Sustainable, Lasting, and Life-Giving Goals Are:
- Rooted in your core calling
- Organically growing out of your context
- Outlined for clarity
- Tailored to your lifestyle
- Etched into your memory
- Developed by Providence
Last week, we talked about how to create a symbiotic relationship between your goals and your lifestyle so they mutually support each other over the long-haul. This week we’re going to talk about the secret sauce for making progress on your important goals— even when things change. When you train your brain to care about your goals, your subconscious joins the team and starts looking for every reasonable opportunity for you to make progress.
We call this “etching” your goals into your memory, and it’s step 5 in the ROOTED goals process.
Why People Don’t Accomplish Their Goals
92% of people don’t accomplish their New Years Resolutions. The world gets super pumped about goal-setting on New Years day, vows flying left and right that we’ll cut refined sugar, increase our incomes, or start reading to our kids every day. But then, around January 17th (which has been officially dubbed as ‘Ditch Your Resolution Day’), goals begin dropping like flies.
Why is this?
Life picks up steam, the obstacles start mounting, and the habits start slipping. After a few days of falling off the bandwagon, many people honestly just begin to question why their goals mattered to them so much in the first place. And after a few weeks of lapsing, their goals are left in the dust of the first quarter, forgotten.
You don’t want this, and we don’t want this for you. But it will happen, if you don’t begin etching your goals into your memory so that daily, sustainable progress becomes easy.
This is because your brain is a prioritization machine. It takes what you focus on and think about, and deems those things as important. And then it starts screening out everything else as not-quite-as-important. So whatever you’re paying attention to—whether it’s your kids, the leak in the basement, your boss’s mood swings, every random notification on your phone, the news stations, or your goals—that’s what your brain is going to prioritize as important.
The good news is that we have a lot of control over what we choose to pay attention to.
Write It Down—With Pen and Paper
By imagining your goal, and then putting in the cognitive effort to describe it in written format, you experience what’s called the “generation effect”—a double-processing effort that helps to deeply etch your goal into your memory.
Vividly is an important word as well. You want your goal to be so clearly fleshed out that you could show it to someone else and they would understand what you want to do and how you aim to get there. Think pictures, timeframes, sketches—something you can fully imagine yourself jumping into.
The mental exercise of expounding on your goals and processing through details as you reverse-engineer them (we covered reverse-engineering in step 3 of the ROOTED goals process) creates an obvious pathway that your brain can utilize and begin building networks around.
The cognitive processes for writing by hand versus typing are different, and the handwriting processes engage your brain at a deeper level. The slowness of writing by hand is actually a positive thing, inviting your brain to really digest, comprehend, and retain what you’re writing about.
This same principle applies to the phase of time where you are following through on your goals. You need to be developing your goals, by hand, throughout the entire time that you’re working to accomplish them. This brain-to-hand processing habit will help you continue to remind your brain that this goal matters to you, and that it should be prioritized. It also gives your brain time to get ahold of the details you’re outlining, see how everything interacts in your life, and constantly scan the horizon for opportunities for you to take specific steps forward on your objectives.
Somewhere You’ll See It Consistently
The out-of-sight-out-of-mind adage fully applies to your goals.
Writing down your goals by hand is powerful—but keeping your goals somewhere you’ll see them regularly will add the benefits of having a regular visual cue that will launch your goal back to the forefront of your mind.
The more you trigger the memory of your goal, and ruminate over what this goal means for your life, the more your goal for the future will feel relevant to the choices you make today.
Here’s where to your goals strategically to ensure that you see them daily and in the context of your real life schedules:
- the first pages of the Annual
- next to your month calendar in the Annual
- next to your week grid in the Monthly
- just above the habit tracker in the Monthly
Galvanize Your Goals in 90 Seconds a Day
We modern women lead very full lives. We need simple habits that help us stay focused on what matters most. If writing your goals down by hand and then looking at them every day is proven to increase your chances follow-through, then what would a habit of writing them down by hand every day and then remembering your deep-seated “why” for each one do for you?
I (Shelby) tested this habit out for several months and found that it cultivated in me a sharp awareness of whether or not my daily lifestyle decisions were aligning with my ultimate goals. Taking time to write down why each goal mattered to me forced me to consistently grapple with reality: either I needed to intentionally pivot on my goals, or I needed to adjust my lifestyle until it fueled my priorities.
I’ve been writing my three quarterly goals in my planner every day for years now. I am regularly challenged to come at them from new and different angles that connect with the other details of my life at that point. And it’s changed everything. I’m no longer a stereotypical flighty Visionary, with a lot of hollow passion and a bad case of shiny-object syndrome mixed with FOMO. I’m still a Visionary—I always will be—but now I’m focused on the long-game. I’m able to stick to following through on my goals. And this has been made possible by a single 90 second daily habit that has trained my brain to deem my goals as essential.
This exercise has powerfully shaped my lifestyle in incredibly meaningful directions. It has been so powerful that we reformatted the Monthly to include it in the daily pages for all of you—just days before we sent it off to be manufactured. Each daily page of our planner has a space for you to write down your top “seasonal goals” and remember your “why” for each one.
By completing this daily exercise, you’re leveraging the power of your God-given neuroplasticity. Handwriting your goals in the Evergreen Planner builds new neural pathways every single day, literally building up your brain—and cultivating a robust and dynamic working memory—around the things that matter most to you.