If you have arrived at this post, I’m guessing that you’ve possibly read a post I’ve written about how it’s important when you want to achieve goals that matter to you, to get your focus in the right place.
I refer to it in this post on how to achieve your goals. And this one on 8 common things people do (+ need to stop doing) when struggling with their goals.
It’s super-dooper important, and something that people who are struggling to achieve their goals don’t know.
In the post on the 8 things people who are failing to achieve your goals do, and need to stop doing, all of these common behaviours (while completely understandable) highlight that someone doesn’t know where their focus needs to be to achieve their goals.
In the post I wrote on how to achieve your goals and create what matters to you, the answer points to one thing: know where you need to focus. And that is answered in this post.
What I’m going to share in this post…
In this post, I’m going to share with you a number of things including:
- What you may have been taught to focus on – and what you need to actually focus on instead
- How I learned this and how it’s changed my life
- Why this critical ingredient is so important to achieving your goals – and what you may struggle with if you don’t
- Why most goal-setting techniques do not focus on this (+ subsequently why they fail)
- How to create goals that embody this critical ingredient
So first, let’s look at where you may have been focusing…
Things you may have been taught to focus on…
I want to start by sharing with you where you may have been focusing, because I want you to be able to see why things you may have tried may not have been working for you.
If you’ve been doing these things, and they haven’t been working for you, chances are, you’re likely to be confused about what’s going wrong.
When I talk to people who are struggling with their goals, a number of them report they have been trying to do the following things, thinking that that was going to get them to their goal.
- Having a good strategy and plan
- Taking action
- Sticking to it + Being committed
- Believing in yourself
- Positive thinking / Trusting the outcome
- Developing a positive mindset
- Becoming the best version of yourself
- Vibrating at the same frequency as your desired goal
If you have been taught to focus on these, maybe you’ve been taught to focus on them. Or you’ve simply observed others doing it, and have been following along with them thinking it will work for you.
Yet if you are finding they are not working for you, this post will hopefully explain why.
What you need to actually focus on…
Let me be clear.
None of the above are inherently bad or wrong.
The problem is when people misunderstand the source of success and focus. If they focus their efforts on popularised or new-age success techniques, they become very confused (and lost) when they do not work.
And the reason is they don’t know that they need to be focusing on what I’m about to share with you.
Now, I may be about to introduce you to something you have never heard of.
I certainly hadn’t heard of it, and I didn’t get why it was important.
Until I did.
And now I see and hear people who are struggling with their goals constantly, and the reason they are struggling is that they don’t know to focus on this thing.
Because it’s probably new to you, I am going to explain further in this post why it’s so important and what you might struggle with if you don’t focus on it.
Because it’s the key to achieving your goals, I don’t want you walking away from this post without crystal clarity on its importance.
So, what is this critical ingredient?
It’s called structural tension.
To succeed at your goals, you need your goals to have structural tension.
How Learning about Structural Tension changed my life
I first learned about the importance of structural tension from my now-mentor, Robert Fritz.
For several years, I had been struggling with a few of my big hairy audacious goals. And I was at a loss as to why they seemed so hard to crack.
Over the years, I’d learned a variety of things about how to achieve goals. But with these ones, none of that was working.
My only conclusion I could draw was that I was unconsciously sabotaging myself because of some hidden belief.
Maybe I was afraid of failure? Or success?
Maybe I didn’t believed I deserved it?
I didn’t know.
Quite randomly, I was taking a trip to New York for my husband’s birthday. Because I wasn’t too far away, I decided to take a few extra days swing by Vermont, to attend a workshop Robert was doing.
I’d read some of Robert’s works and had loved them. I remember he’d referred to running workshops, so I thought it would be fun to go and learn more about the work he does. The only one on while I was there was called the ‘Fundamentals of Structural Thinking’.
I didn’t know it was about to change my life.
While the title isn’t very sexy, what I came away with, was profound.
All of a sudden, the challenges I’d been experiencing in reaching my goals made sense.
This was a moment I am so grateful for.
Not only did it stop me from being confused. All of a sudden I had the crystal clarity I needed to stop beating myself up about my struggles.
Not only that, but suddenly I understood why some of my clients who were struggling with their goals, were struggling too.
Armed with a new access to my own goals, and wanting to become the best coach I could be for my clients, I enrolled in the two year certification program that Robert runs with his equally phenomenal wife, Rosalind.
Over the past year or so, the deeper I’ve gotten into this work, the more profound an understanding I have into my own struggles and that of others.
I can see now why people struggle. And shockingly for myself, it isn’t what I thought.
And embarrassingly, nor was it what I used to teach my clients.
I had blinders on before, orienting my focus to things I’d learned were important for achieving goals.
And I even had a bunch of evidence from my own successes and those of my clients that those things worked.
Except when they didn’t.
And that was when I’d come up empty-handed. And very confused.
If you want to learn from a true master, I’d highly recommend you read these books by Robert. They’re truly brilliantly insightful and a breath-of-fresh-air from the other popularised personal development work out there at the moment. Or better yet, study with him.
In the meantime, this blog is one of the outcomes of my learnings.
And if you’ve been struggling and are up for learning how to achieve your goals, I’m going to teach you what I know.
And the first thing is that your goals need structural tension.
What is Structural Tension?
Structural tension is the natural energy that gets created when there is a discrepancy between where you want to be and where you are.
If your goal has structural tension, you will experience it as an energy that pulls you towards the accomplishment of your vision. You’ll find yourself naturally taking action towards your vision.
Why do Goals need Structural Tension?
Tension seeks resolution. (That’s just what tension does.)
Think of an unstretched rubber band with no tension.
It doesn’t do anything. It sits there dormant and waiting for some tension to give it something to ‘do’.
