By Tom O’Connor
Here are the top 6 meta-patterns frequently found when people fail to reach on their goals. Accompanying these are the corresponding NLP-based solutions.
These aren't the only 6; there are many more. But when you consistently sort for these five, you'll make a quantum-leap forward in your ability to produce important goal-oriented results on time - every time.
1. Lack of clarity, defined in sensory based words of what they want
Getting clear, really clear on what you want and what it will take to get it takes effort. Often people overlook the need for clarity and settle for abstract fuzzy language about what they really want and therefore have a difficult time achieving it.
Take twenty minutes to guide yourself through a set of clarifying questions about what you really want. Put yourself into a relaxed determined state.
You can use the NLP-outcome-model and Meta Model to help you get clear on what you want. Make sure you write it down and you pen and paper to clarify your thought process.
Many people try to plan their goals or overcome problems by “thinking it out” in their head. They fail to take the time to write it out. This is a big mistake. Writing it out acts as a dissociative process and allows you to see the BIG PICTURE more easily. It also helps you see how different component and pieces fit together.
Do it. Write it out. You'll find it will greatly help.
2. Ambivalent feelings about doing the task
Ambivalence, feeling indifferent or non-motivated/stuck is a common feeling many folks will describe when telling you why they haven't yet taken action (after they typically first tell you a shaggy dog story about all the superficial things they have done that we each fool ourselves into thinking is progress).
If this applies to you, you'll often find yourself saying "I want to x". But when you examine the pattern of your behaviours, you'll find that you don't actually take any meaningful actions to move forward. And you haven't been for a long time. Everyone has one or more areas of their life where this applies. The idea is not to get trapped inside justifying your situation or why you haven't taken action, but rather quickly shift gears to what you need to do to get the task done.
Use pen and paper to Meta Model your thinking about the issue.
Thoughts and feelings of ambivalence or “can't get motivated to…” arise from a specific set of thoughts and repeated actions. The more you practice this (instantiate the pattern) the more your brain allocates that as THE way to act whenever the said topic comes up.
For example, whenever you think about doing X project, your internal dialogue says “Awwww, I don't know what I should be doing there, I'm too tired now and besides I've got that other thing I need to get done”… and quickly your brain switches channels (you distracts yourself) and bingo… the thought train disappears from your consciousness.
After you've unpacked how you are using your mind-body to create this state-response, shift your focus and condition your brain-body with how you want it to act instead.
Re-orient your thinking so that taking action towards the goal results in you feeling better - each time you make some progress towards it.
Make taking action a fun rewarding process so that the more you do - the more eager you are to finish it.
Depending on your character you can find any number of ways to make this naturally work for you. For example, if you are competitive you might make taking action a points-based game where you challenge yourself to “score” better each week than the week before or some variation.
3. Fail To Scope The Task Adequately
Anytime we undertake a goal that has more than one step to it, it's very useful to sufficiently scope out each of the major tasks involved quickly and ensure we can gather and arrange the resources required to fulfill them.
Unfortunately when the path to the goal is unfamiliar or new, many people fail to outline the key tasks involved. And, so, the achievement of the goal almost immediately falls into peril. (Typically the results of this inaction don't show their heads till much later, by which time the consequences have already occurred.)
The NLP toolset gives us a powerful array of models that when internalised, and well practiced, would greatly help any manager or leader responsible for producing results.
Using the Meta Model, the NLP TOTE model and the Michael Breen's Framing Tool well will give you everything you are likely to need to quickly scope out any size of project. Of course for projects that go into virgin territory for you, you'll need to engage the input of others but knowing what questions to ask will save you a huge amount of time.
Many people's goals are abstract statements like “I want to be healthier” or “I want to be financially free”. These free floating statements have nothing identifiable in the world that a video camera can zero in on, and so neither does your brain. Without a timeframe your brain doesn't get the benefit of feeling the deadline draw closer, and so often there is no internal signal to act because at a sub-modality level you keep pushing the picture further away.
Avoid this problem by scoping out what needs to get done in sensory specific actions and set deadlines for every important goal. Once you do you'll see a rapid increase in your progress.
4. Fail To Carry Out Frequent Checks
Even when you know what you want clearly, you've considered the scope, resources, set a timeframe and have a good plan, many people forget to build in frequent external checks… and so weeks, months, years go by and still no meaningful progress occurs.
Take the time to schedule in frequent reviews each week and month on your most important goals. The more you measure the quicker you can identify when you are “off course” and make a few critical adjustments that can make all the difference on whether your achieve your goal or not.
5. Fail To Act!
Failure to act is another common pattern for not hitting your goals.
Often people don't have more of what they want because they got caught up in talking, thinking and spiraling around a topic… but never acting and following through.
Usually when I dig under the surface reasons as to why they haven't taken any significant action before it arises that one of three things are present:
- They don't believe achieving the goal is possible for them.
- Emotionally they are filled with fear, uncertainty and doubt about the goal.
- They don't really want it, it's really someone else's desire for them or they have some level of cross-motivation occurring.
- They haven't defined the criteria adequately to figure out where/how to act.
Act more, talk less.
Use the NLP toolset to think differently, think better and transform any negative self-talk so you take action each and every day toward achieving what you want. Measure your performance and very quickly you'll realise if you are generating elaborate stories about why you aren't taking action. If you are - become curious to discover how you are thinking to produce this result… then change it (where appropriate).
6. We Let Ourselves Get Stopped
Hard coded into the DNA of NLP is the attitude of having a tenuous resolve when in pursuit of an outcome. It's fair to say that the field is unlikely to have gotten as far as it has without the commitment and willingness of Dr. Bandler and John Grinder to move beyond the opposing opinions and obstacles of the early days.
Whenever we fail to achieve what we want what is usually missing from the narrative is “I let myself become stopped” or “I choose to stop because…” Typically what is expressed is how several legitimate and sometime not so legitimate external obstacles (money, time, knowledge etc) stopped them. They ran into resistance (or what they perceived as problems/issues/challenges) and they stopped.
In yourself – condition a resourceful “never give up” attitude. Temper it with intelligence and wisdom so you can be identify those few occasions where it makes sense not to ride a bad idea into the ground.
How can you condition in a resourceful attitude?
There are many ways but one of the quickest is to act “as if”… you have the resolve to see your goals through whenever obstacles arise. When you act as if, you shift your focus to doing the behaviour you want… until it becomes your new habituated way of being.
You can also build an internally driven propulsion system to keep you moving when times get tough. You can do this by using well-targeted questions on yourself to identify what are all of the positive things that will happen for you and what are all the consequences if you don't. Amplify and anchor your states. Use sub-modality exercises to stir up your resolve and use anchoring so that when obstacles arise rather than getting side tracked and off focus, your brain instantly goes “this problem is gone… it just doesn't know it yet!”
OK, that's all for now. Review your own goal performance this year and for any goals you didn't make “enough” progress on so far. Identify which pattern or patterns are affecting you. Then resolve to change them today. Act with a sense of urgency and put into practice the solutions I've outlined above and you can make a huge leap forward in the results you achieve in the months ahead.
The process isn't difficult, but it does require some quiet time, focus and tenacity.
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