Stop Setting Goals!

By Dennis Lawson
Published on Nov 20th, 2016

As we move into the holiday season, many of us are already thinking about those things we’d like to accomplish in 2017. I was once a big advocate for BAGS – Big Audacious Goal Setting. Many articles have appeared in this newsletter supporting the idea of setting long term goals. Whether suggested by me or other contributors, setting long term goals can help you focus your attention on your desired future. I was particularly aware of the importance of this when running a Marital Arts studio. It seemed that everyone who joined wanted to be a black belt. It was my job to aid students to be consistent; showing up for each class. We worked, each and every class, on building the skills, attributes, and especially, the attitudes, that the Martial Arts demands of everyone. Believe me, if I could have sold them a magic black belt pill, I’d be a wealthy man today.

It’s estimated that about 40% of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions. That’s 120,000,000 men, women, and children expressing their desires for a better future. Unfortunately, according to social research from the University of Scranton, only 8 percent of them will achieve their goals. Most New Year’s resolutions are abandoned within the first month.

One issue with setting goals “out there”

Goals set too far into the future are often unable to generate the motivation necessary to stimulate the actions, today, necessary to achieve them.

We now understand that all of us generate motivation in one of two ways – We are motivated toward a goal (something we find pleasurable) or we’re motivated away from something we find unappealing. As an example, working with smokers, the tobacco user may be motivated toward having the benefits of a healthier lifestyle or away from the possibilities of contracting cancer from their current lifestyle (smoking) choice. Whatever the direction of the motivation, real change demands certain “activation energy”. In chemistry, activation energy is the minimum energy required to start a chemical reaction. For life changes, it’s the minimum amount of motivation required to move from your comfort zone to taking that first step to achieve your goals. Most of us confuse this necessary triggering energy with willpower.

Activation energy is generated by our intention to change. Willpower is the encouraging mental energy necessary to fulfill that action. Often, those who fail to achieve their goals blame it on a lack of willpower. The myth is that willpower is in limited quantity and after that quantity is drained we slip back because our willpower is exhausted. In a study led by a Stanford psychologist, researchers found that subjects performed either better or worse on the tests depending on their belief in the durability of willpower. In short, if you believe you have more willpower, you will have all you need to achieve your goals. Try this – close your eyes and think of something you what to achieve. Now make that picture, feeling or sensation bigger, brighter, more real and alive. If you find you use away from motivation – make the image , sensation, or feeling smaller, moving it away from you to the size of a postage stamp.

This process of using your imagination to draw you toward or away from you goals will enhance your willpower, helping you stay on track. I'll have more on goal setting in our next newsletter.

Filed under Philosophy and Opinion

Author Bio :: Dennis Lawson

Dennis Lawson has trained for 4 decades in Ed Parker's Kenpo. During his varied career, Mr. Lawson has been an IKKA Regional Director for Region #3, has acted as Master of Ceremonies for the International Karate Championships, and has published numerous articles in publications for the International Kenpo Karate Association, The Martial Arts Learning Community (TheMALC), and Kenpo 2000.

Mr. Lawson has had the opportunity to study other Martial Arts and holds advanced rank in Aikido and Takemusu Aiki Budo. Dennis taught, competed in, and promoted events in the New Orleans area for 20 years. Among his list of favorite achievements is choreographing and performing Kenpo for the Dance Council of New Orleans. His academic background in psychology and love of music allow Dennis to offer a unique and entertaining approach to tailoring "the Art" to the individual. Dennis has taught seminars in Ireland, Jersey Channel Islands, The Netherlands, Portugal, and throughout the United States.

Dennis holds a Sixth Degree Black Belt in Ed Parker's Kenpo and was awarded the title “Professor” under the auspices of The Martial Arts Learning Community (TheMALC). Mr. Lawson was inducted into the International Black Belt Hall of Fame as Master Instructor of the Year for 2006.

Other Articles by Dennis Lawson

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