Goals. Smart is old.

I did a lot of interviews over the course of my 5-year+ podcasting journey. Lately, with a lot of nomadic entrepreneurs, who managed to build great businesses and personal brands while on the road.

Some of my favorite ones (still in production on “Fit-and-Focused for Remote Work and Digital Nomads” podcast) are with Michael Swigunski — MBA, Bal Sieber, Chris Reynolds. These folks managed to build and grow businesses, to run a lot of side projects and initiatives, and live quite an adventurous life. They seem to do and have it all — have all the fun without loss of business focus, without overwhelm, lack of energy, keeping their health and fitness in top condition.

How do they do it? How did all of my entrepreneur clients do it, having to wear so many hats? How do I do it? Building a new niche in my business, working on nomadic side projects, getting another coaching certification, having moved to another country, learning a new language, never skipping my gym workouts?

After reading a book by Emily Balcetis, a neuroscientist who studies motivation and goal-achieving — I started to see obvious patterns. This is how ALL of us achieve many goals (specifically long-term). This is also why we fail to achieve other goals.

Book to check out: “Clearer, closer, better. How successful people see the world” by Emily Balcetis.

As I learned, goal-achieving and long-term motivation to pursue hard goals have a lot to do with our vision. How we look at things metaphorically and quite literally impacts what actions we take, how we take those actions, and for how long we can stick with those actions to achieve goals.

NARROW FOCUS

When the goal is big and far away, it’s best to focus on the next step only.

Elite marathoners use the same strategy to hit their record time as entrepreneurs use to build long-standing businesses.

When we have a big and long-reaching goal in mind, what serves us well, just like it serves elite runners and entrepreneurs, is focusing ONLY on delivering the best performance on the next milestone.

Like getting ahead (or keeping up with) the one person running right in front of us. Like getting the next 10 sales in our coaching business. This is the same as breaking down your weight loss goal (I was in weight loss coaching for 10 years) in smaller weekly increments. This is the same as breaking down a 5-year vision into yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily goals.

NEUROSCIENCE OF ACTION

When your brain “knows” that the reward is close (we know this from mice studies) — dopamine is released, you get more motivation, you get an energy boost to help you get the reward faster. This big dopamine boost doesn’t happen if you focus on the reward 5 years or even a month in the future. Too daunting, too hard, too uncertain — your brain starts to “save” resources instead, maybe even making you lazy now, since the reward is so far ahead, and so fuzzy, and so not guaranteed. Survival now is prioritized. After all, the brain’s main purpose is to manage energy to keep you alive today.

TO DO NOW

If find yourself quitting your long-term goals often, and it’s hard for you to work on your 10-year business plan, or a year-long weight loss journey — start breaking the goal down into weekly and daily “wins” to have energy, motivation and enthusiasm to do the hard actions every day. And don’t forget to celebrate, to acknowledge the work, the days of effort put-in to boost your dopamine, your goal-pursuit molecule and to have energy to keep going.

WIDE BRACKETS

When you often lose excitement for daily, mundane tasks that lead to a bright, exciting future — focus on the future, not on today.

Every entrepreneur will tell that in each business journey you will hit those days often, when it all feels boring, meaningless, dead-end-like. “You are wasting your time, and nothing is moving anywhere. What’s it all for? Should I just quit? It’s not moving fast enough! Too hard!” — you might hear in your head from time to time.

When you are in the process of building something, like a multimillion-dollar coaching practice from scratch — you gonna have a lot of those days in the middle of the journey, when you’ll be working while not making a lot of significant progress, it seems. Maybe even wasting your life!

That’s when it’s very important to have developed a skill of changing the width of your mental gaze, applying what Emily Balcetis calls “wide brackets” (Looking into a faraway horizon has this effect as well. This is why looking down from a mountain top or a tall building helps you to see a bigger picture of your life and business. It helps you to get perspective literally and metaphorically. Have you noticed this?)

Stretch your mind, look at the bigger picture, and realize that these cold calls that feel so meaningless are a part of the process of building a vision, part of the process of helping more people, of changing the world for the better.

