It’s good to have goals, big and small. Perhaps you want to write a book , lose weight, pray with more sincerity or attend religious services more often in the new year. Some goals are more difficult than others. People that make the resolution to exercise every day can understand just how hard it is to maintain some of our goals after the initial momentum fades. Our brain is wired to favor routines over change, even if that change is healthier. Lets look at some practical skills to achieve your goals!
Plan. It is great to make a goal, such as praying with more sincerity, but it takes a plan to make it happen. You are not going to wake up and magically start doing this at 100% just because you said you wanted to. Make a plan to shut off all electronics and noisy distractions during prayer, set aside a place in your home or office to pray on a regular basis.
Sit in reflection and really do some self-assessment here. Ask yourself what is holding back your sincerity and focus and make a plan to change it. Monitor your plan as you go. In 2015, the American Psychological Association published research that showed when people monitor their goal progress they have a greater likelihood of achieving their goals.
Dopamine/rewards. Dopamine is sometimes referred to as a feel good neurotransmitter. When you accomplish something you get a rise in dopamine, like a reward. Instead of just a long-term goal like losing 20lbs, set yourself small goals along the way such as every 5lbs dropped you celebrate. You will get the reward of the celebration and your dopamine levels get a nice little bump when you achieve these short term goals.
Make it habitual. Remember when I said our brains are wired for routine not change, this is where we can use that. If you make a small change in your routine and consistently repeat it, then it starts to become habitual. If you want to memorize a chapter of your religious text, set aside 10 min every morning to work on memorization. 10 min does not sound like a lot, but if you keep doing this on a regular basis it will become habitual and you will memorize and more which increases your dopamine rewards when you recognize that growth.
Get back up. It is okay to fall sometimes, it is okay to miss a short term goal. This is an opportunity to learn why you fell and most importantly get back up. Don’t give up. Take it as a life lesson from the universe and keep on going. If you expect perfection, you are setting yourself up to fail. Expect some hurdles along the way.
Change the environment. Your environment impacts you more than you may realize. We are influenced by the technology, people and the décor that is around us. If you go into a spa the music is tranquil, the walls are usually white or light colors and you smell soothing scents like lavender and incense in the air. This is because that environment is meant to be conducive to relaxation. You won’t see a bright red wall in a spa for good reason.
If you want to meditate/pray more often as your goal and you have the choice to use your sunroom with natural light or the dark basement, it is pretty obvious which environment is better suited for meditation/prayer. If you want to stop eating so much processed sugar, remove it from your kitchen and put fresh fruit where you used to keep the chocolate candies.
Pray on it. Pray to your higher power for help in this endeavor. Ask for guidance.
Tell me what your goal is for 2018 and what is your plan to achieve this!