Steve, one of the things that I think most people are familiar with is the idea of setting goals. Yet I’m not sure people really understand how to do it properly to give themselves the best chance of success. What would be your hints, your tips, your ideas and insights for goal setting well?
Steve Head: My first tip is to have some goals, that’s a good idea. You’re probably right actually. Again over the last few years, a lot of evidence, strategies, if you like have come together. I think we know more about what’s going to give you more … Significantly greater chance of success in achieving goals. There are some people that say, “I’m not very goal orientated. That’s not my way.” I think we all set some goals. We set the alarm to get out of bed on a morning, we set targets all the time. I think there are certain things that make it more likely that you will have clarity about what you want and you’ll get your outcome.
In my book actually, I’ve got … I remember it’s page 106. I haven’t memorized my own book, it’s because when I’m doing a workshop on coaching, I do a little bit on business, how you set goals and it’s six steps I wrote down years ago. It hasn’t really changed that much. I think we’re more aware of why they work. I won’t go through all six points but the principles are be really clear about what you want. The other thing I should say, by the way, it’s all linked to purpose as well. It’s more likely you’ll achieve something if it means something to you.
Just a random goal, like if I said to you get fitter, start going to the gym four times a week. If you feel pretty fit and don’t really care much about it, why would you bother? There has to be some attachment to it so I think having a reason to do it but you set … Be clear about what you want. There’s a guy I saw years ago up in Scotland, I think he was called Jack Black. I think his thing is Mindstore, it was many, many years ago. I’m sure it’s Jack Black and he talks about this idea of future history.
I did a lot of training on NLP for many years which I don’t know whether many people have come across, most people have heard of neuro-linguistic programming. The way the brain works, the way your body works, how you can condition yourself to think and feel a certain way. Future history is about imagining then actually going there, almost as if the future’s already happened, looking back and going, “How much do you want it?” If you can create an emotional attachment to something, when you get excited about something you really want. You get it when you buy a car, right?
The other day, actually yesterday, my wife and I went to a Mazda garage. She’s always wanted a two seater, never had one but the kids are bigger now and we thought we’ll get one. Went and sat in a Mazda MX5 which are actually quite reasonably priced. We sat in this car, went for a test drive, you come back and you go, “Right so now you’ve actually almost created a little future history.” You’ve felt it, you’ve touched it, you’ve smelt it, you’ve had a real three dimensional experience. You’re excited, you’ve moved around, the drive to get that is much more clear. I know exactly what I want, I know exactly what it feels like. I want a piece of that.
The same thing applies in day to day goals. If you can get people … Not like how much shopping do we need? I’m talking about your more significant goals like going for your next job, the house you want, the family you want to create, the world you want to create. Be clear about what you want. Give yourself a sense of three dimensional feelings about the thing so you can get passionately excited about it. Then one thing that’s become really good, and we know a lot more about this now, is to share it with somebody. A lot of people fail in goals because they keep to themselves and they give themselves a good reason not to do it.
Back to self-sabotaging, if I don’t do it, it doesn’t really matter, give yourself it’s okay. Whereas if I said to you, “I’m going to write another book, it’s going to be called X and it’s going to be out by the beginning of next year.” You’re my good mate or a confidant, you’re going to chase me on that. I’ll tell my wife and I’ll tell several other people. Eventually when I’ve told enough people, there’s enough momentum. I’m going to look bad if I don’t do it, so I’ve actually got external influence coming at me as well. They’re really basic principles. If we put those sort of things in place and we’ve known for years sharing stuff works.
We know why it works. We now know from Steve Peters’ work, The Chimp Paradox book which is a brilliant book. I absolutely love Steve Peters’ stuff, he coached Chris Hoy to six gold medals and he’s all this. He’s an amazing guy, talks about this part of the brain, which is really the limbic system, which sometimes sabotages you. It’s the bit of the brain when you wake up on a morning and say, “I’m going to go training.” It’s raining and you think, the chimp goes, “Don’t. You’ll only get wet, you’ll catch your death of cold. Have a biscuit and a cake.”
If you can manage that, one of the best ways to manage the chimp; one, there’s many strategies, is the chimp doesn’t like to be embarrassed. This piece of your brain doesn’t like to be humiliated or embarrassed. If you tell someone, “I’m going to come to your training class or I’m going to train with you. We’re going to go to the gym tomorrow at 2:00.” If I get to 1:30 and don’t want to go, I’ll still go because I don’t want to let you down. You’re my friend and I’ve told you I’m coming. You’re less likely not to go when you’ve got training partners, you’re less likely not to deliver when you’ve got support and people who are sharing it with you.
