I have been spending a lot of time recently looking into creating processes. These processes are essential to creating the habits needed to reach one’s goals. It has been interesting learning about the barriers we put in our way to prevent change. These barriers begin with the negative voices in our heads. Then, they end with us not changing our environment. These two elements do more to kill hopes and dreams than any external force.
Which begs the question, why do we do this to ourselves? The answer lies in our values and the questions we ask ourselves. For example, while listening to a podcast, I heard a story about an older gentleman wanting to be a better golfer. The gentleman was in his 50’s and enjoyed playing golf with his friends and clients. He was talking to a friend about his desire to improve his scores. He was complaining about his frustration of not being able to reach his goal of lowering his scores. His friend then asked a series of questions, exposing the problem with his goal. The friend began by asking him if he likes to practice his fundamentals. The gentleman replied that he didn’t, he preferred to get his practice in while playing.
Next, the friend asked about the gentleman’s athletic ability when he was younger. The response was that he hadn’t been much of an athlete in high school and spent most of his time in other pursuits. The friend then told the gentleman to give up on his goal and go enjoy the game. He told his friend that his goal was unrealistic for a couple of reasons. First, as a young man, he was a below average athlete, reducing the chances of him become more athletic at his age. Second, because he didn’t like to practice it was impossible for him to improve his technique.
This story illustrates the problem most people have when trying to reach a goal. They don’t understand their values enough to ask the right questions when setting a goal. Because of this, they set the wrong goal, then don’t put the right effort into achieving it. Reaching a goal takes hard work and determination. Not only do you have to overcome many external obstacles, but internal obstacles as well. Thus, the best way to achieve a goal is by first reducing the internal obstacles.
Reducing these obstacles makes it easier to deal with the external environment. This is important because it is harder to control. Many people complain about not having the willpower necessary to change. They, like the gentleman in the golf story, don’t have the willpower to do the work.
Willpower is a very limited resource. It gets consumed by the hundreds of small decisions we make each day. Thus, leaving us empty when the big decisions come. The path to achieving a goal lies in aligning it with one’s values. If you value something strong enough, you will do what is necessary to see it through. For example, an addict will always find a way to feed their addiction because they value it so much. The same principle holds true for reaching goals. Everyone has one or two core values governing their lives. By taking the time to understand those values, one can reduce internal conflicts.
Eliminating or reducing internal conflicts makes the process of change easier. It is easier because it reduces the dependence on willpower. Once goals align with values, then asking questions helps outline the path. Questions like, what is reality, or what are the obstacles in the way, will identify the process and habits needed. Change and growth are never easy. Yet, if we take the time to start the process by asking the right questions, it becomes easier to do.