- Are there some goals in your life that seem possible in principal, but elude you in reality?
- Do you sometimes delay getting started or distract yourself with busy-ness instead of applying yourself?
- Do you ever sabotage yourself just as you’re about to reach a goal?
This “I want it. No I don’t,” inner conflict is very common—and is one of the reasons people hire a coach. If goals are simple and straightforward to achieve, we don’t need the help of an objective professional. However, humans are complex and very often our desires to achieve a goal are accompanied by hidden / less conscious desires for the opposite.
- Conscious: Wanting to get that promotion.
Less conscious: Fearing it’s not safe to have the ‘bigger’ job, because it would require too much sacrifice and jeopardise your family.
- Conscious: Wanting to prioritise yourself and your immediate family, by having the freedom to say no to others.
Less conscious: Craving the warm glow of being approved of and pleasing others.
- Conscious: Wanting to lose weight.
Less conscious: Knowing your mum would approve if you lost weight, so not wanting to lose it because that would be pandering to her and she should love you unconditionally.
This is called psychological reversal—essentially having conscious goals that seem clear and reasonable, but that don’t align with our less conscious desires.
The fix? Start by shining a light. When we bring all of our desires into our conscious minds, we can then exercise some choice.
- Choose a goal that you’ve been trying to achieve, but so far haven’t
- Imagine having achieved that goal and write down your thoughts, beliefs and feelings in a pros and cons list
- If necessary take each of the points on the list and write a sub-list of pros and cons (this could take a while—if it’s a sufficiently challenging goal, you’ll end up with lots of lists— but it’s worth investing the time and emotional energy).
For example, the cons of getting the promotion might include:
- Longer hours (so less time with my family)
- Lose friends at current level as I’ll be promoted ‘above’ them in the hierarchy
- Have to lean on partner more
- It doesn’t seem possible because people like me don’t get promoted to that level
The pros might include:
- Interesting, challenging work that stretches me
- A bigger salary and opportunity for bonus
- We could buy that property in Devon
- Good role model for the children and work team (I’d be the pioneer)
- Get to lean on my partner more
Notice the mention of ‘leaning on partner’ appears on both sides of the debate. This is a prime candidate for a sub-list. Cons on the sub list might include:
- Everyone else seems to be able to juggle work and home, so I should be able to do this on my own
- He won’t do it properly
- It doesn’t feel safe to trust someone else
And the pros might include:
- He’ll get to see how much I do
- It’ll deepen his relationship with the children
- It’ll be a good growth area for me to ‘let go’ a bit
You get the gist. Back to the process…
- Take a break. Go have a cuppa and a sit down, go to the gym or for a walk outside.
- Reflect on this. Did you already know all of this, or is there new information? Now it’s out of the recesses of your mind and written in black and white, does it all seem true and valid, or could you challenge some of it? With this new awareness, how do you feel about your goal? Does it still feel desirable?
This simple awareness exercise might make you realise the goal isn’t important any more. Or, it might strengthen your resolve, and fill you with renewed energy, enthusiasm and ideas about how to achieve it.
- For extra credit, use something like EFT to help you uncover, process and resolve these thoughts, beliefs and feelings.
- Be gentle with yourself. Most of us have a maelstrom of ‘stuff’ going on just under the surface. Congratulate yourself for opening the enquiry. And remember, you’re doing the challenging work (which most people avoid) to help you grow and become the best version of you.
Do let me know how you get on.