It’s that time of the year that we start setting our personal, business, and health goals. This is all good and dandy, except, along the way, we tend to falter- especially on our health goals.

I’m as good as anyone in letting some health goals go by the wayside. Some of you might remember that my 2018 new year’s resolution was to savour as many mindful moments as possible. When reviewing my list of 54, I savoured 37 – that’s 74%. Good effort.

There’s a little voice in my head though that says – “well, you could have done better”. Yes indeed I could have. But, what’s important is not about how perfectly we achieve our goals, but rather, it’s that we make a serious effort to keep moving ourselves forward.

We need to ask: What have we learnt about ourselves and our experiences along the way? And how can we use that information to continue creating change?

I, like many others, am mediocre at slowing down and really enjoying the daily presence of life. In 2018, I discovered that the key is to focus on what you want to savour. Unless we focus we tend not to bother.

Reticular Activating System (RAS)

When we focus, the reticular activating system (RAS) in the brainstem gets switched on. Its purpose is to filter incoming information into what’s a keeper vs. what’s trash. This happens mostly instantaneously so we don’t have to think about it. Essentially, it uses our beliefs and internal filters as a guide to determine what’s important and what’s not. So, the RAS influences what we focus on and therefore impacts our behaviours and actions.

For example, if we believe that exercise is energising, then we will intently focus on achieving our exercise goals.  Conversely, if we believe that exercise is effortful, then we will detract and defocus from engaging in effortful activities.  Sound familiar?

As an aside, this is what The Law of Attraction is about. Despite how amazingly complex, fantabulous, and mysterious our brain is, the things we attract is probably not as mystical as we once thought [1]. Science tells us that what we focus on, our RAS will seek it out for us; negativity attracts derogative experiences, positivity attracts pleasing experiences.

In a way, the RAS listens to what our conscious mind is saying and then informs the unconscious mind what it’s heard [2]. In doing so, our intention about a goal is set and the RAS directs its attention to moving towards it. Setting the goal as an intention rather than a ‘want’ or ‘hope’ or ‘plan’, allows the unconscious and conscious minds to work together as a team about what’s expected. This tells the RAS to stay focused as change is inevitable. WOW!! I’m impressed. I’ve shared on the BWC Facebook page a cute YouTube clip [3] that explains how the RAS works for and against us.

Now, what can we do about harnessing our RAS so it works for us rather than sabotaging the goals we intend to achieve?

The simple answer is: Write down your goals, desires, wishes, wants, objectives, and dreams with intention.

That is, I intend to … or I’m determined to … or I expect to ….

Get a Dream Journal (something fancy or an exercise book will do) and write goals down throughout the year – write, write, write, and write, even if you don’t do anything with them straight away. Go all out, even those goals you are afraid of putting down on paper – no one but you will know. Research tells us that if we journal or write things down our focus attends more effectively.

Visualise and write down what outcome you expect, i.e. the end result.

What do you see? Who else is there? What’s happening? What are you hearing? How do you feel when you have achieved it?

Write down in point form all the relevant actions that you need to take along the journey to achieving the goal. Note I say journey; most goals need time to mature. We are sometimes too impatient and give up if we don’t achieve the goals quickly. Living in an instant gratification society doesn’t help. Take your time working through each action because along the journey more actions might be required to keep moving you forward.

As a psychologist, I know that achieving our most desired goals is not that easy for some. In this instance, the RAS needs to be trained to focus more intently on the goal you want. So, I have placed on the BWC Facebook page a list of 10 steps that I usually work with clients on to help move them forward. There’s also an example goal using this method. Have a look.

In any event if you need help with setting goals, identifying them in the first place, working through any of the steps, or deactivating the barriers to change, call the Clinic to make an appointment.  If your goals include getting a regular massage, seeing a naturopath, getting a Neuropsych assessment, doing meditation, or counselling for other reasons, call me and I will direct you to the best of the BWC therapists.

Staying Focused= Results

Van Schneider, T.  (2017)  If you want it, you might get it. The Reticular Activating System Explained.  > Article

Hallbom, K. & Hallbom, T.  Exploring the Neuroscience and Magic Behind Setting Your Intent – And Creating an Optimal Future for Yourself.  > Article

HappiMe App. (2013)  > YouTube clip on Reticular Activating System