If you have arrived at this post, I’m guessing you have an important goal that you want to achieve.
When trying to achieve your goals, there are a lot of wrong places to put your focus. Places that will chew up your time, energy, and heart, and result in a tonne of struggle, disappointment, self-doubt + self-deprecation (as you may have already discovered).
If you’ve been struggling to achieve a goal that is important to you, once you know where you need to put your focus, struggle should be a thing of the past. You can then get on with moving your goals with relative ease in the right direction.
In this post I’m going to share with you:
- What you may have been taught to focus on – and why these are a problem
- What you need to actually focus on instead
- Why this critical ingredient is so important to achieving your goals
- How to create goals that embody this critical ingredient
What I’m about to share with you is something that people who are struggling to achieve their goals don’t know.
I seriously hope it transforms your world like it did mine. If you get value from this post, please feel free to pass it on. (It may just change the direction of someone’s life.)
Okay… let’s kick into it!
Things you may have been taught to focus on…
I want to share with you where you may have been focusing, because it can be super helpful to see why things you may have tried may not have been working for you.
If you’ve been doing these things, chances are, you’re likely to be confused about what’s been going wrong.
People who are struggling with their goals, often try a combination of the following things, thinking (hoping?) that it will get them to their goal. Only to be left bitterly disappointed and confused.
- Having a good strategy and plan
- Taking action
- Sticking to it + Being committed
- Believing in yourself
- Positive thinking
- Trusting the outcome
- Visualising / working with the Universe
- Working on yourself / becoming the best version of yourself
- Aligning yourself
- Creating a vibrational frequency at the same frequency as your desired goal
Do any of these sound familiar?
Maybe you’ve been taught to focus on them. Or maybe 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.
Why these things are a problem
Let me be clear…
None of the above ideas are inherently bad or wrong.
The problem is when people unknowingly misunderstand the source of success, and so you focus on the wrong things.
It is highly likely that you will then struggle with things like:
- taking consistent action
- clarity on what actions to take
- overcoming challenges that show up
- oscillating between working towards your goal and sabotaging it
These struggles may then manifest into secondary struggles, like:
- drawing false conclusions over why you’re struggling and what you need to do to fix it
- mind-fucking yourself
- going around and around in circles in your head
- 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) either.
But all of the above issues are a function of not knowing what you need to be focusing on.
Things get much more simple, effective + efficient when you do.
What you need to be focusing on instead….
Now, I may be about to introduce you to something you have never heard of.
If you never want to struggle with motivation or goal confusion again, you are going to want to pay close attention.
Because it’s critical to you achieving your goals.
So, what is this key ingredient?
This critical ingredient to achieving any goal is called structural tension.
What is Structural Tension?
Structural tension is the naturally generated energy that arises when there is a discrepancy (a difference) between two distinct things…
- where you want to be (we call this your vision); and
- where you are (your current reality).
If your goal has structural tension, you will experience it as an energy that pulls you towards the fulfilment of your vision.
You’ll find yourself naturally taking action towards it.
What Most People Who Struggle with their Goals Do Instead
People who don’t know how to create structural tension struggle to create their goals because they don’t generate enough clarity about their vision and/or their current reality.
Here are five things people do that cause them to fail:
Problem #1: Having a broad sense of a goal, but not clarifying the specifics of their vision
If you don’t know what you’re wanting to achieve, you can’t go after it. You have nowhere to aim your arrow.
When creating your goal, always start here.
Get crystal clear on what you really want.
Problem #2: Not clarifying their current reality
Many will get clear on what they want, but they don’t know how critical it is to clarify their current reality against their vision.
They will say things like “I want a fabulous new house by the water”, but they won’t spend any time on clarifying where they are in relation to their vision.
Where you are now in relation to your vision matters hugely to generating the energy to get you moving (and just as importantly, to keep you moving).
If I had a client who wanted to buy a fabulous new house by the water, the first thing I’d do would be to work with them to establish their current reality. They may come up, for example, with this:
“The house we want to buy is around $2.5 million. We have had a valuation done of our current house at $1.5 million. Our mortgage broker tells us we can borrow up enough to buy an $1.8m house, but if we can pull in an extra $150k savings, we can buy a $2.5 million house. We have a business that if we can develop further to bring in enough sales to make the extra $150k savings, that is a way to do it. But we don’t have the knowledge or skills to do that at this point. If we can execute a strategy that works, we can get our house.”
The actions this client needs to take to get there are likely to be vastly different than the actions that a different client in a different starting position. A 22 year old with a hefty inheritance who mostly just needs to shop for a house, or a young graduate just starting out would need to take very different courses of action, and different timelines.
But each could establish their own exciting pathway, if they know where they are in relation to their vision.
Problem #3: Thinking it’s a problem to not know how to achieve their goal
Others do not know how to achieve their goal. Hoping that knowing how will somehow rain upon them.
