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The 3 Steps to Achieving Non Toxic Goals

Think big and dare to fail - Norman Vaughan

Do you set yourself goals but find you are not moving forward as fast as you want? Does there seem to be a glass wall between where you are and where you think you should be?

Or if you do succeed, do you wonder whether you set the wrong goal in the first place; that it was actually a toxic goal?

Not the life I want

When I first came across Alan, he was running a successful photography business. His days were full of activity. He went from one appointment to the next, one meeting to the next and one training session to the next. He was highly regarded in his industry.

He set off for work in the morning in the dark, before his wife and children were out of bed and returned at night after dark, when the children were fast asleep. He worked week ends too.

Business was going well. But he wasn’t happy.

This had been going on for years. Alan, it seemed, was very good at goal achievement, but the question was, were they the right goals?

The life he now had was not the life he wanted.

Setting toxic goals

Many years ago, Jim, an HGV driver came to see me. He was experiencing anxiety attacks which had stopped him working. He came along to get the attacks resolved, something which generally only takes one or two sessions.

But, as the weeks went by, and the panic refused to subside, I wondered whether there was some secondary gain keeping them going? It turned out, that Jim did not want to be driving HGVs at all.
He had spent every summer holiday for the past six years, studying kickboxing in Thailand. He loved the relaxed and spiritual lifestyle, had established good connections in the local community there, and felt he only came alive in those brief breaks away.
The panic attacks were giving him a clear message. Stop driving lorries and pursue your dream.

Silencing the thought monkey

Sometimes we think we know what we want, but it’s not actually what we need. There is an older, wiser part of us which knows better. So sometimes we set the wrong goals altogether, or frame them in a way which means they are not aligned to our beliefs and values, in which case we will struggle, or they simply will not happen.

We need to learn to silence our busy, chattering, thinking brains to really listen to what our deeper instincts are trying to communicate.

Don’t ignore those uncomfortable feelings. They are trying to tell you something.
And be careful what you wish for when you’re setting your goals.

Remember the salutary tale of the 50-year-old man who’d grown tired of his partner and wished he had a woman 20 years younger than him?

He woke up the next morning to find he was now 70!

Learn from a master

You have to admire a man who builds his own toll road. Mike Watts is someone who knows how to set positive goals and move them forward.
When a road closure on a busy commuter route in Somerset meant a daily 14 mile diversion, Mike Watts decided to take matters into his own hands. He rented a nearby field and became the first British citizen to build a toll road in more than a century.
Exasperated motorists are now queuing to pay the two pounds toll each way, to avoid an hour-long diversion and instead travel just 400 yards along the newly tarmaced road. Local commuters and businesses had been suffering, including Mike’s own family business in Bath. Residents are impressed, and Mike has become a bit of a local hero.

Win, win, win

Mike’s toll road ticked all the positivity boxes. He got his needs met and those of his family and community too. He created a win, win, win situation. By Christmas he expects to have made ¬£150,000 profit whilst saving himself and others a two-hour return commute each day and avoiding losses to his own business.

From adversity came triumph but, in the process Mike had to be clear about his goals and be prepared to take action.

3 essential steps: Theorise, visualise, actualise

Step 1: Theorise

Take time to think.

You have two brain hemispheres and they see the world in different ways. The left hemisphere has a narrow focus. It sees the detail and will help you plan the detail, but the right hemisphere gets the big picture and is more connected to your needs, beliefs and values.

Setting goals in alignment with your basic emotional needs will ensure they are not toxic goals.

Step 2: Visualise

Take time to reflect on your needs. The ‘recipe’ for human happiness comprises our innate drive for safety, autonomy, fun, emotional intimacy, status, privacy, attention, community and engagement.

All great new ideas start as pictures in somebody’s head. Learn to construct a really detailed picture in your imagination. Make it bright and bold. Colour in all the detail. Now check in with yourself that your goal is in alignment with not just your wants, but your needs too.

Step 3: Actualise

Goals, innovations and inventions often begin with either a thought or an insight, but just having ideas will not bring success. You need the right idea that sits comfortably alongside both your wants and needs, but that has to be followed up with….. action.

This is when it’s time to get SMART and make sure your non toxic goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and…Timed.

‘A goal without a timeline is just a dream.’ Robert Herjavec

Alan finally realised his goal to be the most successful photographer in his field was costing him dear in his personal life. For him, it had become a toxic goal. He had to now set new, more balanced and holistic goals that included his needs for connection with his family. He had to actively make changes. He now works less, earns less, but is happier.

The closed road caused Mike enough frustration and discomfort for him to dig deep, ponder the possibilities, connect with both his needs and the needs of his community, take back control, construct a plan…….then act!

When Mike realised his anxiety attacks actually represented a personal cross roads, he took a long look at his life, adjusted his goal …..and acted. He now lives in Thailand.

As business coach Bev James says, ‘It really is this simple – successful people take action.’

‘I want to win the lottery’

Which reminds me of the story of a very religious man called Bob.

Every night he would fall to his knees and pray long and hard to God to let him win the lottery.

God was aware of Bob’s prayers, but nothing happened.

In frustration and despair, Bob called out to God ‘Look, I know you can hear me. Why can’t you just let me win the lottery?’

Finally, God replied ‘Bob, do me a favour and meet me halfway.
At least buy a lottery ticket!’

…Get the point?

Frances Masters

Frances Masters is a BACP accredited psychotherapist with over 30,000 client hours of experience. Follow her @fusioncoachuk, or visit The Integrated Coaching Academy for details about up coming training.