goal planning headstand

Goal Planning Heads Up vs. Heads Down

As a life coach, I work with clients a lot on goal planning. Goals are gold. Good coaches have a toolbox full of strategies to create powerful, driving goals in alignment with their clients' true selves.

I'd like to share with you a couple of approaches to goal setting and planning. Each one is important in the process.

Your brain has areas which have different strengths. Let's capitalize on that.

“A goal properly set is halfway reached.”
~ Zig Ziglar

Heads up goal planning

Heads up goal planning is where you create your vision. Literally.

What's the big picture? What motivates and drives you? What's it going to look like, sound like, and feel like when you've created your goal?

Physically looking up can help you access the visual cortex of your brain.

You've got to start with the big picture. What's the big picture?

It could be something like, "I see myself in that corner office with my name on the door. I'm a vice president of my company, and it feels like a powerful achievement."

Really allow yourself to get into your senses. We're accessing our neurology here.

This is not the time for planning. We're not figuring out how to get there yet.

If you find yourself getting bogged down in details right now stop and yell, "silence critic!" in your best royal tone.

Here are a couple of questions you can ask yourself at this phase:

  1. What does achieving this goal give me?
  2. Why is it important?

These are big chunk visionary questions. Anything is OK - you don't need a lot of detail.

Heads down goal planning

OK - now that you've got a vision for what you want to create, it's time to chunk down a little.

Still not time for the critic. Keep that jerk out of your head for now.

Practice your yelling if you must.

It's time for heads-down planning.

Now that you have a visionary goal, it's cool to chunk down into smaller pieces.

Sometimes, with large goals, it can be hard to imagine what it's going to take to get to where you're going. That's fine.

Here's a secret technique (shhhh) to make a plan:

Work backwards.

Imagine you have your goal. What were you doing right before you got it? And what were you doing right before that.

Keep going until you get to today. Write down your chunks.

Now you even have a tool to estimate how long it's going to take to get your goal. Just look at your chunks and figure out how long each one of them is going to take.

You can also ask yourself what skills and resources you need to acquire for each chunk.

Now your goal is essentially planned.

If you'd like help with this process, access to other powerful goal planning tools, or someone to keep you on track - let's talk.

Screw positive affirmations

Positive affirmations are the cornerstone of a lot of self-help programs. Just repeat some positive phrases and you're going to feel better about yourself.

There's a problem. For a lot of people, they don't work that way.

Here's some science mutha-trucka!

What the science says about these affirmations

  1. If you already feel good about yourself, repeating a positive affirmation will probably reinforce that. But really the effect is very small
  2. If you have negative self-esteem, and need a boost, repeating positive statements about yourself makes you feel worse.

What's up with that?

In my experience, lying to myself doesn't work. Being incongruent, leads to conflicted feelings. Conflicted doesn't feel good.

I can say to myself, "you, my good sir, are a rich, handsome, movie star." And another part of my brain goes, "well, you may be handsome, but you're a lying sack of ..." You get the picture.

Further, researchers found that people with low self esteem felt better when they were allowed to think negative thoughts.

I'm not a psychologist, but my guess is that this is akin to the "processing" that's done in therapy. You have to feel that stuff honestly to take away the emotional charge.

Ultimately, I'm not a big fan of brute-force techniques like affirmations. There are lots of effective and comfortable ways to change state, or get a desired effect. Anything I would use in coaching would respect a client's values and vision.

Since positive affirmations suck, what do I do?

Well, if you're going through a rough patch, there are a few things. If you feel like you need professional help - get it. There is no shame at all in seeking out therapy or medical help. Take care of yourself.

I'm fond of the work of Dr. Kristin Neff on self-compassion.

She has an awesome exercise that takes just a few minutes. It's called a self-compassion break.

This HuffPo article by Carmen Isáis suggests taking a neutral approach. It seems like recognizing where you are and putting it into perspective is key.


1 lifehack for goal crushing

Just one tiny thing to crush your goals [lifehack]

How are those new year's resolutions coming along? Write that novel yet? How far along are you at learning French this year? How are you doing with your goals?

OK - I don't mean to be cruel. Hopefully if one of these things belongs to you, you're doing fine.

However, often we set ginormous goals for ourselves and never get going.

