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Six Simple Questions That Will Change How You Set Goals

Written by: Ajabeyang Amin, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Behavior change can often feel fruitless. Mostly because lasting change begins with a heart and mind transformation. It means recognizing something about ourselves and choosing to do something different. It doesn’t help that we are influenced by a lot more than is visible, our upbringing, families, genetics, environment, cultures, and experiences. We have deeply rooted ideologies that we are unable to decipher through logic. Therefore, asking someone to change can be likened to asking them to uproot a baobab tree and then grow one again. This is no easy feat. In fact, it is so excruciating that most of us give up on ourselves or on others before the change happens.

Nevertheless, change is possible. People adjust every day. If that weren’t the case, many of us would be out of jobs. In her iconic book, “Switch on your brain,” cognitive neuroscientist, Dr. Caroline Leaf describes her process of restructuring your brain to attain transformation from the inside out. One thing she expresses is that it takes us an average of 21 days to create a habit. But it takes much longer to maintain that habit till it becomes a part of us.

As the year ends and a new year begins, many of us set intentions, resolutions, or goals. We silently say to ourselves, “Next year, I will change and this is how…” We can very well set these intentions and goals, but it is essential to have a plan to help you achieve them. So, here are 6 questions to get you on a more effective plan as you set those goals:

  1. What do I want to develop? Focus on what you want rather than what you don’t want. For example, rather than saying, “I need to stop going to bed late,” be clear on the time you want to be in bed, “I am in bed by 9:30pm.” Your brain believes whatever it hears more frequently, which is why saying affirmations are effective toward behavior change. Saying what you want increases the likelihood of finding solutions to achieve that goal and begins the rewiring process in your brain.

  2. Why is this important to me? It can be easy to give up if you are not convinced that the intention or goal is important. Part of what increases motivation is recognizing the significance of the endeavor. Why is this change important to you? What will it bring to your life that you don’t already have? What would it mean for you when you accomplish this? What will be lost if you don’t achieve it?

  3. What will get in my way? Identify your challenges. Let’s face it, we all have obstacles to the goals we set for ourselves. One way to overcome them is identifying what they are. Anticipate what will make it difficult for you to accomplish your goal. Write out a list. You may not notice some of them until you are in the thick of it, but at least you would have prepared for what you could envision.

  4. What will help me to keep going? On the flip side of challenges are the motivators. What will keep you going even when things get hard? Would it be beneficial to have an accountability partner? Would it help to go public? Think of at least 3 items that would motivate you and write them down.

  5. What is my recovery plan? Nobody does anything perfectly. This is part of what makes us human. How will you get back on track when you miss days or weeks of not doing what you had planned? Don’t beat yourself up and don’t give up. Acknowledge it and decide to start again. Think of your recovery plan as a time when you review your answers to the first four questions. What do you want to develop? Why is it important to you? What has gotten in your way and what can you do about it? What will keep you motivated? Maybe your responses would have shifted. Write out any new answers you have.

  6. How do I know when I’m doing too much and need to change my plan? Sometimes we have overly ambitious goals. You might discover that your plan was too lofty for you. This doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you, it just gives you more information about how you work best. Not everyone can get up at 5 am in the morning and function adequately and not everyone should. It’s okay for you to change course because it is not working for you. If you notice that the habit you are trying to develop is working counter to your natural rhythm, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate. For example, if your goal is to get up at 6 am every day and you realize that you don’t feel rested after doing this for a week, adjust! Maybe try 7 am and see if that makes a difference. You will function a lot better when you listen to your body.

Remember building something new takes time. Be patient with yourself! Real life happens in the journey and not in the destination. Therefore, enjoy the journey!

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Ajabeyang Amin, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Dr. Ajabeyang Amin is a psychologist, Christian counselor, and blogger. She founded the blog, African Mind Healer where she writes on mental health, culture, and faith. She is dedicated to helping people heal from their traumas, get unstuck from their past, blossom to authenticity, and do the things they are called to do. She has helped multiple individuals and couples work through various life challenges. She is inspired by her faith, her clients, her experiences living in multiple countries (Cameroon, Senegal, Ghana, France, El-Salvador) and 5 U.S. states, and by being a highly sensitive person. She holds a PsyD in counseling psychology from Northwest University, an MPH from University of Michigan, and a BS from Penn State University. As you read her writing, her unique background and perspective might just inspire you to take a pause and think about your life.



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