Goals must be clear and well defined. This first requirement of goal setting is most important. It is also the one that people fail at most often. It is not sufficient to have some hazy notion of what we may want. Goals direct our behaviour, and if the target is to be reached by the most efficient route, then the target must be clear and well defined. It is not simply enough to say that ‘I wish to be successful’. This begs the question, ‘Successful in what?’ You must be more specific than that. There are two main reasons for being more specific. First, the more specific you are the easier it is to form a plan of action that will achieve your goal. Second, the more specific your goal the easier it will be to picture it. Each of these will be discussed in the next two sections. In terms of our present example of success, you could be more specific by narrowing down the goal to that of being successful at your job. This is clear and well defined. Also, you would immediately have some idea of what ‘success’ means in the context of your job.
Goals must be realistic. If you are presently the errand boy or girl in a large multinational company then it may be unrealistic to set a goal of becoming the company president. It is unrealistic to set as a goal the idea of becoming an astronaut when you have neither the education nor the skill, and could never attain it even in your lifetime. This is wishful thinking, and not the setting of realistic goals. This does not mean that if you are at the bottom of the pyramid then you should not set a long-term goal of heading it. Rather it implies that long-term goals should be approached in small and gradual stages, where each stage has a well-defined and realistic goal.
Goals must be available. A realistic goal in fact implies that it is one that is presently available. By this we mean that you have the capacity to achieve it or acquire it. If you have never done any science, it is not in your capacity to discover a new protein molecule.
Goals must be just further away from where you presently are. Once they are achieved then you can expand the sphere of availability. It is possible to think of goals in two ways. In figure (a) we see goals as a sequence of events. The achievement of goal 1 allows you to go on to achieve goal 2, and after that goal 3, and so on. Each goal is a stepping-stone to the next. In figure (b) each goal is seen as part of a larger sphere of availability. Whether thought of as a sequence of steps or a set of spheres of availability, both emphasize the need to achieve each goal (sub goal) before the next is attempted. Put simply, goal 2 is only achievable once goal 1 has been achieved; and goal 3 is only achievable once goal 2 has been achieved; and so on. This is the essential feature of a plan of action.
Goals must be of interest to you and mean something to you. Both of these give emotional content to the goal. If you are going to achieve your goals then they must interest you; if they interest you then you will direct your attention at them and so they are in your consciousness a great deal of the time. The more meaning the goals are to you, the more you will want them and the more you want them, the more attention you will give to them and the more often they are in your consciousness. We see, then, that interest and meaning have the result that you pay attention to the goals that you set and keep them frequently in mind. You keep your eyes on the target, as it were.
Goals must be actively set. By this we mean that you must give them a great deal of thought. In doing this you must find out all you can about the goal concerned. Not all goals require detailed information, but some will. You should get in the habit of taking an interest in setting your goals with full information. Consider the following simple example. Suppose you wish to be a success in your job. What does this mean? One way is to consider people who have already become successful. Find out all about them and what it is that makes them successful. Try to find out what is the most important feature that a successful person has in your kind of job. The more information you gather the more easily you will be able to lay out a plan of action – a point we shall rake up in the next section. It is most important that your information is correct Goals based on incorrect information are unlikely to succeed.
Goals must be concerned with the future and because of this they must involve a plan of action so that such a future goal can be attained. By being set in the future we do not mean the very far future. To be more specific, the goal must be sufficiently well defined so that the period for its achievement is finite. The period itself may be unspecified, so long as the goal itself is sufficiently well defined that when it is achieved this is known. If this is not done, then your behaviour will constantly be driven to achieve this never achievable goal!
These can be done either in a relaxed state with the eyes closed or in a state of self-hypnosis.
This first image assumes you are a competitor and wants to visualize winning at ...[insert whatever sport is appropriate here]
Image #1 Visualising your goal
On the count of three I will visualize in my mind’s eye what exactly winning at ... means to me. I will see myself winning; feeling what I would feel like to win. I will become aware of how others people respond to my success.
[Now count to three and allow the image to fully form and pursue it thoroughly. It is important to visualise the surroundings, the location, other competitors, etc. It is also very important to imbue the image with as much emotion as you possibly can.]
Image #2 Planning your goal
On a count of three I will see quite clearly in my mind’s eye what I must do to achieve my goal. I will see all the things that I must do, whether in the gym or at the venue. I will be aware of all the changes that I must undertake, and most especially all the changes to my behaviour. I will not only visualize what all these are, but I will see myself doing them; and I will feel what it is like to carry out these changes.
[Now count to three and allow yourself to fully carry out all the changes.]