Why? For most people - it's inertia.

Think about the epic task of learning a new language, or writing a novel. There's a gajillion large pieces that have to come together. It's overwhelming.

My martial arts instructor used to say - the hardest part of class is getting in the car. The call of the warm, comfortable couch is just too much.

And, for crying out loud, you've been training for two months and don't have a 10th degree black belt yet. What gives?

So I've got a killer strategy for destroying inertia I want to give to you today. Now normally I'd make you pay me a bunch of money for a coaching session to get this - which you should totally do anyway. However, I'm feeling generous today.

Goal Crushing Strategy

Take your goal. What's one thing you really want to accomplish. Now ask yourself. What's the smallest thing you could do right now that moves you in the direction of getting that goal?

The absolute smallest.

So small, in fact, that it seems almost silly. But the one rule is it must move you forward.

Here are some examples:

  • Want to write that novel? Create a new folder in your computer to hold your writing.
  • Want to start a meditation practice? Close your eyes and count ten breaths.
  • Want to get into shape? Fill up that water bottle.

Keep it small.

Advanced, super-secret, bonus, ninja goal-crushing technique

Honestly congratulate yourself and mindfully pay attention to any good feelings that come up. Let's build some great feelings around moving forward.

Do this every day and you'll find yourself picking up larger and larger chunks. Momentum will overcome inertia.


Breathe, inhale and be more awesome

I love to breathe, don't you?. It's cool and keeps you alive and stuff.

But, breath is also a powerful tool. Breathing is a unique body process which is part autonomic and part voluntary.

You keep breathing even when you don't you don't think about it. However, you can grab the reins at any time.

I have spent many years doing breath training. It's a key to physiological, even mental health.

Consider the body / mind like a giant feedback loop. For example, how do you know if you're anxious?

Well you might have a racing heart. You might experience some adrenaline dump symptoms. Your breathing is going to be rapid, and probably high in your chest.

So, what happens if you slow your breath down and drop it into your diaphragm? Well, you can actually dissolve anxiety. Your heart rate will drop, and many of the symptoms of an adrenalized state will be reduced.

The way you breathe affects the nervous system in many different ways. It also affects the body chemically.

For example, nitric oxide is produced in the nasal cavity and introduced in the body through nasal respiration. Nitric oxide is an important vasodilator - it increase blood flow and oxygenation. In fact, the little blue pill guys take to get frisky, works by enhancing nitric oxide.

If you want boners (boy boners or ladyboners) breathe through your nose.

Breath reflects and informs emotion. Want to get depressed? Copy the pace, depth and location of a depressed person's breathing.

How should you breathe for maximum mind-body awesomeness?

Lungs for breathing

First let me say that I'm not a doctor, this isn't advice of any kind - especially medical, see your doctor, take your meds, don't start anything new without seeking medical advice.

Different breathing patterns are useful in different context, but here are some general rules:

1. Always breath through your nose. Noses are for breathing, mouths are for eating. If you have a chronically blocked nose (due to polyps for example) - get it seen too. If you have a stuffy nose, there are exercises for unblocking it.

2. Slow it down - many people chronically over-breathe which leads to a pile of heath problems.  Think about a person in the midst of a panic attack - their breathing is going to be rapid and high in their chest. Do the opposite.

3. Keep it low. Deep breathing means breathing from your diaphragm. Doing so, means that the air passes over the greatest surface area of your lung tissue and has a chance to do it's work.

4. Breathe gently. Deep breathing does not mean forcing your lungs to expand until they are about to burst. At rest, your breathing movements should be barely perceivable to others.

There's a lot of science around these recommendations. If you'd like to learn more, a book I've read recently which I recommend is The Oxygen Advantage by Patrick McKeown.

Until next time - keep breathing,

1 spiritual life coaching

Spiritual life coaching

Let's talk spiritual life coaching.

Having spent decades in martial arts and meditation practice, my coaching tends to takes a certain spiritual aspect. In fact, I love to work with clients on body / mind / spirit balance because it creates such a whole and peaceful life.

But sometimes talking about spirit can make people a little hinkey.

"Hey is this guy going to preach to me, or turn me into some kind of satan-worshipper."

No, sorry.

Continue reading