How to trick your mind to achieve impossible sounding goals

What’s your goal and how to go about achieving it?

All of us have goals assigned to various things in life. Relationship, family, career, happiness. The one thing that we sometimes tend to overlook is a ‘health goal’. If I was to ask you what’s your goal for your health when you turn 60, no one would say it’s to be overweight and diseased. However the problem is that unless you work towards a goal to be fit in your 60’s today, there is a very high likelihood that the lifestyle choices you make today will have compounding effects and one day you are going to wake up and realise that without drastic course correction you will not be fit in your 60’s. Even worse maybe you’d wake up and realise that even though you had this subconscious goal to be fit and healthy, there is no way to achieve it given all the compounding choices you made along the way.

There is an underlying reason for this lethargy. The human brain is motivated by short term and medium term gains, and NOT by long term gain and goals.

Clay Christensen has an amazing talk on this. The example he gives is of spending time at work vs. with your kids and family. Specifically it’s easier to see immediate outcomes of spending time at work vs. spending time with family, kids and friends. This week was a perfect example, it was a grueling planning week at SkyKick and after multiple reviews, story times and backlog grooming sessions we had a rather successful Sprint Planning session. Yay! Endorphins! My brain felt joy after that accomplishment, now repeat and improve in another 3 weeks, while solving for our overall architecture which will take another few months to roll out.

After that I came back home and spent time with the kids. I have to be honest, trying to teach your 4 year old is a rather slow and tiring process with no immediate rewards.

Your brain, being the lazy beast it is, tries to take the path of least resistance when it comes to getting that endorphin release. That’s why playing candy crush is super addictive or why chocolate makes more sense than a broccoli.

So you have to trick your brain. Trying to tell it- hey I want to be fit at 60 is not particularly motivating for it to get you off that couch.

How do you eat a elephant? One bite at a time.

Break down your goal into bite sized pieces. For me my long term fitness goal is to be fit when I am 60. So a medium term goal for this year is to go and climb the 14K mountain in my backyard.

Sign up for a medium term stretch goal, make it public. Sign up with a friend to commit yourself to the deed. If it requires to put money down, even better. If it requires raising money for your favourite charity, success is guaranteed

Use the power of fear to motivate yourself to get moving towards that goal. Nothing would suck more than signing up for a marathon, raising funds for it and collapsing at the 1 mile mark. Get a fitness tracker to keep yourself honest, measure your weekly and monthly progress, celebrate those small successes.

After you have achieved your goal, bask in the glory and the endorphin release. Celebrate. Then set yourself another goal. Maybe it is more audacious than your last one. Repeat and improve.