A rubber band with tension, on the other hand, seeks to resolve the tension.
Much like a rubber band without tension does nothing, so too do human beings when there is no tension in their goals. (They may get on with their lives, but they’ll struggle to be consistently motivated to take action towards their goals).
Think about it like this…
If you have a headache (and you don’t want a headache), you’ll take action with the goal of reducing the headache.
Maybe you’ll take a Panadol, drink some water, lie down for a sleep.
The reason you’ll do this is the headache (that you don’t want) set ups a tension that seeks resolution. It’s not the headache itself that is the tension. It’s the fact that you don’t want it.
You are motivated to act, because action is a function of tension.
Now imagine for a moment that a close family friend dies and has their funeral coming up on Friday when you’re supposed to be working.
You want to attend the funeral. Attending the funeral becomes your goal.
This sets up a tension, which will, as tension naturally does, seek resolution. This tension begs an action to be taken.
So long as you are able to get off work on Friday, the likely outcome of the tension seeking resolution is that you’ll take the day off so you can go to the funeral.
Now imagine you have a goal that is important to you.
You want to go to Paris for your upcoming birthday.
Time is ticking. You haven’t bought tickets or arranged time off work.
As the date looms, tension builds. It begs you to make the necessary arrangements.
And so you do.
In this instance, the tension arose out of a deadline.
Many goals don’t have (or need) deadlines. Your desire for them is enough to set up the necessary structural tension to make them happen.
This is true for all types of goals including money, career, health, business, parenting and relationship goals (as well as any other goal you can think of).
By creating goals in a way that creates tension (that seeks resolution), taking the appropriate actions will be a natural process. Ones you don’t have to force. Motivation will be natural for you.
And you’ll keep taking action so long as there is tension in your goal.
What if you’re (initially) motivated and take action, but then you sabotage your efforts?
The other thing that can happen for human beings is not that they have one tension (or one rubber band) pulling them towards their goal, but they have two tensions, pulling them in opposite directions.
Take the example of those who struggle with losing weight and yo-yo dieting.
They constantly try new things to lose weight (or maybe the same strategy over and over), but it never works out.
This happens when the emotional tension they experience from feeling overweight and uncomfortable with themselves causes them to become (temporarily) motivated to go on a diet.
But it isn’t long before that tension relaxes because they are in action, and an opposing tension takes hold. This other tension wins and they go back to eating badly, or whatever behaviour sabotages their efforts.
Then the emotional tension builds again, and away they go, on their new diet. Hoping that ‘this time, I’ll stay committed’ while also seriously doubting in the back of their minds that it will work.
This is a fundamentally different dynamic than structural tension. It’s two sets of opposing tensions that causes the person to oscillate in their efforts.
In structural dynamics we refer to this as structural conflict.
What happens if your goals don’t have structural tension?
Oftentimes, people set goals that have no structural tension (or are in structural conflict).
Without structural tension, it is highly likely that you will struggle with:
- taking consistent action
- clarity on what actions to take
- being willing to confront and do what it takes to overcome challenges that show up
- oscillating between working towards your goal and sabotaging it
These struggles often then manifest into secondary struggles:
- drawing false conclusions over why they’re struggling and what they need to do to fix it
- mindfucking themselves and going around and around in circles
- changing direction and approach, but finding that that doesn’t work
- trying out copious new strategies and ideas, but finding that none of that works (sustainably).
But all of the above issues are either a function of the absence of structural tension (or the presence of structural conflict.)
What to do about it
If you build goals that have structural tension, you’ll no longer have issues with those things again. (Yippeeeeee!)
But it’s important to understand something…
The resolution plan for someone who has a goal that is in structural conflict is fundamentally different from someone who has no structural tension in their goal.
For a goal with no structural tension, what needs to happen to resolve this, is to learn how to create goals that have structural tension (I’ll share this with you shortly).
For a goal with structural conflict, an underlying change in structure is required to enable the person to stop oscillating. This change of structure then enables them to set up structural tension in their goals.
Why Most Goal Setting Techniques do not help you achieve your goals
Most goal setting techniques do not focus on helping you build structural tension. Most focus only on the goal itself.
While some ask you to dive deep into getting real clarity about the goal – and that’s good – the vision you have for your goal is only part of the equation.
Some techniques like SMART goal-setting include other elements, such as writing goals that are:
However, while these elements can be useful, this still only focuses on the goal itself – and will not, by itself, create structural tension.
Other techniques, such as visualising and using the Law of Attraction are goal achievement techniques that also do not build structural tension. Because typically they focus on the goal.
Some even cause people to think that they need to change or improve something about themselves to be able to achieve the goal.
The following are examples:
- “believe in yourself”
- “align yourself with your Greatest Self”
- “make sure your vibration matches the vibration of the goal you’re trying to manifest”
These link the desired outcome to the inner sense of self that the person has. This is a dangerous trap to get caught in.
You don’t need to be an ‘ideal self’ to achieve your goals. (More on this in future posts.)
In addition most techniques completely ignore what’s going on for people. If someone is in structural conflict, these popularised goal setting and goal achievement methods fail every time.
This often leaves them really confused, and often then assuming it must be their fault. This often only makes matters worse.
How to Create Goals that Have Structural Tension
If you have a goal that is important to you but has no structural tension, and you want to learn how to create goals that have structural tension, read this.
If you realise that you are in structural conflict and have two tensions pulling you in opposite directions, I offer private consultations to help you get greater clarity. If you would like to break through the challenges that you are having with achieving your goals, feel free to drop me an email. Let me know what’s going on for you + I’ll let you know if I think I can help you.
Big love, and wishing you tons of motivation, energy and success!
P.S. If you’d like to learn more about creating what matters to you, you can subscribe below to receive new posts direct to your inbox.