If you want to put yourself in the best position to crush your goals this year, do this first… let them go.
A private coaching client had a goal of getting out of the current job they were in. It was mentally taxing and draining, despite the fact that they were really good & proficient.
They were so caught up in the suck of the current position that it consumed them.
Through doing the internal work together, they let go of the need to find something new. Shortly after they let it go, they were recruited to a company and role that matched all of their desires.
What does it mean to let it go? And isn’t that counterintuitive to making goals happen?
Letting go means that you are no longer fixated on the goal or attached to it happening. You certainly want it to happen, yet there’s not an attachment to it.
Letting go of goals actually increases your likelihood of achievement because of where you are focusing your mind and energy. When we are attached or need something to happen we tend to fixate on the unachieved outcome. Studies point to this leading to rumination over what is not met. The result could be negative stress-related symptoms like procrastination, feelings of overwhelm or unworthiness and anxiousness.
Outcome specific goals are in the future. The multi-million dollars you want to make. The award you want. Winning the game. All of these take place in the future, not the present.
Mindfulness practices are designed to keep you in the present moment, not the future. Thus, you have a greater ability to control your emotional state and channel it towards peak performance.
Jon Kabit-Zinn created principles for practicing mindfulness that are studied to show the ability to decrease the overall stress responses we have and therefore increase our ability to access potential.
Non-striving, patience and letting go are core principles of this practice. To execute non-striving, we must not look for the “next thing” and learn to live with a focus in this moment.
David Goggins talks about something similar in his writings. He says he focuses on each step even during a multi-days-long race. He’s not striving to finish, he’s focused on where his legs are.
Patience teaches us not to wish for things to be here now. Be present and/or enjoy where we are at. You can do more now, learn now, execute now without the desire to make the future happen today.
The principle of letting go in mindfulness goes hand-in-hand with acceptance. When we accept things how they are currently, we can let go of the negative feelings around it and let it be. Let go of ideas about what is not in hand and focus on what is in your immediate span of control.
Psychology research suggests there are 3 main types of goals. The one that we most set and associate with goals are “Outcome Goals.” It’s the result of something happening.
The problem is that we cannot fully control the outcome of things. Influence, yes. Control, no.
We need to adopt the mindset of mastery of the two types of goals that lead to outcome goals: Process Goals and Performance Goals.
Process goals are the executing of a plan of action. For example, in sales you might have a goal of doing lead generation for a certain amount of time each day. In sports, you might have a goal of working on a specific skill for a length or number of times in a day.
Performance goals are how you are performing the activities of focus. It’s your ability to set a number of appointments in sales or to hit a number of fairways in a round of golf. It keeps us focused on the quality of the activity we’re doing.
Taking the mindset of mastering our process and performance will lead us to shift our focus into areas much more closely to what we control and are in the moment. When we do process & performance goals well, outcome goals (i.e. what we really want) tend to happen.
Mental Imagery Approach
Goals are important on a number of levels. They give us direction to take, shape our behaviors, keep us focused on moving forward. These are positive if the goals are positive.
Goals also represent something that we want to feel. Goals are important to us because they drive us to achieve something intrinsic – like a feeling. The multi-million dollars don’t really do anything, except for make you feel (proud, safe, superior, etc.). The golf tournament wins are for the same thing.
We can access those feelings through mental imagery.
Numerous studies show that we can use imagery to help us achieve great heights. Michael Phelps is famous for using mental imagery to give him the edge over his competition when fractions of seconds matter once every four years.
A best practice for mental imagery is full immersion imagery where you not only see a picture (or movie), you also hear the sounds, feel the external & internal feelings, possibly even smells or tastes. The full experience of being in that situation.
When using imagery for an outcome goal, it’s critical to imagine yourself letting go of the picture in your future so that you have your mind experience the sensation of detaching from the outcome.
Letting go of our goals – or the attachment and fixation to them – is a key step in giving us the free mental energy to take the actions that will naturally bring about the goals that we have.
Go crush it!