Marina Daif, RP (Qualifying) #11207 is a Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) at MyLife Counselling in Guelph. She works with couples and adults through relationships, anxiety, depression, addictions, grief & loss, self-esteem, self-criticism, and self-confidence issues. Learn more about Marina here.

How to Mindfully Achieve Your Goals

If you want to achieve your goals, try not to focus on your goals. That might sound counterintuitive, but there is a reasoning behind that approach. Typically, we are taught to envision where we want to be and focus on that destination. But what happens when we do not reach that destination as quickly as we had hoped? What happens when we do not achieve the desired outcome? We might start to criticize ourselves, doubt ourselves, or feel frustrated. In turn, this reduces our intrinsic motivation, and we may find ourselves giving up altogether. Even if we keep trying and failing, we may continue to negatively judge ourselves every time we fail to reach the desired outcome. Over time, this kind of mindset takes a toll on our self-efficacy and self-confidence.

If focusing on the goal is not the most effective way to achieve the goal, then what can we focus on instead? Focusing instead on our behaviours can help us cultivate healthy habits. When we develop healthy habits like restraint, grit, and consistency, we create a solid recipe for ourselves to succeed in life. When we shift our focus toward what we do every day, we develop self-awareness. We become mindful of what we are doing. Mindfulness increases our appreciation for what we do. Even when we have not yet reached our desired destination, we learn to enjoy the process because we see the value in the behaviours we engage in. We learn the importance of living every moment and making the most out of the journey we are on. In turn, this reduces the likelihood that we will get frustrated with ourselves when we do not achieve our goals as quickly as we would like to.

You Are Not Defined By Your Achievements

If you are results-oriented, not achieving your results may impact your self-esteem. For some of us, we sometimes go as far as define our self-worth by our accomplishments. Failing to accomplish what we want would then lead us to start developing a negative self-perception and label ourselves as “failures.” Mistakes are frowned upon even when we know that perfection does not exist.

Instead of maintaining the mindset that “we are what we achieve,” it is healthier and more sustainable to adopt the mindset that “we are what we do every day.”

When we understand the value of maintaining constructive behaviours and habits, making mistakes and failing will not stop us or reduce our motivation to keep trying. It is through perseverance and consistency that we ultimately become goal-achieving masters, even when it takes us a long time to get to where we want.

For instance, let’s say you want to lose 30 pounds and you plan to do so by eating healthy, controlling your calorie intake, and exercising regularly. You also expect yourself to lose that weight in a certain amount of time. If you fixate on the number of pounds you are losing, you risk becoming disappointed with yourself when you do not lose weight at the pace you were expecting or hoping for. If you check the scale every week hoping to see the numbers drop and they do not drop on a particular week, this can be discouraging. Consequently, you may end up giving up on yourself or questioning whether the effort you are putting in is worth it. Increased frustration leads to increased doubt, which may lead you to revert to unhealthy and unproductive behaviours such as skipping workouts or overeating. You stop seeing the value in the healthy behaviours and habits you have been trying to adopt because they are not getting you the results that you want as quickly as you had hoped.

Instead, if you stopped fixating on weight loss and started developing an appreciation towards healthy behaviours, it becomes less about getting to the finish line and more about embracing the journey you are on. This helps you develop and maintain the skills and habits that will equip you to successfully reach your goal.

Getting to The Top of the Mountain: Patience is a Virtue

Imagine you are standing at the bottom of a big mountain and all you want to do is get to the top and enjoy the beautiful view. News flash! You cannot get to the top of the mountain unless you climb it. Additionally, you will surely meet obstacles along the way and it will be up to you whether you want to perceive those obstacles as challenges designed to make you stronger. Otherwise, you can perceive those obstacles as an indication for you to quit and go back down.

Ultimately, your mindset is within your power. With an effective mindset, you understand that you will need to pace yourself and keep your expectations realistic. You also understand that struggling is an inevitable part of the process and being patient with yourself through your struggles will allow you to keep pushing.

As you climb the mountain, you also want to maintain focus on where you are in the present. Observe your immediate surroundings and be mindful of what you are doing with every step you take. However, imagine after some time has passed, you kept looking up and all you see is a very long way ahead of you. Let’s say you cannot even see the top of the mountain at all yet. This may lead you to dread the process of what you are currently doing because it does not seem like you are anywhere near the finish line. The more you look up and see the long way ahead of you, the more dreadful the process may begin to seem. You may also begin to lose sight of the value of what you are doing in the moment. Essentially, you lose patience with yourself and with the process and you begin to feel stressed, frustrated, and doubtful.

How Mindfulness Can Help You Unlock Your Potential

As mentioned earlier, mindfulness increases our appreciation for the things that we do. With mindfulness, even the most mundane tasks can become interesting. This is important to keep in mind as sometimes, we may have exciting goals that could involve seemingly tedious processes. Of course, the process is only as tedious as we perceive it to be. We might feel tediousness when we become disengaged or lose focus. When we are disengaged and lose focus, we not only detach from our goals, but we also miss out on maximizing our potential to develop and grow along the way.

However, even in a “worst case scenario” where we do not achieve a particular goal, maintaining mindfulness in what we do helps us to develop a successful attitude by appreciating the lessons we have learned along the way.

So, how do we practice mindfulness in our everyday life? Mindfulness is a very simple practice that involves bringing intentional awareness into everything that we do. This includes the tasks we might typically do while on autopilot such as brushing out teeth. How does mindfulness while brushing our teeth have anything to do with achieving big goals? It is about starting small and working our way up. If we can create a foundation of mindfulness by practising it in the little tasks that we do, we can then start to build on it by becoming mindful of bigger and more complex tasks. In turn, this can allow us to appreciate the complex processes involved in reaching our goals.

Intentional awareness involves bringing our five senses (i.e., sight, touch, smell, sound, and taste) to the forefront of what we are doing to stay grounded and present in the moment. Mindfulness has been proven to enhance focus and reduce distractibility. It also helps to increase positive emotions like compassion, calmness, and happiness while decreasing stress, anxiety, and depression.

A healthy mind means a healthy attitude, which heightens our chances of success. Goal achievement generally involves determination, discipline, and sometimes even distress tolerance. These are important qualities that can be improved by practicing mindfulness regularly.

Remember, rushing the outcome might not make it arrive any faster, but it will negatively impact the quality of your work. Since all we have is the present moment, we might as well make the most out of it. By making the most out of today, we pave our way toward the tomorrow that we want. In the end, meaningful success is measured by the journey that it takes to achieve the outcome.

Marina Daif, RP (Qualifying) #11207 is a Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) at MyLife Counselling in Guelph. She works with couples and adults through relationships, anxiety, depression, addictions, grief & loss, self-esteem, self-criticism, and self-confidence issues. Learn more about Marina here.

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