how to reach your goals

As the end of the year is approaching, I am often thinking back about this old classmate I spoke to, about five years ago. At that moment she told me, with twinkling eyes: “I’m going to do things completely different this year! I have decided to finally launch my own business, a webshop for children’s clothing”. At the time I had just taken a leap of faith and became a full-time entrepreneur with Doors Open, and I had just opened the doors of the Female Hub. So I completely understood her enthusiasm.

A year later, we met again – at Bubbels & Babbels – and when I asked her how her webshop was doing, she told me that she hadn’t gotten around to it. “But this year I’m really planning to get it up and running!”

My old classmate is a textbook example. Because even though Instagram is full of successful, laughing goal-getters, the reality is that goals more often than not end up in the trash.

Why does this happen? And more importantly, what can you do about it?

In order to achieve your goals, there are 4 crucial elements.

#1 Find your why

When setting goals, we often stay on the surface too much. We only look at the outcome, at the action and not at the underlying motivation.

“I want to go to the gym more often this year” is a popular example. The gym is not a goal in itself. The goal is to feel fitter and healthier and we think that we can achieve this by going to the gym.

A turnover of € 10,000 per month is not an objective in itself. The goal is to create financial security and we think we can achieve this by a turnover of € 10,000 per month.

We often make the mistake of seeing the steps we need to take as the ultimate goal rather than looking at the underlying motivation. Why do you want to go to the gym more often? Why do you want that turnover of € 10,000 per month? Why do you want to start your own business?

Centering – a somatic exercise I often practice with my coachees – helps to really focus on your purpose and why you want something. What are you longing for and how does it make you feel? Is it truly what you want, or is it something you think you want, maybe even – unconsciously – influenced by others?

#2 Embody your why

Once you’ve found your why, the next challenge is to really embody the change you want to make. Motivation is crucial, but even the most motivated people – often – fail. A very useful exercise is to write down your why. What is the change you really commit yourself to? Repeat this commitment – by saying it to yourself in front of a mirror, by writing it down, by saying it to your partner, whatever works for you – everyday. That’s when you start making the transformation from finding your commitment to being the commitment.

Now, you know what they say: if something sounds to good to be true, it usually is. That’s true here too. Writing down your commitment ain’t gonna do the whole trick. It’s just a start. In order to really embody your why, you need to practice it 300 times before it becomes muscle memory (I cannot repeat this enough: the brain is a muscle) and 3.000 times for it to become your automatic response.

If you are ready to embody your why, the Tiny Habits method is a very recommended resource.

#3 What stops me?

In the fifteen years that I have been working as a Learning & Development expert and coach, I regularly meet people who exactly know what their why is. They know exactly what they want. They also know in detail how to get there, what steps are needed. And yet they do not succeed in actually taking action.

The most common reason: fear. We are afraid that we do not see the desired result, we’re afraid we can’t actually do it. We see worst-case scenarios in which everything goes completely wrong. And these fears lead to a certain type of behaviour that prevents us from achieving our goals.

There’s an explanation for this. We are biological beings and because of that we are looking for safety, belonging and being seen. Change, the unknown, is something that biologically sparks fear. Our brain automatically wants to go to something that is familiar. When experiencing fear your body goes into contraction: we avoid the change, we go back to your old habits, we continue to plan and plan and plan, but never really take action. All of these behaviours are signs that we are looking for safety.

Recognizing your fears, and naming them – name it to tame it – is a very useful exercise to overcome those fears.

Tim Ferriss argues in his TedTalk that you should define your fears instead of your goals.

At Doors Open, we often use a somatic exercise when someone experiences fear:

It starts with centering (if you want to know more about this essential somatic exercise, feel free to reach out)

Place your hand on the part of your body where you feel the fear. Is it in your back, your head, your shoulders?

Describe what you feel: is it warm, cold, moving, does it have a certain shape or color?

Experience how – slowly – your fear will become less

Now say your commitment out loud again

#4 Find an accountability partner

Especially in December and January we tend to look ahead. What do I want to achieve this year? But it’s just as important to look back and reflect. If we do not reach our goal, reflecting helps us in finding out why it did not work. But even if you do achieve your goal, it is important to reflect. I always try to celebrate goals, no matter how small they are (following the Tiny Habit method).

I also take a moment to think: “I have achieved my goal. What am I feeling now?” Suppose you have achieved your target of € 10,000 per month, but the feeling of certainty is not there. Then you know that money isn’t what offers you security. In other words, you know that you have to go back to (re)discover your why.

Reflection is essential to prevent us from pursuing the wrong goals and, in spite of achieving the goals, not feeling the way we wanted to feel. So take the time to reflect regularly, before you proceed to the next action. An accountability partner is very valuable here: someone you can share your commitment with and a person who can keep you ‘on track’. This can be a professional coach, but also a friend, colleague or family member. We too often feel we have to do everything all by ourself.

I hope that next year – you’ll come back to this blog to share the wonderful progress you made in achieving your goals. If you need any help along the way, feel free to reach out to our team.

Doors Open Female hub Suzanne Mau-Asam Somatic Coaching

“That’s just the way I am.” Is there anyone in your surroundings that has never said this before? I still need to meet that unique person that hasn’t. Even “that is so typical of Nicole” is said by everyone I know every once in a while.

