(1) Goals are clearly defined

Dreams are fuzzy and vague. In goals you have detailed precisely what you want, why you want it, and how you are going to get it. And you have tested your goal to establish how attractive and realistic it is.

(2) Goals are visualised 'dissociated'

We live in our dreams or fantasies - seeing, hearing, and feeling as if they are happening right now. Goals are dissociated. This means we visualise ourselves enjoying the goal 'over there' as if in a snapshot or movie that we then feel pulled towards.

If we 'associate with' or live in our goals we get the feelings we'd get (though in less intensity) on having achieved the goal. This means there's little motivation to actually do anything to achieve it! We can enjoy the illusion of having arrived without having to travel - but it's an illusion!

(Incidentally one of the strengths of NLP is how it distinguishes between when it's best to have an associated idea and when it is better to have a dissociated one.)

When you are first trying out an idea it's useful to associate with it. You fantasise living your dream which gives you the opportunity to check how it will feel and whether it is appealing enough. However once you have selected the objective that feels just right from you it is time to dissociate from it and 'see yourself' in it. This creates the being-pulled-towards feeling that we call motivation.

Let's say you want to replace anger with calmness, or want to lose weight, or want to become an ex-smoker. Initially imagining how it will feel to be calmer or lighter or smoke-free is great - it's like having a taster of what the meal will be like.

But if you continue fantasising how about great it will feel there is no motivation to actually 'do' something to become calmer or to become lighter or to become smoke-free!

You're already enjoying the feelings of having arrived - even if it is just an illusion.

So you have to stop and move into the next phase. You have to step out of the fantasy and see how you will appear 'from the outside' when you have achieved your goal. This then becomes your motivation image.

(3) Goals are linked with values

Lots of times we pursue lifestyle goals because we buy into others' ideas of what is right for us! We have had so much pressure from 'them' to change that we give in and start changing.

But such objectives are unlikely to be successful because the goal is not linked with your personal drivers or inner values. The WIIFM is missing - you haven't defined What's In It For Me!

In their simplest form our values are the feelings we wish to have and the feelings we wish to avoid experiencing. They are what we move towards or away from.

People might wish to replace anger with calmness because they wish to feel more in control, be a better role model for their children, be more in charge of their own moods, etc. Or they may pursue this objective to avoid feeling guilty about upsetting others, or looking obnoxious or childish when having a tantrum, or to avoid being over-looked for promotion at work because they are not perceived as being very stable.

The over-weight person may wish to become lighter in order to feel healthier, to be able to wear different clothes, or to be able to walk proudly along the beach in summer. Or they may wish to move away from being embarrassed by their size, or being breathless, or being unable to wear smart clothes.

The cigarette smoker may wish to look more confident, to smell better, or to feel healthier. Or they may wish to avoid looking pathetic when they have to stand in the cold or rain on the pavement outside their workplace in order to have a cigarette, or having to always check that they have enough cigarettes to last till the morning.

Incidentally, we will normally have a mix of motivators - we will look at what we wish to feel and we will also consider what we wish to avoid feeling. So when detailing your own goals ensure you list what you will get from achieving it and what you will avoid.

(This process will be detailed in a future newsletter.)

(4) Goals fit with your self image

If you have been bullying people with your temper for years it is a big step to suddenly switch to become a calmer person who discusses and negotiates instead of ranting and demanding. If you have been an overweight couch potatoe for years it's a big switch to becoming an active person who eats healthily. If you have been a pack-a-day person since your teens lots of aspects of your self image will be closely associated with cigarette smoking.

Our self image is our out-of-awareness blueprint for what fits and what doesn't fit with who we are. When setting out to make significant lifestyle change it is important to update how you perceive yourself by replacing the old you with the new you otherwise change will be a struggle. Do this by having lots of quite detailed mental movies of the new you in different scenarios and make sure you make these images attractive and compelling.

If you want to move beyond being an 'angry person' picture yourself handling difficult situations more effectively - at work, while driving, at home, socially, etc. - and allowing people to 'get away with it'.

If you want to move beyond being a 'fat person' begin seeing yourself taking part in and enjoying exercise, wearing different clothes, mixing with people looking slimmer and more vital.

If you want to move beyond being a 'cigarette smoker' begin visualising scenarios in which you are at ease without the nicotine crutch, feel comfortable around people who are still addicted, and enjoy your new-found vitality.

(5) Goals are linked with an action plan

Dreams are free-floating fantasies that are not linked with a plan. Goals or objectives have a realistic and timed action plan. You determine what you will do and when you will do it. Your action plan details what you will invest in your goal and when you will do this. (more about this in a later newsletter, too.)

What now?

Let's say you wish to pursue a goal or objective. How can you begin applying these ideas?

The danger can be impatience. Often we've been 'going to' go for it for so long that once we decide to do it we become impetuous. This does work for some goals and for some people but for most of us it is best to do a little preparation.

Right now, we're a few days into the New Year. This is a time when a lot of us are still thinking about or are still struggling with our New Year resolutions. But New Year resolutions can be counter productive.

Think about it. The first few days of the New Year tend to be a rather disruptive period. Many people are still in the midst of their Christmas holidays and certainly the 1st January for some people is not a good time to pursue any resolution because of the way they're feeling after the previous night's celebrations. And, again, many people come up with her New Year's resolution on the 31st December. Almost as if they feel 'I must have a resolution'.

Making a significant change in your life, which is what resolutions at this time of the year are all about, requires quite a bit more thought than this if you are going to be serious about achieving it.

In many ways making resolutions on the spur-of-the-moment and sticking with these for just a few days is counter-productive. You have your little burst of enthusiasm and then reality sets in and you slip back into the old ways. As a result you're actually worse off than if you hadn't begun because your confidence in your ability to change and your self-esteem will have been dented. So select your objective carefully. Run it through the five steps above - especially, at this early stage, the self image step. The next newsletter will explain how to make your goal clear and realistic and the following one will explain how to make it motivating.

Normally there is a month or more between newsletters - not this time. They'll arrive in fairly quick succession!

Living a life of dreams - of always 'going to' be doing something and never doing it or never completing it - is not a recipe for happiness or peace of mind.

The title of this newsletter is from the Beatles' song Act Naturally so let's close with a quote from the Rolling Stones' Ruby Tuesday…

“There's no time to lose, I heard her say,  You've gotta catch your dream before it slips away…”

Now check out https://nlp-now.co.uk/make-goals-achievable/



The Pegasus NLP Newsletter

Most articles on this site were first published in the Pegasus NLP Newsletter.

This has been published regularly since February 2000 - and you can subscribe to the newsletter here

And there will be no spam - I promise.  You have trusted me with your email address I will use it for the Newsletter and for nothing else - and it will never be shared with anyone else. Ever.  (Reg Connolly, founder of Pegasus NLP.)

The Pegasus NLP Newsletter

Most articles on this site were first published in the Pegasus NLP Newsletter.

This has been published regularly since February 2000 - and you can subscribe to the newsletter here

And there will be no spam - I promise.  You have trusted me with your email address I will use it for the Newsletter and for nothing else - and it will never be shared with anyone else. Ever.  (Reg Connolly, founder of Pegasus NLP.)