When the WHY is clear, the WHAT is easy

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Why you need to motivate an elephant to achieve your goals

Your brain is a man riding an elephant.

The little man deals with logic numbers, spreadsheets and responsibility.  He lives here and thinks he is in control. 

The elephant lives here.  He is ancient.  He is emotional.  He cares about pleasure and pain. 

When the elephant and his rider get near a water hole the elephant sees it first (he always does).  He decides getting in the water would be pleasurable.  He starts walking towards the water.

Neuroscience of goal setting
Goal Setting

The little man, who thinks he is in control, did not make the decision to walk towards the water hole.  If he had his way he would probably want to go to the nicer lake an hour down the road.  

So rather than admit he is not in control he rationalises the decision.  

“It’s hot.  The elephant needs a break. This lake is not so bad. The other lake is busy.”  

Suddenly it was his decision all along to go to this lake.  

Up to 95% of decisions we humans make are made this way.  With the old brain reacting emotionally and the rest of the brain wrapping a reason around it (if it bothers deluding itself at all).

An example of this is playing the lotto.  It makes no logical sense. I am told you have more chance of dying in a car crash on your way to pick up a ticket than you do of winning the jackpot.  But marketing companies speak to the elephant.  They get the elephant to dream about the goals.  You know…  “Wouldn’t it be nice” and “What would you do if you won the million”.

This motivates the elephant.

The elephant attaches the positive feeling around going on a massive holiday and retiring wealthy with buying a lotto ticket.  And the little man rationalises it.  You know.. “You’ve got to be in it to win it”.

You have to manipulate your own elephant in the same way.  If you want to:
-    Save more money
-    Have a better relationship with someone
-    Go on a holiday
-    Retire comfortably
-    Do anything else that requires some effort and self control to achieve

You need to set goals that speak to the elephant.  Don’t just say I want to save money.  Create a vision of what having savings feels like.  How would it feel like, not look like, if you have to live 30 years on the age pension?  What would your dignity be like?  What would your self-worth be like?  Now think about what it would be like to be able to fill your time with enjoyable activities in retirement.  Even if those things cost money.  What would it feel like?  How would it feel to be able to help your children out and spoil grand kids?  These things motivate the elephant – not just a logical idea of a comfortable retirement.

Try it out.  Set a goal that makes you feel something.

Make the “why” clear.  

Think about the emotional aspects of that outcome.

Doing this, you just might find the “what” suddenly becomes a little easier.


Author: Matt Boxer
Financial Planner
GPA Financial Planning

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