by Heather Self
So by now you have your why. You have your want and need. You have your three legs set under your table and you’re balanced and stable. Now what?
Now it’s about finding your how.
Often, people go into a goal thinking they have to have it laid out in perfect detail, like one of those outlines you used to hand in to your teacher for a book report or an essay on the life and times of Benjamin Franklin.
Goals don’t work that way.
All you can do is have a generalized outline about how you’ll get there — but goals are not book reports. Goals incredibly organic. This is where you have to have patience and the willingness to have adaptability. There’s a reason that Joe Vitale says to state your intention for your goals as, “This, or something better.”
Because sometimes, as goals change, you end up with something completely different, but far better suited for you. I had many clients become quite upset when they achieved a goal, but it wasn’t what they’d decided it had to be. They were so stuck on the goal being exactly how they planned it, they became blind to the fact they had created something even better.
It’s really important to be okay that you have no idea how, in minute detail, you’re going to get there. All you need is a basic outline of ideas.
If you have a physical goal of some sort, you know you can outline training, and even schedule that. Especially if there’s a specific date. But for other things, like goals I’ve had, I can’t. I’ve tried, but I ended up feeling blocked and frustrated and miserable, because I was forcing something into place before it was time. Essentially, I was going against my intuition and trying to force the Universe’s hand. (When you do this, I guarantee you’ll lose. Every time.)
What goal-setting and creating comes down to is, as I mentioned above, having adaptability. In Star Trek: Voyager, Seven of Nine, the human who was previously Borg, meets all change with her personal creed of, “I will adapt.” Without adaptability, you’ll remain stuck.
To paraphrase what the Borg always declared when they began to assimilate a culture, Resisting adaptability is futile.
Another way to phrase “adaptability” is having what’s called “mental toughness”.
Interestingly, any goal we seek, whether it’s a physical goal (e.g. losing weight, training to run a 5K or a marathon) is about 80% mental and 20% physical. Some even say the ratio is 90% mental and 10% physical.
Think about that for a moment. Really sit with it.
What that 80-20 or 90-10 statement means is that your action steps, while highly, highly important, are less so than how you choose to mentally work towards your goals. How you face challenges. How you choose to adapt…or not adapt.
The 20% or 10% physical, the action steps, are crucial because you cannot have 100% success without them. Yes, I understand that action steps mean making changes and making changes can be scary, but there it is again: How you choose to frame and deal with that. How you choose to program yourself to react.
(And this includes how you choose to react to the naysayers I spoke about in Part 2 of this series. Are you going to let them decide for you whether you can/should want or have a goal or dream? Are you going to let their fears, their lack of confidence become yours?)
In some ways, however, those action steps, that 20%-10% are the hardest.
But let’s say you want to go to New York City for the first time in your life. Can you arrive there by only traveling 80%-90% of the way?
No, of course not.
As a life coach, I’d say that most of my coaching was around people taking the action steps. They had plans. They could visualize their goals, even reaching their goals, with more clarity than a Star Trek holodeck. Yes, this is a mental aspect. But the mentality I’m talking about, the mental toughness part, the adaptability, is making the choice to let go of your fears, even other people’s fears, and beginning the journey.
You could visualize every minute of every day during your vacation to New York City, but unless you also envision yourself letting go of your fears of traveling, and then getting on that airplane, you’ll never get there.
But the other aspect of your “how” and those necessary action steps are the opportunities that come your way and taking advantage of them. Even if they don’t perfectly fit into that perfectly-laid out action plan of yours.
There’s a funny joke I use to illustrate this.
A man is drowning in the ocean. A fellow on a jet ski comes by and says, “Dude–get on the back and I’ll take you to safety!”
“No,” says the man. “God will save me!”
The jet skier leaves. A bit later, along comes a fishing boat. The captain leans over and says to the drowning man, “Here! Take this life preserver! We’ll haul you up and take you to safety!”
“No,” says the man. “God will save me!”
The fishing boat sails away. A bit later, the US Coast Guard appears. The helicopter lowers someone down to rescue the drowning man, but again, he refuses, declaring, “No! God will save me!”
And then he drowns.
He appears before God, and, in despair, sobs, “God! I begged for you to save me and you didn’t! You let me die!”
God, somewhat exasperated, says, “I sent you a jet ski, a fishing boat and the US Coast Guard, but you refused each opportunity to be saved! What more did you want?!”
So part of the how, part of mental toughness and adaptability is letting go of what are called “concretized expectations” (expectations you’ve dictated to yourself as being exactly what you want and that they must only be so, no variations!)
Then it’s all about taking advantage of obvious opportunities (and sometimes not-so-obvious) to reach your goals. They can, and do, show up differently than you may have expected. So just because they aren’t what you imagined, don’t discount them.
When you’re set with concretized expectations like the fellow in the joke above, you’re setting yourself up to fail.
So how do you get the how?
How do you create the opportunities/generate them to appear?
You say to yourself, “I don’t know how I’m going to do this, but I am.” And then you send a mental ping out into the Universe. You start taking action steps that you know will start generating momentum.
Think of it like a submarine sending out its sonar to map out terrain and location so the captain can navigate through the water. Without the sonar, the submarine would be fully blind. Even if that submarine has to dock at a specific port on a specific date at a specific time, it still has to use its sonar to get there.
It’s also really important to be okay with obstacles that create detours to your goal. You cannot anticipate everything. And again, this is when mental toughness and adaptability are crucial.
Obstacles are not “nos” and they are not signs for you to give up, necessarily (unless you start realizing that a goal truly isn’t yours to go after).
Sometimes, obstacles and detours slow us down on purpose. Or, at least, they can. So just keep saying, I don’t know how I’m going to do this, but I am. (*PING!*) You can throw in an optional “yet” in there to make it, “I don’t know yet how I’m going to do this, but I am.”
Sometimes, obstacles and detours are actually better routes to your goal. Once, when I was driving home from San Jose, CA, I had to take a long, winding detour off US 101 that took me through utterly gorgeous, thick, almost magical-looking old-growth in the Redwood Forest. Yes, the unexpected detour added time to my trip. But, without it, I never would have seen all that beauty.
You will still have times of self-doubt when reaching your goals. Frustration. Despair, even. Feel like you’ve run out of whys and hows. But that’s okay.
This is when you practice what’s called the OODA Loop, you (re)Orient, Observe, Decide and Act. Or, as we said in the Air Force, adapt, overcome and proceed.
It’s also crucial to listen to your intuition. The little voice inside you (as Magnum on Magnum, P.I. called it.)
The more you act on that still, small voice, the easier it will be to hear it. It may not always make sense, but it’s there to guide you. You go astray when you override it. And acting on it will help you learn the difference between wishful thinking and intuitive hits. Wishful thinking involves a sense of fantasy, even trying to force something into being (it doesn’t mean it won’t happen, it’s just that it’s fantasy and forcing if it isn’t time); intuition comes in a quiet, sometimes bright flash, and there’s a solid feeling to it. Even if it doesn’t seem to make sense or you THINK it’s “contrived” (quotes used purposefully).
But it’s your intuition, your trust in it (in yourself) that will draw your hows and your opportunities to you.
Keep sending that sonar of yours out there and then listen and watch–and then act.