No matter what goal we are trying to achieve, whether personal or business-related, we face a battle against old habits, unproductive behaviors, and out-of-date mindsets. Why is it relatively easy to create a goal and so hard to complete it?
Neuroscience offers some answers for success.
Any goal has two dimensions: cognitive and emotional. Our neocortex is the thinking part of the brain where we analyze:
- What skills and knowledge will be required to achieve the goal
- How much control we have over the process
- What the plan will be
- What specific actions we need to take to bring our goal to reality
In other words, it is about the WHAT of our goal.
The amygdala, a part of the feeling brain, influences the emotional response to our goal. This is where we decide the WHY:
- Why we need to achieve our goal
- Why it is important
- Why we are ready to prioritize it over others
- How strong and long-lasting our motivation will be
When you struggle, determine if the challenge lies with the WHAT, the WHY, or both. Then you can take the next steps:
- Your goal needs to be top of mind. The more you talk, think, write, and discuss it, the higher it gets on your brain’s priority list. The higher up, the more attention your conscious and subconscious pay. For example, if you’ve ever contemplated buying a new car, suddenly all you see on the road is that make and model. That’s our attention filtering system working. The more important the issue, the more information about it our brain collects.
- Find strong emotional reasons for reaching your goal. A study published in The Journal of Experimental Psychology (2013, 142(1), 18–22) showed that if we have strong emotional connection to our goals our brain perceives obstacles as less significant than they might otherwise appear.
- Always keep a visual representation of your goal in front of you. Our brain provides a boost of energy when we see the finish line. When our goal is almost in reach, our brain is washed with dopamine – a happy hormone that boosts motivation, physical and emotional energy, and willpower. A picture, a quote, or a 3D model can connect you to the desired result.
When leaders share the feeling of self-confidence, fulfillment, and joy that comes from achieving goals, it provides a reason to keep going and meet new challenges. It can create a powerful movement toward many positive changes.