Will you stick with me on this? I promise this is not another goal setting speech that sounds really good and gets you totally pumped up, only to crash and burn in the reality of an overwhelmed and stressed out life. Please read on, I promise this is DIFFERENT.

Having been a collegiate swimmer at the University of Florida I am trained, take that back, I am programmed to set goals. Not only that, I am programmed to follow through to achieve my goal as the one and only option. We never set a goal as a team as a “suggestion” or “that would be cool if we could” or “maybe one day.” We set goals that were meaningful and realistic and then set out to achieve it with victory in sight. Failure was not an option. Not everyone is wired that way. I get that. But why do so many people set goals and come up short? Most people don’t just come up short, they seem to go in the other direction of their original goal. What’s going on?

It is simple. It is the brain having trouble dealing with daily stress. The brain makes decisions all day long to make your life as restful, happy, peaceful, and safe as possible. That’s how we are all wired. Don’t believe me? Infomercials have built a multi-billion dollar industry on this fact. Here is the scenario: You are having trouble sleeping at night because the bills are stacking up, you are overweight, you feel sluggish and have zero motivation, your boss has been super demanding, and your kid is getting D’s on his report card. You flick on the TV to zone out and BAM! There is a very fit super model telling you about a new gadget that will melt away your fat in 3 easy steps. No diet, no exercise, no big effort. You can be ready for the beach in 3 easy payments of only $39.99!

Your brain starts doing the happy dance and believes this is solution to ALL my troubles. “I don’t have time for the gym but I can do this. It’s not that expensive anyway. It is easy and safe. Look how happy she is and I will feel so good about myself when I am looking better too.  Then, I will have more energy to meet my bosses’ demands and help my kid with his homework. As a result my boss will give me a raise and I will make more money and my kid will be happy too. So really I am making an investment in my career and family, not just some vain, unnecessary, spontaneous, impulse purchase.” SEE? Everyone is susceptible. We have all been there at some point. It is how the brain works. But there is a better way.

The NBA released a study a few years ago on brain function and setting goals. They took 60 players who were making millions, but each was in a major slump. They couldn’t sink a free throw to save their life – or their millions!  To say the least they were all in a bad place. The study  randomly divided the players into 3 groups of 20. Group A had to double their practice time. If they were practicing 2 hours per day, now they were practicing 4 hours per day. Group B was forced to not play at all and they were all encouraged to go on vacation and stay away from basketball. Group C had a one hour practice every day but it was in a quiet room all alone sitting in a comfortable chair. For one hour per day they were to “practice” free throws mentally –  BUT every single shot was to be visualized as a perfect shot. Nothing but net. Then they could mentally run up and down the court sinking shots from anywhere on the court – again all with perfect accuracy.

After 30 days the 3 groups were analyzed. Group A worked super hard but they were worse. The vacation group actually did a little better but still not NBA caliber. Group C, the ones that practiced visualizing their perfect shots, were back on the court making millions and completely out of their slumps!

What does this mean about goal setting? If your brain thinks it can or it thinks it can’t, it is RIGHT! Whether you are an athlete, a mom or a “regular-joe”, if you spend your time setting realistic goals, visualize how you will achieve the goal, rehearse it in your head daily and most importantly, BELIEVE every “shot” you attempt is perfect – you can achieve your goals! You’ve got to BELIEVE if you want to ACHIEVE.

I truly believe you can achieve your goals if you believe in yourself. Now will you?

– Dr. Pat