A very good way of getting your mind to go deeper than usual into a problem or question is to keep coming back to it regularly over a period of time. I made extensive use of this in my book “How to Make Your Dreams Come True” (sadly now out of print). The distinguished psychologist Nathaniel Branden also used it in his Sentence Completion Programs. He recommends completing a sentence like “To me, self-responsibility means…” every day for a week with six to ten answers, without consulting what was written on previous days. At the end of the week, the answers for each day are reviewed. Usually the answers at the end of the week differ quite considerably from the answers at the beginning of the week.
We can use a similar technique to tackle the problem of goals. The problem of goals? I thought that we were always being told that we should have clear goals - goals are definitely seen as a good thing in the self-improvement world.
Yet goals can be a problem. For a start, a lot of goals are externally imposed, whether it’s by our boss or our friends or our loved ones. Mind you, they aren’t anything like as bad as the ones which we impose on ourselves. Only too often, people give themselves “exciting goals” and then give up after a burst of enthusiasm because the goal has become a burden rather than a joy. If you give yourself a goal like earning £1,000,000, it can wreak havoc in your life - especially if you haven’t really thought out why you want to earn £1,000,000.
Here’s the exercise. Start by writing out ten completions to the sentence “Something I really want out of life is…” Don’t censor yourself, and go for the full ten and no more. The next day, without looking at your previous list, do the exercise again. Repeat this for a full week and then look at the results. Is each day’s list much the same, or are they different? How much does the last day overlap with the first? Can you identify any progression in your thoughts?
You might want to keep this exercise going for longer than a week. It’s good to keep doing it until the answers settle down. Then switch to repeating the exercise once a week. That way you can keep in touch with what you really do want out of life.