Those basic principles, we all know but we don’t do it very often. We’ll set these crazy goals for ourselves, keep them to ourselves and give ourselves lots of excuses to opt out especially when they’re hard. Like discipline required, long term and the goal is a long way away. Writing a book can be six, twelve, eighteen, whatever many months. It’s not like you get it straightaway. It’s a delayed gratification thing so I think the principles that I’ve just described work well when you’re on long term bigger goals.
Grant Leboff: You talked about goals going wrong, people failing and linking it to a purpose. Is one the reasons, do you think that goals sometimes don’t work, is because they’re not linked to a higher purpose? We all know … I’ll give you the clichéd one of the person who wants to lose weight. New Year’s Day comes and they say, “This year I’m going to lose weight.” By January 5th it’s already gone. Is that because … Because they genuinely want to lose weight. They weren’t lying and they’ve shared it because I knew about it. Is it because it’s not linked to anything more significant? It’s almost a goal for its own sake?
Steve Head: They may have been drunk at the time as well.
Grant Leboff: (laughter and banter) Is that why you think they go off?
Steve Head: A number of things on that. Again Steve Peters talks about that in his book about the idea of New Year’s resolutions and so many failing. This part of the brain that decides it wasn’t really that important in the first place. With something like, take your example – want to lose weight, the first thing that struck me when you said that actually, if that was somebody saying that to me, I’d say, “Exactly how much weight do you want to lose and exactly why would you want to lose it? Exactly what would be the benefits of you losing it and what would your life be like if you did?” It is a very bland thing to turn around and say, “I want to get fitter or I want … ” There has to be a reason, there has to be a reason.
It’s interesting when you think about smoking. Well we all know, pretty much more than most areas of research now, that smoking is generally bad for you. Generally speaking it’s not going to help you. You won’t breathe as well, you’ll probably get cancer faster although we’ve all got a great, great, gran who smoked since she was six and lived until she was a hundred. Overall we know it’s not good. People get addicted to smoking, there’s lots of factors influence whether you smoke or not. What they’ve done is they’ve attached something to that.
My mother used to smoke and she was very poorly. She had heart failure, she died of heart failure and I said to her, “Why do you smoke? You should stop smoking.” I stopped saying that after a while, I just left her alone but she’d go, “It’s my only pleasure. It helps me relax, it de-stresses me” so she’s attached. I think if you took anything in life that was a pleasure, relaxing and de-stressful, anti-stress, then I’d do it – right? She’s completely forgotten all the other sides of it so she’s given herself a really good reason not to change.
I think we have to do the same when we want something. I’m going to get fitter, why? I’m going to lose weight, why? What would be the benefit? What would it really look like? What would it feel like? What would you get out of it? Then the accountability process starts and then the steps start. The next thing … Then it becomes a serious commitment. Not just, “Hi Happy New Year, going to get fitter next year” because you’re not really making a commitment to anything. Your mates aren’t really there on your team.
The next thing once you’ve done it, you break it into small parts. Generally speaking, again those goals are more long term, it’s not a three week or a two week thing. It’s a six month thing or whatever. I think you’ve got to break it into small parts. You know when you write a book, you know about this, you put a book. A book is a series of steps. The book itself is overwhelmingly significant as a thing or could be. I’ve got to create this book but if I’m writing a book and I go, “I need six chapter headings. I need a theme to work with, I need to look at my reference.” You can break it down into constituent parts, make progress. My goodness, I’m making progress!
Also psychologically, I think … And again we know this much more when I wrote my book years ago. It’s well researched now, we know that when we look back, how far we’ve come is very motivational than simply looking how far we’ve still got to go. So coming back to your New Year’s resolution idea, I totally agree with you. 99% of them have probably said on a whim, with champagne, not the best time to make your commitments. Make it to people that care about you, give yourself a good reason to do it. Let’s break it into small steps and, another bit which I’ve just remembered, celebrate as you go.
There’s going to be little moments where you go, “Come on let’s just … ” I don’t mean celebrate with cake but celebrate as you go along so you know that you’re getting rewarded for the things you’ve achieved. Rather than, “I’m still not there so I’ll go through more pain.” I do this a lot in business. If you’ve got targets to meet, sales targets or clinical targets in the NHS, you may or may not hit your clinical targets. You may or may not, there’s all sorts of circumstances can affect whether A&E can survive during the winter months or not in terms of capacity.
If you have four or five really successful days and every patient’s been seen. Stop, pause, raise a cup of tea with each other in the junior mess or wherever and go, “Come on guys. We’re doing really well here.” If you don’t celebrate, it’s just one long term slog to the outcome which may or may not be the one you want. I think you’ve got to celebrate the small victories as you go as well.
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