January is the time when we begin to plan out the year that is to come, and set the goals that will drive us to a better life.
Accomplishing a goal requires two very specific brain functions. Reaching your goals starts with motivation -- the "why" -- and moves on to execution -- the "how." In the absence of a clear why, the how becomes irrelevant. On the other hand, if you have a compelling why but no sense of how, you will be likewise ineffective.
Take a very simple example: getting out of bed in the morning. When you set the alarm the night before, that is a why function -- you are creating a decision to get up at a certain time. When the alarm goes off we switch to a how approach. If my why is strong and resolute -- for example, when you’re heading out for vacation -- you have no problem with the how. You jump out of bed. If the why is weak, the how will convince you to go back to sleep!
Here’s the problem -- the why and the how exist in different parts of the brain. The why is a creative function. The how is a technical function. Not only do those two parts of the brain exist in different lobes, neuroscience research has proven that the two don’t get along all that well. You can think in your creative mind, or you can think in your technical mind, but you can’t be in both at the same time. At best, you can seesaw between the two.
What’s the remedy?
When you are setting your goal, separate the two functions. Fully expand on the why before you begin to lay out the how.
If you want to learn a new skill, don’t sign up for classes just yet. Instead, spend some time contemplating why you want to do that in the first place. If you desire to lose 10 pounds, don’t start with researching gym memberships. Take the time to define why losing that weight is important to you in the first place.
Get the why right, and get it deeply ingrained. The how will work its way out.
Related: 3 Steps to Be Your Best Self in 2016