It is easy to equate wanting something with assuming that it is the right thing for you. Why would you want it otherwise, right? Well, it’s a little more complex than that; sometimes, no matter how sound and logical our decision-making is, reaching our desired goal just doesn’t seem to produce the positive outcome we expected. It’s interesting to look more closely at this, and try to determine how we can be sure that a goal we set for ourselves is right for us before it’s too late.
The Emotional Brain Versus the Rational Brain
It may surprise you to hear that rational thinking is actually not always as rational as we think it is. This is largely because our thinking is at the mercy of our “emotional brain,” which is not simply about our feelings and emotions, but rather about deeply ingrained, subconscious survival programmes as well as schemas, biases, and limiting beliefs originating in our childhood. These are so much a part of who we are that we are barely aware of them.
Daniel Kahneman, the Nobel Prize-winning psychologist who first integrated research about decision making into economics, dubbed emotional thinking “System 1” thinking, and rational thinking “System 2.” Interestingly, the logic-based System 2 thinking constitutes only about 2% of our thinking while System 1 is automatic and constitutes around 98% of our thinking, influencing System 2 behind the scenes. We think we are rational as often as possible, but the science would suggest otherwise; the emotional brain is the lens we end up seeing things through and this is one of the main reasons why we often struggle with setting the right goals, and why goals that appear bright and shiny at a glance, might not always be right for us.
Let’s take an example of how this dilemma of what is right or wrong for us may play out in the context of career. For example, on the surface, setting your eyes on a goal of a promotion seems like a very positive step on your career path, and a great way of being able to earn more money and boost self-actualisation. However, once you actually get the promotion, you may well decide it’s not what you thought it would be and doesn’t have a long-term positive impact you’d hoped it would. It is often the case that promotions are acquired at the expense of other things, and the promotion often papers over cracks in our lives, leaving us feeling empty and dissatisfied.
Goals like this seem as if they are right for us, but that often winds up not being the case. The reason for this is because it doesn’t get to the essence of why we made this decision and identified this goal in the first instance. However, without understanding and acknowledging this, we are likely to jump onto the next shiny goal that is wrong for us as it is directed towards an eternal chase of ‘I will be happy/fulfilled when […]’, without taking a closer look at what lies below the surface. Understanding this is the first step in the process of avoiding the wrong goals and breaking the repetitive cycle of bad decisions, which can have such a negative impact on our health, wellness, happiness and home life.
Put Your Values at the Forefront
Luckily, there is another way. Before setting out down the rabbit hole chasing these shiny goals, what needs to happen is evoking awareness around what you truly value and care about, and the person you want to be in your life; this often unlocks new possibilities and empowers you to move towards choices and goals that enhance your life.
A skilled coach can help guide you to step back, examine your goals for more clarity, evoke awareness, reframe goals if you discover that they are not right for you and support achieving those that are right. The very key element in this work revolves around supporting you to evoke your deep awareness and gain clarity around your values, purpose and what you want to stand for in life in order to set goals from this space.
Finally, being consciously aware about your values and purpose will give you a sense of a deep meaning alongside strength and resilience to persevere when facing difficult moments. It will also give you inner peace if the outcome of your goal is eventually different from what you expected: having chosen and acted in line with your values and in the direction of your purpose made you be the best version of you that you can be and want to be in the World, despite external circumstances that you cannot control. This not only makes you feel great, but it gives you a greater sense of authenticity, empowerment and improving your life in the process. Now that you know, would you really want to choose a goal that appears shiny on the surface but clashes with who you are at your core?
Make sure the goals you set for yourself are the right goals in line with who you are at your core, before they start to negatively impact your life.
Get in touch with me today, so we can explore and look at the best ways of helping you on your personal journey, with my support as coach.