The problem for them is that they don’t know they need to clarify their starting position. Which includes the fact they don’t know how.
When I decided to set up this blog, one of the things I knew was that I didn’t have brilliant writing skills. Or how to write well for blogging. So I included as part of my current reality in my structural tension chart (a goal method I’ll be teaching you) that I don’t yet know how write well. A natural ‘to do’ on my chart includes learning how to write well.
As you clarify your current reality in relation to your vision, the pathway for action (and the naturally created structural tension) becomes clear.
Not knowing how can be easily solved by talking to people to learn what you need to do to then know how.
I have since started learning how to write. I’m faaaar from perfect. But I’m learning and getting better.
Problem #4: Thinking Self Judgment is a problem
Self judgment is a problem because it causes people to focus on the wrong thing.
When people think that self judgment is a problem for their goals, they focus on judging themselves for where they are, instead of focusing on clarifying what they want and where they are in relation to their vision.
This is not useful. In fact, it’s time-consumingly counter-productive.
Instead of dealing with reality, they are living in a idealistic, conceptual world called ‘I should be somewhere other than where I am.’
But the truth is that we are where we are. Our reality will change as we take action towards bringing our visions to life.
Problem #5: Thinking that Low Self-Belief is a problem for their goals
A lot of people have low self belief. But that’s not actually a problem for your goals.
Go ask any highly-successful person with shockingly low-self belief and you’ll learn that self-belief is not a problem for your goals.
What is a problem is believing it’s a problem for your goals. (It’s not).
Believing that causes you to focus on yourself (as the problem), instead of focusing on building structural tension into your goal.
Get your focus off yourself and back on your vision and current reality, and let structural tension work for you.
Why do Goals need Structural Tension?
Knowing your vision AND your current reality sets up a natural tension.
And tension seeks resolution. (That’s just what tension does.)
Think of a floppy, unstretched rubber band – one with no tension or demands on it.
Notice how it doesn’t do anything. It sits there dormant and floppy 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. There’s an energy, ever present, trying to pull the two things it’s attached to closer together.
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 the practical day-to-day of running their lives, but they’ll struggle to take action towards their goals.
Here’s a basic illustration of structural tension in action:
Your birthday is coming up in two months. To celebrate, you want to go to Paris with your best friends for a week’s holiday.
You know you have two months to organise everything: Getting the time off work. Organising your friends. Flight and accommodation booking. Packing. What you’ll do in Paris, etc, etc.
Time is ticking. You haven’t bought tickets or arranged time off work. Your friends aren’t organised either.
As the date looms, tension builds, providing the energy for you to make the necessary arrangements and rally up your friends.
And so you do.
As a result of your clarity of vision and knowing clearly where you are in relation to it, you take the necessary actions to move you from your current reality of not having things organised, to getting everything organised.
You have a lovely trip that (at least mostly) matches your vision.
You didn’t plan on the slightly burned croissant at the airport, but hey…. sometimes life throws a lemon to keep life interesting.
Where does structural tension come from?
Structural tension comes from the discrepancy created between where we want to be (our desire or vision), and where we are in relation to that desire or vision (i.e., our current reality).
In the above example, the tension arose out of both the desire, and the presence of a looming deadline as part of the current reality.
Many goals don’t have (or need) deadlines. Your desire for them and your clarity on where you are in relation to your desire 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 structural tension, you’ll naturally take the appropriate actions to move you forwards towards the accomplishment of your goal.
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 people is not that they have one tension (or one rubber band) pulling them towards their goal, but they have two tensions (or two rubber bands), pulling them in opposite directions.
In Structural Dynamics, we refer to this as an oscillating pattern.
Using structural tension enables you to create an advancing pattern to create that which you want.
An oscillating pattern is different.
Take the example of those who struggle with losing weight and are constantly engaged in 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 to do about Structural Conflict
Structural conflict is a more complicated structure than structural tension, because there are often multiple things going on.
If you realise that you are in structural conflict and have two tensions pulling you in opposite directions, we need to understand what’s going on, so we can create a change of underlying structure.
This change of structure then enables you to stop oscillating and set up structural tension in your goal.
To do this, I offer free Discovery Sessions to help you to identify what’s going on and work out what you need to do to create goals with structural tension.
Serious about achieving your goals? Follow me here on Instagram
Where to from here?
Take a big sigh of relief that your struggles haven’t been personal.
Then commit yourself to building goals that have structural tension, so you’ll no longer struggle with issues with your goals again (Can I hear a ‘Yippeeeeee!’?)
To help you get started, I have written a post on how to create goals that have structural tension. Enjoy!
If you realise you are in structural conflict and you’d like to book in for a Discovery Session, please drop me an email and let me know what’s going on.
Big love – and wishing you tons of motivation, energy + success!