Why goal setting works

Numerous studies confirm the efficacy of goal setting. Those who set specific goals out-earn, out-perform, and out-achieve those who don’t. But why?

Well, part of the answer lies in our physiology.

Goal setting helps us determine precisely what we want and that clarity makes us dramatically more alert to elements in our environment that can assist us.

Each of us has a group of cells at the base of the brain called the reticular activating system, or RAS. This network of cells acts as a filter to keep out unnecessary stimuli. Without this filter, we would be unable to function. The constant bombardment of sensory stimuli that surrounds us would quickly overload us.

If you have ever had an ant crawl up your leg, you have felt your RAS in action. Flicking the ant off your leg triggers the RAS, causing your nervous system to be on the alert for more of the same kind of itchy feelings. Your nervous system then allows in far more stimuli than it ordinarily would. Now more sensitized, you may feel like there are swarms of ants crawling on you.

The RAS appears to admit two key types of information: that of immediate value and that which is a threat. When we define specifically what we want, our goals, we “turn on” our RAS to be on the alert for elements that can assist us in moving towards those goals.

Information that was always available to us suddenly has value, and we notice it as if it were brand new.

When you buy a new car, all of a sudden you see the same model and color “everywhere”. The same number of cars were always there, however, but because your RAS has been triggered, you have become more aware of them.

Decide what you want (not what you don’t want). Write it down in the form of a goal. Create a clear vision in your mind’s eye of that goal; the more vivid the vision, the more powerfully your RAS will function.

And that’s why goal setting works.

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