Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Goals versus Intentions

Psychology Today shared an article on Facebook recently that, since reading it, has shifted my perspective on goal-setting in general.  It's entitled Why Goal Setting Doesn't Work*.  Feel free to read the article before continuing on here, if you so choose, though I'll be picking out and posting a few key quotes from it, below.

One quote that really caught my attention was this:
"The inherent problem with goal setting is related to how the brain works. Recent neuroscience research shows the brain works in a protective way, resistant to change. Therefore, any goals that require substantial behavioral change or thinking-pattern change will automatically be resisted. The brain is wired to seek rewards and avoid pain or discomfort, including fear. When fear of failure creeps into the mind of the goal setter it commences a de-motivator with a desire to return to known, comfortable behavior and thought patterns."
Exactly why I've been through yet another round of self-sabotage on my way to my weight loss/fitness GOAL of that magical number, 130 pounds.  I've really been rebelling lately, big time.  Not wanting to complete my food diary, overeating at every turn, justifying every last bit of it with any little excuse my ego mind can muster.  Also why I've been slacking a little with my last three days of 30 Day Shred.  My thought process has been something along the lines of: I've been overeating and rebelling, so I cannot possibly complete this GOAL of having completed a full second round of the Shred because right now I'm such a failure when it comes to food, therefore I must delay the completion of this exercise GOAL as much as possible.
"Whenever we desire things that we don't have, we set our brain's nervous system to produce negative emotions."
Again, check.  I've found myself focusing on what I have "yet to do" rather than the 60-ish pounds I've already shed.  I've found myself picking my body apart, honing in and focusing on those areas that still need work, rather than admiring the changes I've achieved thus far and being happy about the progress I've made to date. 
"A fundamental concept in mindfulness, is focusing on being in the moment, the present. This presents an interesting problem for the goal setter, where the focus is on the future. How can you be focusing on the present and also be thinking about the future?"
Indeed!  While goals give us something bigger and better to strive for in the future, it has been my personal experience that I find myself "lacking" until I achieve my goal, rather than focusing on the "NOW" or enjoying the process.  It's been said that in order to change something, we must first accept the present version of said thing.  While this may be easier said than done, I feel it's imperative to moving on toward positive change.  This is why I've decided to focus more on gratitude and appreciation for what I've already accomplished, rather than using those energies to pick apart what is still "lacking" or needing change.  Perhaps this will be a catalyst for quicker change.  I'm thinking of starting a gratitude journal or log of some sort, not to be egotistical, as this blog leans more toward anti-egotistical viewpoints, but to keep my focus on the positive and what's "right" and "good" about me.
"We must also make a distinction between our intentions vs. goals. An intention is a direction we want to pursue, preferably with passion. My experience is that people are often confused, and unclear about the intentions of how they want to live and achieve, and therefore a focus on goals doesn't assist them with clarifying their intentions."
I've found this to be true for myself personally.  I have/had GOALS, mainly weight loss/fitness related.  But my overall intentions?  Confused, cluttered and unclear at best.  Yes, I know the general direction in which I wish to move within my life.  Yet, setting goals has thus far only led to disappointment in myself, de-motivation and confusion.  It's all well and good when I DO achieve a goal I set for myself.  Yet, there are always those chance variables that get thrown into the mix, and the moment I DON'T achieve a certain goal, I feel at least a little terrible about myself.  Now, I've had no problem with revising my goals along the way and being flexible about them.  However, this doesn't take into account the fact that I still, deep down, internalize feelings of worthlessness and shame, even, when I have to reset my goals.

So, where to go from here?  Well, since I've been creeping ever closer to my "ideal weight", I've given thought to what happens next, after I reach my maintenance weight.  Well, this INTENTION thing, rather than an end GOAL, negates that question altogether.  Therefore, my INTENTION is to continue this fitness journey for the remainder of my life.  Period.  No magical number on the scale as a "stopping point".  No pressure to meet some arbitrary deadline.  I feel that with this approach, I'll be much more apt to move at my own pace without backtracking, falling off the proverbial wagon, and sabotaging myself.  I must say, I've felt such a weight of negativity lift off me after having mulled over this Psychology Today article and come to this conclusion!  I'm back to feeling GOOD about myself.  About freaking time, right?! ;)

Ray B Williams * Article written by Ray Williams, Co-Founder of Success IQ University and President of Ray Williams Associates, Inc., providing leadership development, personal growth, and executive coaching services. 

1 comment:

  1. There are some very good points in that article, however I still believe in goals. But perhaps I do view my goals more as intentions. Some of my goals are definetly goals, but I focus more on the steps that I need to take to get there, such as exercising and eating healthy. I agree that taking time to pat yourself on the back for what you have already done, or being grateful for what you already have is very important as well. I try to enjoy each day as much as I can, I may never be 100% happy with my body no matter what my weight, but I can be 100% happy with myself and the efforts that I am making. Even on a not so good day I am still here, I am still on this journey and I will stay on it forever!