NEUROSCIENCE OF ACTION

In the book “Man’s Search For Meaning” Viktor Frankl makes a very powerful observation. The difference between people who survive the harshest conditions in Nazi death camps for the longest period of time, people who stay resilient and keep going, people who have “unlimited strength” it seems, and people who die there of exhaustion — the difference is very simple. Resilient people learned to disconnect from now, looking at the bigger picture, which helps them to manage stress, to boost cellular mechanisms to survive and get stronger from stress instead of being killed by it.

When your brain believes the pursuit is pointless, it’s all for nothing, it’s hopeless — you get no energy, no resources, you basically start dying. Hope and the bigger picture, wide brackets, as it turns out, are the drivers of long-term motivation and perseverance in the harshest, most mundane life and business conditions.

TO DO NOW

When eating your broccoli and spinach instead of potato chips becomes quite unexciting — open up your mind’s eye, and realize how amazing it’s gonna feel to enjoy in the near future your vital, fit, capable body, loving every moment of your health and fitness — all the results of the mundane act of eating simple foods. How different and radiant your life will be then? How much confidence will pour into every moment of your life, your business, your career, your relationships? I bet broccoli tastes better already.

FRAMING

There are many ways to look at things, to define things. What serves your goal? The skill of looking at things differently.

What do you see? Duck or rabbit?

When Thomas Edison was asked how he was not discouraged by thousands of failed attempts to build his electric bulb, he famously said “I have not failed. I’ve just found ten thousand ways that won’t work.”

Edison saw his “failures” as a learning process, as a part of his path to success. That’s why he never stopped pursuing the solution.

When I don’t get YES! to my brain master program from some company — I don’t think I failed, instead — I get curious, I ask questions, I adjust. I see every NO as a stepping stone to YES. I see my “failures” as a part of my success. I CHOOSE to frame my failures as the reasons for my eventual successes.

And that’s how athletes come back after major setbacks in their careers. That’s how entrepreneurs build their businesses back and better after bankruptcy.

That’s how Elon Musk kept launching his rockets till they flew.

That’s exactly why some people don’t quit and some people do.

It’s all in how you look at things. It’s all in the frame of mind.

NEUROSCIENCE IN ACTION

To be constantly motivated, we need to constantly believe that reward is coming (to get that dopamine boost, that energy for action). That’s how we get all the brain chemicals of energy released, helping us to take the next step. When we start believing that we failed, and the reward isn’t coming — we lose the physical and mental energy needed to pursue. You close your energy and motivation taps and end up sitting on the couch, watching Netflix, and eating, instead of putting another workout in to build those six-pack abs and sexy butt.

TO DO NOW

What’s the vision you want to build? What’s the goal that you don’t want to quit on? What life are you not ready to give up?

The next time you get a “setback”, teach yourself to think of it as a learning curve — you just got closer to getting better. Learn from it, and take the next step. Better.

Neuroscience research shows that the best way for the brain to learn, to improve, to open up neuroplasticity of change is to experience failure, to make mistakes. Your brain naturally wants to learn to get better and to get that reward to survive and thrive — let it! Shut down the negative talk that has no useful purpose when you are serious about the goal.

MATERIALIZING

Forgetfulness is normal. New goals require some redecoration.

Any time my parents get to help me with my luggage, they are surprised it’s so heavy — “What are you carrying there, books?” In our digital era, it’s almost a crime for a digital nomad to have heavy bags.

To answer the question, “Notebooks more precisely”, and all kinds of trinkets to remind me of my goals and visions.

As a digital nomad, I don’t have the luxury to carry a lot of stuff around, but I keep carrying my notebooks with me across the globe because they carry the thoughts, the visions, the energy of what I’m building. They help me to re-focus in a new destination. They help me to remember. Digital notes don’t do that for me.

I haven’t met or talked to a single entrepreneur, I haven’t had a single client who didn’t put visual reminders in their environment to keep going after long-term goals, to achieve long-term goals. It’s like we put the mind into a box of the new reality we are building. We “tell” our brain — these are the important things to focus on, to work on, to get the ideas on. In my experience as a coach, people who have no such things have a much harder time achieving long-term goals. They just forget to do things necessary to succeed.

