From Wishful Thinking to Goal-Getting: The Power of a Strong Mental Model

I set a goal to do the splits this year.

I've never done the splits.  I'm not even close. Here's my laughable starting photo.

And yet the goal doesn't really matter.

What matters is my mental model of how I, Diana, learn to do new things. Sometimes impossible seeming things. And my real goal is to learn the flaws in this model and update it using the splits as my vehicle. 

Setting and achieving your goals are nothing more than wishes.

And even if you have a plan for accomplishing your goal, that's not as strong as having a mental model for how you as a person generally achieve goals.

This Goals Achievement Mental Model would include answers to the following questions:

  1. Have you set and achieved similar goals in the past? If not, let's start at ground zero of what might be going wrong. If you do have a track record of setting and achieving goals, then what has helped you get to the finish line?  Was it the right methodology? A coach? An accountability buddy? Journaling about your experience? Public pressure? (That last one is my go-to 😂)
  2. Have you consistently built new habits to achieve your goals in the past? How much time can you really commit to each day or each week? What does it take for you to create new habits?
  3. Have you been able to overcome challenges or setbacks in the past? Have you hit roadblocks in your previous pursuits? (I can't think of a goal I've set and achieved without – at several points in the process – feeling completely disillusioned and ready to give up.) What do you do in those challenging situations?  What helps you power through?
  4. Have you sought out support or guidance when you needed in the past? If you've never done something before, you're likely starting with a terrible game plan on how to get there. What has worked for you in the past to seek out guidance to make progress and get over hurdles?

My goal is not just to achieve new things each year, it's to refine my philosophy about how I achieve things. Tweaking my mental model each year gives me a clear roadmap to follow, making it easier to stay on track and avoid getting sidetracked or discouraged.  And it helps me spend my time better.  I'm dedicating 15 minutes a day to doing the splits.  That's a very big return on a minimal output.

So, while the setting and achieving your goal itself may be important, your personal methodology of how you accomplish goals or resolutions is a lot more valuable to your long term growth.  If you can upgrade your mental model for achieving goals each year, you'll find that your growth becomes exponential.  

Don't get me wrong, I do want to hear about your New Year's Resolutions! It's fun to go for big things!  It's just that the goal itself doesn't interest me nearly as much as your mental model to get there.

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