ARTICLES • 18-10-2012

Welcome to this new Chapter III - Goals & Direction!
Up until now, we've basically approached a couple of central ideas: 1.Focus and 2.Action-oriented. In the first one we've looked into the typical consequences of an over stimulated and interrupted context, in terms of our mental resources, and what are the main strategies to improve their efficient use. In the second chapter, we've seen how an action-oriented approach makes it easier to assure progress towards a goal, emphasizing the importance of decisions in building the path to get there.

Both these topics offer excellent tips and tricks to enhance our ability to achieve whatever we want to see accomplished. The question now is: what's that? What do we want to see accomplished? What, among so many options? And do we really know how "accomplished" looks like? Are we sure to be heading there?

Along with the previous two chapters, Goals&Direction is the third and final vertice completing the Productivity Fundamentals triangle.

Have a good day!

Have you ever thought of what is it that makes a "good day"? What needs to happen during a day so in the end you can call it "good"? Is it that you had the company of your loved ones? The sun shone in the sky? Maybe you were relaxed and comfortable? Received some good news? Learned or experienced something new? Enjoyed some nice movie or good food? Had a super conversation with your kid? Helped contributing to something bigger? Made someone happy?

What about a good day at work? Could it mean you were really productive? Checked many items from your to-do list? Closed a big deal you've been working on for months? Your boss was in a good mood? The team meeting went as expected? The project is at an exciting moment? The investment was approved? You were recognized and congratulated? What could it be?

Now pause a moment and think of today: how's your day going? Good? What's making it good? Do you believe it can still get better? Imagine your day was about to get better, maybe even great! Of course you wouldn't know already, but something was about to turn it into a great day. What is it that might happen in the next few hours that would really make the difference? What is it that could still happen, so that later, just when you were about to fall asleep, you could think back and say: "What a great day!!!" ? And what exactly could you be doing right now, or have done in the past, that would contribute to that? Do you feel you're heading in the right direction now to create the possibility of having a really good day? What else could be done?... 

"Begin with the end in Mind"

The concept is not new. Stephen Covey made it famous as the first of his 7 habits: "Begin with the end in mind". As the first step of his book, he leads you to see yourself at your own funeral, so you could get clear about what you wanted to have happened during your life. But many others - before and after him - claimed some form of this process to be mandatory in the achievement arena: visualizing the desired state! And the mechanism is the same whether your visualizing your goals for your entire life, or simply this year ones. Whether your projecting the scenario of a productive day, or simply this afternoon's successful meeting with a client. The same idea is valid in all: you just have to picture it! Design it in your mind! Remember it as if it had already happened... Of course sports are overloaded with examples of this. And arts also. It seems that, whenever excellence is the theme, the mechanism of vividly visualizing success is behind it.


Of course you can explain it with more of a stratospheric approach like "The Secret", or read a bit on basic Cognitive Neuroscience. You may be interested in learning for instance how our Reticular Activation System influences so much our filtered attention: in fact, your brain will be looking for whatever is active on your mind. A pregnant woman always sees a lot of pregnant women and I bet you had never seen so many cars of that model you are about to buy! Ain't that a coincidence? Just in case, you'd better keep positive things going on in your mind's movie projector! And why is it that when you are riding a bike you shouldn't stare at the obstacles (or you'll hit one!)? Yes, there's a clear relation between what you focus on and the subconscious management of your very fast and precise movements, being sports the most classical example of that. What do you think is on Cristiano Ronaldo's mind when he is kicking a penalty? Of course: the ball hitting the net of the goal! And if he thinks too much on other things, like the stadium, his fans, how good a player he is, it won't be good. Specially if he starts thinking that it would be really really bad if he would miss. For in that case, missing may become the active visualization by the time he kicks the ball... and is not black magic's fault!

Fear, Focus and Projecting what we want

Fear has a good intention. I'm worried with the bad consequences of a possibility, and I'd like to know in advance what I want to avoid, or even prepare myself for that possibility. Up to a certain point, this is clearly good and protective. After that certain point, fear mechanism may be responsible for failure, if it activates too much of the bad scenarios. Preparing for the worse is ok, but you must regain focus on what you want, and make sure that's what's most being projected on your mind.

Introducing the Paradox of Choice

Because choosing a single desired scenario is so many times saying "no" to other good options, we may lack of a single choice to put our focus on. Put simply, if you don't take the trouble to clear what is it that you are trying to achieve, among all the options, you are not making the most to get it. And this will be required for something as simple as having a good day, or as complex as having a good life...

On my next article, I'll be covering with a bit more detail this Paradox of Choice and its importance to enhance our achievement power.

Until then, try a TRICK!...

Gonçalo Gil Mata


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1 comment
Liliana Sanches
You won't really understand the reach of visualizing desired scenarios unless you try it! It's pretty close to magic, of course with a perfectly scientific explanation! The matter of fact is that it works and its on everyones reach to use so what are you waiting for? It may take a little practice to "unrust" the brain but keep trying until you get it! Every scenario as a bright positive side, why don't you focus on that for a change?
in 2012-10-19 10:00:54
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