NEUROSCIENCE IN ACTION

The brain has to do with so much information and data processing every day! It’s overwhelming! The brain has a limited capacity to deal with life, with goals, with all the to-dos and to-think-ofs. New behaviors are the hardest. They need your conscious awareness and more resources to manage than habitual things. The circuits for new behaviors aren’t built yet and long-term goals need many new actions, many different projects, many different routines. There’s not enough capacity of your brain to keep track of all of that! You naturally forget. Things slip your mind. You lose progress. You lose momentum.

The only way to keep things fresh in your mind and easy to do consistently, using a natural tendency of your brain to focus on what’s readily available and visible (the path of least resistance and energy preservation)the only way is to organize your physical environment, your visual environment to help you not forget and to make easy the doing part.

TO DO NOW

Put the stuff that you want to do, you want to remember, you want to focus on in your environment. Decorate with quotes, with pictures (Time for the vision board?). Make things to take desired actions readily available, and the rest of the stuff hard, invisible, unavailable. Use visual reminders to track progress, to mark the milestones passed — it’ll help to focus, to frame your mind on the progress instead of failed attempts. It’ll remind you why you started when things get hard.

As you can see, materializing has many important aspects to it, it serves many important purposes.

And that’s why I carry all these bulky and not-so-digital and modern notebooks. That’s why a lot of entrepreneurs prefer to “physically” track their progress, and organize their living and working spaces with visual reminders of their goals, their visions of the future.

A few ideas to support your goals, and actions you need to take with your environment that I borrowed from friends and clients:

  • Put your goals in writing and put them on your walls;
  • Do the vision board of your life in 5 years;
  • Buy a paper calendar and put a checkmark on every day you take the desired action;
  • Put only healthy food in your fridge;
  • Put your workout mat in the middle of your living room to do a few burpees every time you walk over it (I still have it);

All of this works for the busy, overwhelmed with life and information brain.

THE CONCLUSION

As you can see (no pun intended), what you see, how you look at things, how narrow or wide your focus is — it all matters.

The magic happens when you start to use these tools strategically and consistently to serve your goals and different projects in life. Personal hobbies, professional projects, and even romantic relationships will benefit from skilled usage of these concepts.

The hardest part is as usual — practice. What I found works the best for all the people I worked with — find the projects, where you’ve been stuck, or when you gave up often previously, and think of the ways that each tool can help you to do a better job at making progress now.

  • Do you need to narrow-focus on one step at a time to not get overwhelmed by the complexity and length, by the difficulty of a bigger vision?
  • Do you need to look at a bigger picture of your project with a wider bracket to frame it to find renewed excitement, energy and motivation for the mundane, daily broccoli eating to build the body of your dreams?
  • Do you need to frame setbacks and slip-ups of your eating or fitness routine as a part of your success journey, as lessons to learn from and do things better next time?
  • Do you need to start materializing your future through vision boards and writing your goals down in a cool journal? Or by getting some home weights to put in the middle of your living room to start exercising, building that fit version of self now?

This is what a winner in you would do. That’s what we ALL do when we win. That’s what we ALL don’t do when we fail. Our brains are very similar in the way they build success and failures.

(For the record, SMART goals are great for goals’ design, not so great for goals’ achievement.)

NEXT STEPS:

▶️If you want me to walk you through one of the skills you just read about, or all of them applied to your specific goal — book your free call with me HERE.

▶️If you want to master ALL of the skills and features of your “winning brain” to make progress in life and business much faster — check out our 12-week Brain Mastery Academy that starts shortly and limited to only 10 achievers.

▶️And in any case — stay subscribed to never miss a brain upgrading tool as the research comes out from neuroscience labs.

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Angela Shurina

Angela Shurina

Brain Coach for Techies. 🧠𝐁𝐫𝐚𝐢𝐧 𝐓𝐫𝐚𝐢𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠: 𝐅𝐨𝐜𝐮𝐬, 𝐌𝐨𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧, 𝐏𝐫𝐨𝐜𝐫𝐚𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧. https://tinyurl.com/brainupgrades