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Engage Your Goals with Inquiry

Do you ever think about your thinking? Or better yet, do you ever think about how you think? If we were to portray the thinking process, what would it look like? One thing is true: how we think matters because it affects how we feel and consequently, what we do. In the last insight I explored the topic of goal setting and the importance of making them exciting. Also, I talked about keeping them short and simple in a way that they convey with clarity what you desire to experience.

But I have something to admit. I wrote down one-too-many goals and I saw my frustration creep up this week. I was lost in thinking about this insight itself and couldn’t seem to get any writing done. Additionally, I got really interested in an exercise called the planche. There is something about it that inspires me to try it out. So I looked up planche tutorials on Youtube and found some videos. Of course, after watching them, I realized how difficult it is, and my mind began to wander. And I saw myself being hijacked by thoughts of the past, of the future, of what I wanted to get done, and how time was slipping away without engaging in my goals.

Fortunately, I was able to learn a few things out of it. Often times, when I think I’m thinking, I’m not—I’m having thoughts instead. Thinking is active, conscious, and creates meaning. Thinking produces ideas: like how to start. Thoughts do not. Thoughts tend to be passive and automatic (our usual chatter). I learned that frequently I wake up and soon my mind begins to get cluttered with negative and distracted thoughts. I also noticed that these thoughts are rather impulsive and not empowering. Unlike thoughts, active thinking engages with questions like: now that you have set really exciting goals, how can you begin today? What first step can you take right now? Or how can you shrink the change in a way that you work towards your goal? You would think these are important questions. Instead, my automatic thoughts focus on how long it will take, or how scary it is, or you name it. But here’s what I did about it, and what you can do too:

  • Begin your day by shifting from thoughts to thinking. 
  • Focus on the meaning of your goal and your commitment to it.
  • Feel the change: passive to active and negative to more positive!

To shift from thoughts to thinking, start by becoming aware of them. Slowing down and realizing that we are on auto-pilot helps us pay better attention. Use empowering questions like: how can I begin to think actively about what I really want? How can I engage in what I really care about? What can I do to start or continue right now? Keep asking until you see yourself focused on what is truly meaningful and moving towards your goal. Finally, stay committed to your goal! When are you most likely to get distracted from your goal and what will you do about it? Always think actively about what really matters to you.

Seriously, some weeks I feel so overwhelmed that I just end up writing side notes all over my journal and books I’m reading—but I don’t get any writing done. Or I convince myself that tomorrow will be a better day to begin. But today, I moved from automatic and tired thoughts to active, fun, and energizing thinking! I felt better almost instantly. I asked myself: what can I do right now? I’m focused, deliberate, and present right now. Today, I got some planche progressions and my writing done. Instead of focusing on thoughts about problems and frustrations, how can you focus on the fun behind your goals? How can you make the change small and manageable? How can you keep that action little and fun? Go for it!

Juan F. Diaz

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