By Dr. Toni LaMotta
New Year’s day is when most people make resolutions—and a few weeks or even days from now will be the day most people have stopped following those resolutions.
I’ve done a great deal of thinking on this topic—even wrote a book on it—(seewww.reallywantsyou.com for a free copy) and I’m here to tell you that goal setting can actually get in the way of people actually achieving their hearts’ desires.
Most of the time, goal setting causes people to focus on lack. When we focus on what we want, we are often actually thinking about what we don’t want and the predominant feeling is what we don’t want rather than what we do—and we manifest in life more from FEELING than we do from conscious thought.
A number of years ago, I read a brief pamphlet called the “Golden Key” by Emmet Fox and, in essence, it said, “Stop thinking about the difficulty, whatever it is, and think about God instead.” While that sounded great, I found myself (and others who I taught this message to) puzzled about just how to do that. When thoughts are unproductive, when problems or difficulties seem larger than life, it’s pretty hard to think about God. In fact, many have said to me, “GOD? I just don’t believe right now—so, how can I think of God?” I’ve been attempting to find ways to teach this approach ever since.
I’ve also been puzzled by the fact that as far as I know, nowhere in the sacred scriptures of any ancient wisdom teaching does it say to set goals and write them down. Oh yes, the success gurus, from Napolean Hill’s Think and Grow Rich to all the latest books and seminars on prosperity and success, tell us that that’s the first step. You’ve got to choose. You’ve got to set goals, and you’ve got to write them down.
I’ve done that…a lot. Sometimes consistently, and sometimes not. Looking back at the people in my seminars and in my former churches, some have set goals successfully but lots not so successfully. Have you had that “not so successful” experience?
One of the main Universal Truth principles is that what you focus on increases, and if you focus on what you are grateful for you begin to see more of it in your life. If you find yourself focusing on what there isn’t enough of, first of all, it feels awful and, secondly, it produces MORE of the same. We don’t have enough money; there isn’t enough time; I don’t have enough self-esteem; I need more clients; and the list goes on.
For many (not all) people, the setting of goals itself is an exercise in focusing on “NOT ENOUGHNESS.” Think about past New Year’s resolutions. We may ask, “What have I accomplished?” But mostly, we tend to focus on, “What HAVEN’T I done that I wanted to do or thought I SHOULD HAVE done?” (And we all know what “shoulding” upon ourselves produces!)
Or we make a list that says, “This year (or this next week), I’m going to…” This is usually another list of the things we are berating ourselves for, things we don’t have enough of or do enough of.
We simply need to put our attention on what we want instead of what we don’t want. Again, whatever we focus on increases in our lives. If we focus on lack, for example, we tend to create more of it in our lives. Likewise, if we focus on abundance, we’ll create more of that as well. Did you ever notice that those who talk about being ill a lot are usually ill? The master teacher Jesus said, “As you believe, so shall it be done to you.” Every major religion has taught this theme as well. Even Henry Ford once said, “If you believe you can, or believe you can’t, you are right!”
We show outwardly what we truly believe by the words we speak. We may say we believe in health, for example, but if our conversation is always on our illnesses or our fear of illnesses, that’s what we bring about in our life.
If you focus always on what went wrong in the past, you are doomed to repeat the past. The course in Miracles says, “That which we resist persists.” The reason that it persists isthat is what we are putting our attention on.
Words of Wisdom
I have come to see that focusing on GOALS—for me at least—is focusing on what I DON’T HAVE. So what to do?
What’s missing and why doesn’t goal setting always work? Some of the newer “success gurus” have hinted at the answer. Instead of looking at what you want to HAVE in life, they tell you that first you have to BE the one who can HAVE whatever it is you want. But they usually never do tell us how to BE.
I’m inviting you to focus on what I call the secret to BEING.
It’s not something you have to get or add to yourself, and it’s not something you have to DO in order to achieve success. It’s a matter of realizing and awakening what is already in you. Do you really know who you are? What qualities do you already possess and how are you using them to your advantage?
Everything you need is already in you. Now, don’t stop reading yet! You have to try this stuff out for a while before you can decide if it does or doesn’t make sense. We have all covered ourselves in layers of beliefs that say things like, “I can’t!” “It won’t work,” and “I shouldn’t.” Or we tell ourselves, “It has to work this way, and I don’t see how it can.” As a result, sometimes we no longer really know what is possible.
It’s time to remember!
How? Well, here’s one way: Many years ago, I was given a list called the qualities of GOD. I now call them The Divine Dozen, and it’s a list that describes our basic nature as Human beings. They are: Abundance, Balance, Beauty, Freedom, Joy, Love, Order, Peace, Power, Unity, Wisdom, and Wholeness.
Each year, for the past 10 or so years, I personally have been choosing a “Quality of the Year” rather than creating a list of goals for myself. When I work with others, we focus on a quality they are drawn to until they really GET that it already exists in their lives and it starts appearing as RESULTS.
A few years ago, for example, I chose to focus on ABUNDANCE, which I like to define as an attitude of Gratitude that says THERE IS ALWAYS ENOUGH. My Mastermind partner and I still start and end each day by sending each other an email of the five things we are grateful for each day. What we found is a universal truth principle: What we focus on INCREASES. Instead of saying, “I need to have three new clients this month,” she writes and REALLY FEELS: “I am so grateful for the client I worked with today. He or she is such a delight.” Invariably, the next day, a new client seems to MAGICALLY APPEAR.
In addition to developing gratitude for what IS, we should start giving more of whatever we believe we need more of in our lives. And if we don’t get what we’re hoping for SEND OUT MORE. The question becomes, “HOW am I BEING the person who possesses that quality?” rather than, “What do I have to DO to get something I don’t have now.” Ask it each morning.
This method leaves room for surprises and sometimes for something GREATER than I would ever have put down on my list of goals or “TO DO.” I believe goal setting limits us to what we already believe is possible and doesn’t open us to the miraculous and the grace of God.
FOCUSING on QUALITIES to BE rather than on GOALS to achieve gives us the added advantage of allowing the Universe to give us more than we ever dared to dream or imagine.
Dr. Toni LaMotta is a keynote speaker, best-selling author of What You REALLY Want, Wants You and spiritual teacher supporting people in growing spiritually through the process of aging consciously. She also helps coaches and speakers create, publish and market their books. Dr. Toni is also an expert in supporting people and organizations in reinventing themselves in midlife and beyond. Her experience? From Catholic nun, to computer programmer and dinner theater actress, to professional speaker, entrepreneur, and Co-Minister of Unity Church in the Woods, Bradenton, FL (unitychurchinthewoods.org). You can read her blog at www.midlifemessages.com and find out more about her conscious aging programs at www.tonilamotta.com.