• Rita Hitching

Planning to make changes in 2020? Use your brain!

At the dawn of a new year I feel energized and excited to make changes. A new decade, is like a new year to the power of 10 - a chance to reinvent myself for the next 10 years! Wondering where you want to be by 2030? Is the thought really scary? Does it feel too far away? You were probably too young in 2010 to imagine life in 2020, but I bet you are starting to think about life as a ‘grown up’! As the saying goes, “every second counts” and “every year” is no different.  If you want to set intentions for the coming year, let me show you how to use your brain to succeed. Goal setting gives you a sense of control over your future, and is critical in achieving success by increasing focus and prioritizing on tasks relevant to the goal.



At the dawn of a new year I feel energized and excited to make changes. A new decade, is like a new year to the power of 10 - a chance to reinvent myself for the next 10 years! Wondering where you want to be by 2030? Is the thought really scary? Does it feel too far away? You were probably too young in 2010 to imagine life in 2020, but I bet you are starting to think about life as a ‘grown-up’! As the saying goes, “

Make it Meaningful

Intention is fundamental to goal setting, and must be meaningful to you.  That’s right, just you! Not your parents, friends or the cute guy/girl you want to impress. To succeed ask yourself “Why is [INSERT GOAL] important to me?”.  Once your why is clear, then “how” will follow. 


Slow & Steady

Don’t rush to set your intentions, take your time.  Go for a walk or sit in a quiet space and think through what you really want to achieve in the next 12 months.  Improve a class grade? Learn to drive? Submit every paper on time this semester? Write down your goals, 3 maximum positive short term goals.  Handwritten words are more likely to be remembered, so write down the goal. List all the positive outcomes associated with your goal, and really focus on the most important outcome of the goal.  Really consider the possible obstacles and make a plan to eliminate them, and hone in on the most important.  


Visualize & Become

If you can see it, you can be it. Research has shown that your brain cannot tell the difference between imagination and reality.  If you visualize yourself achieving a goal, you increase your chances of success. Visualization has been shown to be very effective particularly at improving academic success and health outcomes.  The key to harnessing the power of visualization is to truly believe you’ll succeed. It’s that simple! 


Litmus Test

Do you feel excited at the prospecIf at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again is a good measure of the importance of the goal you set is.  The brain dislikes being in a state of ‘cognitive dissonance’ or the disagreement between how ‘things are and how they should be’.  Once you’ve visualized your future self, your brain will support you by encouraging you to behave in ways that facilitate achieving your objectives.  Your degree of excitement and motivation to change will either support or hinder your success. 


Go With the Flow 

Find the energy of what you want to do and stay away from the tide of ‘should do’. Be sure to select goals that align with each other, so that your brain is not in a state of ‘stress’.  Set a goal to “turn all assignments in on time” (notice that I avoided the negative of “not turn assignments in late”) and also to “spend less time watching Netflix”.  Your brain and will power will not be sure which to focus on when your two goals oppose each other.  


SMART Road Map

Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely (S.M.A.R.T.) goals set you on a path to success? The acronym stands the test of time because it works!.  Break a goal into smaller units and within limited time windows. 



Object in Motion

Remember Newton’s law of motion? An object in motion remains in motion at the same speed and direction unless a force acts upon it?  Each action and step you take towards achieving your goal, however small, will provide momentum to continue to act/behave in ways that support your efforts to meet your goals.  Don’t be intimidated by the ‘overall goal’, you don’t have to worry about ‘all your assignments’ for the rest of the school year, just one at a time.  


Share & Care

Share your goals with those close to you and ask for their support.  Perhaps ask for encouragement when you act in ways that support achieving your ways and reminders when you are self-sabotaging.  When your environment doesn’t vary, your brain will typically be operating in its ‘default mode network’ and will subconsciously encourage you to make decisions to support the ‘status quo’.  Prompt your brain into the ‘salience network’, surround yourself with visual reminders or alarms on your phone to encourage behavior change.  Look around and remove any barriers to achieving your goals. In the example of ‘turning assignments in on time’, make a daily ritual of not having your phone with you when you study to avoid distractions.  Remember it’s only for 20-30 minutes at a time, the ideal amount of time to focus on a task.


Try Try Again

You’ve probably heard the saying “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”, the same can be said about starting a new goal.  In the event that you slip up (and we all do) and your actions are not supportive of your goals, a little self-compassion is important.  Learn from what happened and start again tomorrow and don’t beat yourself up. Happy New Year!

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© 2020 Rita Hitching

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