When I first talk to clients about how to set goals I am always met with strange looks and disbelief. The conversation usually begins with people telling me what’s not going well in their lives, what’s difficult for them, or what they have too much or too little of. I always ask them, “What do you want instead?” Often, just naming what they do want is a stretch for people.
I ask them to describe to me, being specific and using plenty of detail, what they want. I hear things like, “I want to trust my spouse again.” “ I want to land a great job.” And “I want my kids to listen to me.” We then take these statements and make them a lot more specific.
For example, “I want to trust my spouse again” becomes “I want to feel calm and loved when my spouse is talking to or texting someone I don’t know.” “I want to land a great job” becomes “I want to be offered a job in my career with a great salary and benefits in a city I want to be in doing what I love to do.” “I want my kids to listen to me” becomes “I want my kids to hear my directions and calmly, directly follow through with what I just asked.”
Now come the strange looks and disbelief: I instruct clients to put that same statement in the present tense. Say it and write it as if it’s happening NOW – even if it isn’t. Why is this important? Because what we tell ourselves unfolds in our lives. So, if your goals are stated in the future tense, they will remain in the future. You will always be striving or longing for them. Those goals now become “I DO feel calm and loved when my spouse is talking or texting someone I don’t know. “I AM offered a job in my career with a great salary and benefits in a city I want to be in doing what I love to do.” “My kids HEAR my directions and they calmly, directly follow through with what I just asked.”
Go ahead and write your own goals down. They can be about any area of your life. Make them specific, positive, and in the PRESENT (as if they are already happening). It may feel awkward because you’re writing things that haven’t happened yet. My response to that is that it’s okay to feel awkward. There’s no harm in doing it anyway. Then, put the goals away someplace special. You can choose to read them again if you wish, but you don’t have to: the power of goal setting is that you have first created in your mind what you long for in your world. Everything we do and have was first created in our mind. This exercise does that for you.
Goal setting in this way is EXTREMELY POWERFUL, even though it appears benign and inconsequential. Write your own goals down today. Then, be patient and watchful for clues and you’ll see them unfolding in your life!
Of course you will still take action on these goals: many small steps taken one at a time. But you’ve done the most basic and important piece first by setting out for yourself exactly where you’re headed! When you know where you’re headed, you are SO much more likely to get there.
To learn more or schedule an appointment call 908-246-3074 or email GetSupport@CouplesTherapyCenterOfNJ.com.