Image #3 Visualizing unspecified goals
Get yourself in a state of relaxation or self-hypnosis. Imagine an empty table in front of you. You now say to yourself, ‘I am now going to place the three most important of my sport-goals at the top of the table. I will represent these sport-goals with three small pyramids.’ Do this in your mind’s eye. Make the pyramids very colourful. Continue as follows. ‘And I am now going to attach three sub-goals to each of my life-goals. I will represent each of these sub-goals with balls and I will link each ball with its associated life-goal by a cord.’ Again make the balls colourful and the cords colourful too. Make sure that the cords are secure. You continue again as follows. ‘And now I attach to each sub-goal three sub-sub-goals, which are represented by coloured ribbons on the end of the cords.’
You now survey the table of goals and sub-goals. Seeing clearly the difference between the life-goals, the sub-goals and the sub-sub-goals. See quite clearly how all the goals are linked by cords. Let your mind wonder over the scene. [The mind may throw up a dynamic pattern. For instance, you might imagine the lowest goals (the ribbons) like an army marching forward and commanding the three sites (the sub-goals), which are then moving forward to command the hill (the life-goals). Let your imagination run wild.
Image #4 Increasing your motivation
We use the example of motivating yourself to go to the gym.
Get yourself into a relaxed state or a state of self-hypnosis and think about the task in hand, namely going to the gym. Most of all focus on the goal – what you wish to achieve by your visits to the gym. Think abut all the positive aspects of having achieved this goal. See it and feel it with all of your senses. Utilize all the characteristics you discovered in a compelling experience. Make it large, colourful and bigger; make it three-dimensional. Give it a happy sound. Ensure the image of the goal is close to you. Here your self-talk providing positive reinforcement. Throughout, your thoughts are to be focused on the goal only and not the process of getting there. Keep this up until you make the image a compelling one in your mind’s eye.
You now finish with a posthypnotic suggestion, which can be said even if you are just in a relaxed state. ‘And so, when I awaken, I will want to go to the gym. I will not only want to do it, but I will enjoy doing it, knowing that when iI have been I will feel very pleased.’ Now awaken yourself.
Image #5 Utilizing the motivated 'other you'
We use the example of constantly going to training sessions.
Put yourself in a relaxed state or a state of self-hypnosis. Now see someone come through a door towards you. This is ‘another you’, a person who is highly motivated, who carries out tasks no matter what they are, who always goes to training no matter how he or she feels and no matter what the weather. ‘Another you’ who is positive, cheerful and no task is a burden to them: the ‘other you’ who just exudes motivation.
Now you see this ‘other you’ doing the task in hand – going of for a training session. You see the way they go about the task, you hear their self-talk and how positive it is. You see them enjoying doing the task: it shows in their body language and their self-talk. You see the satisfaction that the ‘other you’ has when the task is completed.
Now the ‘other you’ is standing before you and you move together and fuse into each other. You become one: fully integrated and you now possess all of the qualities of this ‘other you’. Most of all, you possess all their motivation.
And so you say to yourself, ‘And when I awaken I will carry out this tasks [of going to training each and every time] in just the same way as your ‘other me’ did it, because you are now one.’ Now awaken yourself.
Exercise #1 Drawing goals
You begin with a large blank piece of paper – the larger the better, but a plain sheet of A4 paper will do. You first draw a border all around the piece of paper. This is a symbolic representation of a definite goal with a finite time for achieving it In addition, the border is a symbolic representation of the things which are available to you at the present time, or that you will acquire in the near future in order to achieve your goal. Your present position is located at the bottom of the page in the centre, while the goal to be achieved is placed at the top of the page and in the centre. The goal should be a brief statement enclosed in some shape that stands out, colour it if necessary.
Exercise #2 Identifying the characteristics of a compelling experience
Get yourself into a relaxed state or a state of self-hypnosis. Now think of something you really wanted to accomplish and did do so - it does not have to be your sport, but this would be better. Think of the compelling nature of the experience: how you were driven with an absolute compulsion to carry it out. Most of all think of the characteristics of the experience. For example, its size, colour, whether it is three-dimensional, its brightness, how your body felt and even the sounds involved. Also note the type of self-talk you engage in during the experience – noting their positive nature.
Now count backwards from 300 in units of 5 to about 280. This distracts your thoughts away from the image you have just re-experienced. Now experience something quite ordinary. Doing the dishes or watching the news on TV. Note again your feelings and the indifference you feel. Note the size, colour, dimensionality and brightness of the image.
Now count backwards from 200 in units of 5 to about 280. Next bring into your awareness both images and compare them in your mind’s eye. Note the differences. As pointed out, this is like comparing a tense muscle with a relaxed one. Awaken yourself.