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The Questions to Ask Yourself When Thinking About Change

Studio 5 Relationship Coach Matt Townsend helps you take an internal inventory, sharing the four-question approach to help make change easier and more successful.

“For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil,
there is one striking at the root.”
– Henry David Thoreau

There is nothing more constant in our life than change, and yet for something that is so common to us, why do so many changes seem so impossible to accomplish? In my years of coaching individuals to make and keep goals I have found one obstacle that is at the root of all of our failed attempts, that obstacle is our own thinking.

One reason why our thoughts can be such an obstacle in accomplishing our goals is because some times our brain can be have two competing goals operating simultaneously. For example a couple can set a goal to want to talk out their problems while one partner has an unspoken goal of not wanting to be hurt emotionally by their partner. In the end, the stated goal to “talk out our problems” and the unstated goal to “not be hurt” might end up competing with each other which usually ends with us choosing one goal over another. In this case it might be that the partner opts to “not be hurt” and pulls away from the conversation before the “talk” can even get started. Competing goals are at the root of most of our failed or broken goals. The problem with competing goals is we don’t even know they exist, because one goal is usually obvious and stated, while the other goal is not so obvious and not stated overtly.

Here’s another example of competing goals. Let’s say you make a commitment to go to the gym five nights a week and lose 15 pounds before the Christmas holiday. You tell all of your friends and everyone now knows that you have set a goal to be healthy. Instead of going to the gym at night with your friends and working out, you try to just eat healthier and drinks lots of water to lose the weight. When people call you to go work out, you make up excuses for why you can’t go because of your schedule or you find yourself sneaking a short walk in the day or you park your car in the back of the parking lot at the store. In the end you didn’t go to the gym 5 nights a week and you only lost 5 pounds instead of 15. So what was the big deal? What cause the change of heart and change of goals?

In order to overcome these depressing competing goals you have to track down the root thoughts and assumptions that keep derailing your success. The following are four introspective questions that will help you identify the competing goals in your life and challenges that will help you to start building solutions on how to overcome those misguided assumptions.

1.) THE STATED GOAL – What is one thing that if you did it consistently and effectively is would positively impact your life? This should be your goal.

Challenge: Write down your goal in definable terms.

2.) THE COUNTERFEIT RESULTS – What are you doing or not doing that keeps you from achieving the goal that you know is important?

Challenge: Identify your distraction.

3.) THE COMPETING GOAL – What deeper fears, beliefs, or less flattering assumptions are you making that drive you to keep producing the counterfeits to your stated goals?

Challenge: Probe within and discover deeper reasons and assumptions that encourage you to chase a different goal. You can frame it like this: “I assume that if _____________ happens then ___________will happen.”

4.) CHALLENGING YOUR COMPETING GOAL – What are the most important things you can do today (understanding your competing concerns) to still live and accomplish the stated goal you set?

Challenge: Now that you understand your competing concerns, find a way to alter your goal so that you can still accomplish the stated goal and not just throw it way. Test your assumptions, push yourself and find a way to do both.

Here’s a quick run down of how the earlier scenario would play out if we ran it through the 4 questions.

1. The Stated Goal
– Go to the gym 5 nights a week and lose 15 pounds.

2. Counterfeit Results
– Eating healthier, drink more water, sneak walks in your day, and park the car farther away at stores.

3. The Competing Goal
– “I don’t want to look bad”

• I feel stupid because I don’t know how to use    equipment.
• I look ugly because I don’t have cute clothes to    wear to work out.
• I look fat when I work out.
• I don’t feel good about myself and don’t want    others to see me looking bad.

4. Challenging Your Competing Goal-

• I need to go to work out for me and not worry    about how others might think about me.

• By me going to the gym and losing weight I will feel    better about myself.

• I need to look for work out clothes that I’m    comfortable and cute in.
• I need to go to the gym when fewer people are    there.
• I need to grow my sense self esteem.

For more relationship advice, attend date night with Matt Townsend:

“The 7 Basic Needs of Every Relationship”
Friday, November 12
7:00 pm to 9:00 pm
$35 per couple
Location: Noah’s in South Jordan
To register call 801-747-2121

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