We often respond in the same way in specific situations. In the case of a setback, one person reacts with anger, the other cries and the third person will withdraw from the situation and will ignore the world around them. The way you react is usually not a conscious choice and also not always how you would hope you would react. Afterwards you think, “if only I had..” But then right after that you also also think, “but that is who I am, and I can’t change anything about it.” Right? No, that is not completely true. In this article I will explain why.

Your reaction is perhaps subconscious and automatic, but it wasn’t always like that. Your response has become automatic over time. In order to understand how this happens, I will use a little bit of neuroscience. Oh and highways and dirt roads.

What do highways and dirt roads have to do with the brain?

The formation of a habit or automatic response in the brain, works by strengthening a connection between neurons. Neurons are brain cells that are all connected with each other, but some connections are stronger than others. You can compare this to highways and dirt roads.

In the beginning villages were connected with each other through small, uneven dirt roads that went through the fields. The road that is taken most often, keeps getting wider and easier to travel on. Slowly this small road changes into a highway. When a highway is created, the dirt roads between the villages are taken less frequently. Because even though the distance might be greater, you’ll get there faster by taking the highway.

The development of automatic behaviour is comparable. The reaction that is shown most often in a certain situation makes this connection between neurons stronger. For example, if you have often experienced that the smell of fresh croissants goes hand in hand with a relaxed and pleasant Sunday morning, a smile will naturally appear on your face when you smell croissants. If you have experienced several times that you can get things done by raising your voice, you will continue to do this more often. After a while you don’t even think about it anymore, you do it automatically.

“This time I will really do it differently”

Great, you now have a bit of a better understanding of how automatic behaviour arises. That the smell of croissants makes you smile is not a problem of course, but other automatic behaviour can stand in the way of yourself and/or others. And that is exactly the type of behaviour that is not easy to change. Have a think about it. How often have you heard yourself say: “this time I will really do it differently.” You start full of good intentions. You keep it up for 1 or 2 weeks, maybe even a few months. But eventually you fall back into your old behaviour. Especially when the pressure is high.

Doors Open Female hub Suzanne Mau-Asam Somatic Coaching 2

That is when somatic coaching can come into play. Traditional coaching is almost always aimed towards IQ (intelligence) and EQ (emotion), and are seen as separate parts. You can definitely achieve good results with this, but it is by far not always enough.

Somatic coaching looks at it differently. The word somatics comes from the Greek word soma, which means ‘the living organism as a whole’. This theory assumes that as a person you do not consist of separate parts, but rather that your body, brain and soul make up one.

One of the characteristics of somatic coaching is that the body is the starting point for a sustainable change in behavior. Take a musician as an example. A pianist can not play well if he is not relaxed. He can know all notes (IQ) and love playing the piano (EQ), but without the third crucial element (SQ) he will not be able to give a fantastic concert.

Connections in your whole body

Somatic coaching assumes that the neuron connections which cause the automatic behaviour, are not only present in the brain but throughout the whole body. Think back to a situation in which you were under a lot of pressure. An important presentation, an appraisal interview or a business deal that almost went south. How did your body feel? Were your shoulders upright or slouching, did you feel your breath quicken, did you have the tendency to cross your arms?

The goal of somatic coaching is to show different behaviour and enabling yourself to show that behaviour even when you’re under pressure or stressed. In a more traditional way of coaching, you brain often understands how to use new or different behaviour but the rest of your nervous system (this visible in your body) does not. Therefore you only tackle one element and that is not sufficient. Moreover, there is more risk of falling back into old behaviour.

This is where somatic coaching comes in. Of course gaining knowledge and insights by talking – just like with traditional coaching – remains important. But this is supported by exercises where you literally have to stand or move, so that you really feel how different behaviour feels. This way you don’t only understand (IQ) the new skill but you also create a different response in your body (SQ).

The construction of new highways

If you look at the metaphor of highways versus dirt roads and you know that neuron connections are not only present in your brain but also in your body, you can see the importance of practicing new behaviour. You are creating a new highway (connection/automatic behaviour).

The first step in somatic coaching is becoming aware of your current posture, movement and response patterns. Which response patterns do you show? You learn to be more in touch with your body. That might sound a bit airy-fairy, but it really isn’t! There are different exercises with which you experience your body’s different reactions. And what that brings up in terms of feeling and emotions. You become aware of the patterns that you have created.

Fake it till you make it?

The importance of how your body and posture can be used to show others that you are, for example, full of confidence – even if you aren’t – is what Amy Cuddy explains in her popular Ted Talk.

An interesting term in somatic coaching and also in this talk by Amy, in my opinion, is power posing: even if you aren’t confidence, in the moment that you do stand or move your body in a confident manner, you automatically also feel more confident. Try it! This is a concrete example of how changing your body also eventually leads to a change in feeling and behaviour.

Who is somatic coaching for?

Somatic coaching is extremely valuable for both your personal as well as professional development. If you answer YES to one or more of the following questions, then somatic coaching is interesting for you.

  • Do you have the feeling that you don’t know which choices to make in your personal or professional life?
  • Do you have lots of dreams or ideas, but do you not take action to execute them or make them a reality?
  • Do you want more self-confidence?
  • Do you want to be more assertive?
  • Do you experience (too much) stress and do you want to know how to decrease that?
  • Do you want to show better leadership within your company?
  • Do you want your team to improve performance or collaborate better?

Want to know more?

Do you want to know more about somatic coaching? Contact us! For more information about coaching by Doors Open, have a look at our page about somatic coaching.