It’s that time of year when self-reflection for the year gone by is high, and we start turning our focus to the year ahead and what we want to achieve. Goal setting for 2020 is particularly special because not only are we setting goals for the new year, we are also creating plans for how we want to kick off the new decade. Because of this, it’s important to set ourselves us up success with our 2020 goals or resolutions.

It’s time to be honest with yourself – how many of your “resolutions” or goals have you actually achieved in the last decade? Did they take longer to achieve than you expected? Did you forget about some of your goals? Looking at the stats, the overwhelming majority of the population fails to stick to their New Year resolutions past the month of January. Why is this the case? The answer lies within the unconscious mind.

Our unconscious minds (the part of the brain responsible for driving behaviour) lives to serve us. Despite what Freud may have you believing, our unconscious mind wants us to have everything we want. I know what you’re thinking “If my unconscious mind wants me to achieve my goals, why don’t I have more money, time freedom, the career or business I want, the love of my life, 6-pack abs (or whatever other goal it is that you’re seeking)?” The answer is simple – most people have been taught to program the computer of their mind the wrong way.

Here are my top 3 tips for programming your unconscious mind for greater success:

Tip #1: Be specific & focus on what you want

Our unconscious minds have a section called the Reticular Activating System (RAS). This is the filtering system of our brain that determines what we seek more of or take action towards, and what is deleted or distorted in our unconscious minds.  Think of your RAS as the world’s most powerful GPS device.

When we communicate, we communicate (to ourselves and others) in pictures not in words. In order to make sense of anything, we need to form a picture in our mind. Like now, you have a picture in your mind of a picture in your mind! This picture gets placed in the RAS as the “destination” that we want to reach. Similar to typing a specific address into the GPS in your phone or car – the RAS will start to seek out how to get you to that destination using the path of least resistance.

When people communicate or think without awareness, they often inadvertently program the wrong pictures into their mind. This means that their RAS begins to take action towards the wrong things. The two most common issues are that people use ambiguous language or they focus on what they don’t want.

When one uses non-specific, ambiguous language (such as “I want financial freedom”) to discuss goals, the RAS is unable to get a clear picture to seek out. This causes the to revert back whatever beliefs or picture they held onto previously (for example “I have to work hard to make money”, which causes the RAS to seek out hard work).

The other issue is that most people focus on what they don’t want (ie. “I don’t want debt”). To make sense of this sentence, the RAS gets a picture of “debt”, then sets out to find more debt. So despite the fact that the person wants to get out of debt, they have inadvertently programmed their minds to seek more of it.  

What to do instead: be specific and focus on what you DO want (ie. “I want $1 million in my bank account”).

Tip #2: Reverse Engineer It

Once you’ve set a specific goal that focuses on what you do want, you need to create a plan. While it sounds like common sense, in reality, this is a step many resolutioners and goal setters fail to accomplish.

The best way to create a plan to achieving any goal is to reverse engineer it. Start from the goal and work your way back to where you are now by asking the question “what happened just before that?”. For example, if my goal is to run a retreat in Costa Rica in 2020, just before I run the retreat the participants would arrive in Costa Rica. Just before that I would send out the confirmation email and itinerary. Just before that I would have registered participants. You get the idea.

This will give you a step-by-step plan of which actions you need to take, in the order you need to take them. Each step can additionally be broken down into distinct tasks by asking the same question.

The benefit of creating a plan this way is that it reduces the amount of overwhelm one feels in achieving the goal. Without the plan, goals (especially larger ones) can become overwhelming because of the distance between where you are starting and where you want to get to. With a step-by-step plan, you only need to focus on the next step in front of you. After all, Mount Everest is climbed one step at a time!

Tip #3: Visualize it daily

Our unconscious minds doesn’t know the difference between fiction and reality, between the past and the present or between the future and the present. Because of this, visualizations are an incredibly powerful tool to show your unconscious mind that your goal is attainable and exactly what you want.

Not all visualizations are equal however, so make sure you do these two things to ensure success:

  • See your future self in the visualization (instead of looking at the goal through your own eyes). This will tell your unconscious mind that you still have work to do to achieve the goal and it will seek out ways to take action faster.
  • Visualizations work best first thing in the morning, or right before you fall asleep. Our unconscious minds are most suggestible during these times because melatonin (our sleep hormone) distracts the conscious mind with drowsiness, which opens the gatekeeper to the unconscious mind.

Make these simple shifts in your 2020 goal setting process and you’ll see the incredible difference in how much faster you grow and attain your goals and resolutions!