In Sometimes We Run… Part 1 two of the primary ways that we run in relationship to our goals were addressed, running away from and running towards our goals (See that article here). There are several more dynamics of our relationship to our goals. This article is about one of the most powerful and effective ways to achieve your goals!
Sometimes we run toward our goals while at the same time running away from something else…
Sometimes we run toward what we want while simultaneously running away something we do not want. It is critical to have some positive future that we are running towards, but we are propelled even more powerfully if there is also something that we are running away from! When what you want to achieve is intensely compelling and when you want to get away from a negative reality, history, or possibility that scares you; you have a formula that produces accomplishment! This is like having a powerful storm behind you blowing hard on your back while you are running towards something you want with all your heart.
Some say that simply having a compelling direction and a goal that pulls you toward it is enough. Some say only think positive, avoid all negativity, only focus on the goal and believe you can achieve it. There is nothing wrong with that if, and this a big if, you can sustain that energy. Possibilities and goals are great, but the here and now is inevitably the reference point from which you move. If that is not defined as something you want to move away from than complacency can creep in and dampen your fire, at least slowing your stride or even worse by placing your butt firmly down in an easy chair.
So develop a clear vision of what you want and what is worth running toward. At the same time know fully all the things that make you unhappy, are dangerous, or that are just not fully satisfying about the status quo. Then the clarity of what you want to run from combines with the clear vision of the somewhere else you want to be. It is the presence of both pictures in your mind’s eye and the contrast between your moving-toward-goals and your away-from-goals that generates powerful incentive and keeps you moving. Also the combination of both keeps your commitment to goal directed behavior more fully in awareness and your motivation strong.
There is also substantial research support for this approach to successful goal setting and achievement of our goals. Gabriele Oettingen and colleagues have been researching what she calls “mental contrasting” in relation to goal directed behavior for over a decade. Much of her work is discussed in the book Psychology of Goals (2009), chapter 6 was authored by Oettingen & Stephens. She notes that the effects of mental contrasting are dependent upon the perception of the present standing in the way of the future. She notes that when engaging in mental contrasting it is first important to imagine a desired future. Only after that should you elaborately consider the present reality and its negative aspects, particularly perceiving the obstacles which interfere with moving towards that future. She has also found that the direction of the thought processes matters. First, perceive the positive possibilities, what you want to go towards. Then elaborate on what interferes with reaching the desired future. The combination is what develops a compelling desire to move forward.
The finding that the direction of our thoughts matter makes perfect sense! If we only focus on what we don’t want and are only in runaway mode we are less likely to progress. When the only goal is avoidance without hopes for the future to embrace you are stuck. But when you can see possibility you know there is a way out, a direction forward, a reason to run toward the better life that you can imagine! With this full context in mind, what you want and what you don’t want, more of your mental and emotional energies are engaged in the process of creating change and transformation. Indeed Oettingen & Stephens cite physiological research that indicates that when both sides of the equation are fully elaborated more of the brain is active; more brain power is engaged!
So in sum, one of the most compelling and powerful ways to achieve your goals is when you have what you are running towards clearly and vividly in mind and at the same time are aware of what you are running away from. This is not focusing on the negative; it is focusing on what you really want and running toward that with intention and resolve! But do that while being aware of what you’re moving away from; not obsessed with it, not giving it loads of energy, just aware. In this manner your levels of intention become aligned and balanced. This is a very smart strategy to achieve your goals! Use it and it will give your stride power and certainty as you go for your dreams!
In forthcoming articles in the series other ways that we run in our attempts to achieve our goals will be addressed. Some of these styles can enhance your effectiveness in achieving what you want, while others may sabotage your efforts.