Goal Setting Part 2

Back to goals, and my very favorite goal-setting technique, Tad James’ “Time Line Therapy®.   It seems an outgrowth of NLP with a bit of Hawaiian shamanism folded in, and is elegant in its simplicity.

Basically, you start by imagining a “line” stretching between where you currently are, and the future “you” you wish to be. Visualize the end point. If you want to earn a degree, can you see yourself in cap and gown?

If you want love, can you see yourself on the beach in Maui exchanging vows with your beloved? If you want to increase fitness, can you see yourself looking trim in swim trunks? Finishing a triathlon?

While “visual” is perhaps the most powerful modality, it is also possible to “hear” the end point, or “feel” it. But most people can visualize fine, even if they don’t think they can: they make the mistake of thinking a visualization should look like a photograph. Unless you’re Nicola Tesla, it’s more likely to be a misty thing. Describe your car to me: how did you do that without some sense of the visual presence? That’s all we’re talking about.

Now, the “Time Line” (and it might be a spiral, or even a “field cloud” effect) represents duration. If five years in your future you can see yourself graduating college or sitting in the premier of your movie, can you visualize the half-way point? What is it? Probably being deeply involved in the “work”. Researching, applying yourself, etc. Can you see this?

How about half-way to this point? In other words, Where are you in five years? Three years? One year? Six months? Three months? One month? One week? What must you do tomorrow to facilitate your progress?

Understand—no plan will survive initial contact with reality. But by watching external reality (chance, natural and human resistance) and internal reality (fear, sloth, unrealistic estimates, etc.), you continually adjust and continue on, like someone trying to climb Everest: you know the destination, you know much about the route, you prepare the best you can and gather the best equipment and allies.

But… the path to the summit will always be accompanied by set-backs, challenges, fear, exhaustion, temporary defeat, and on and on. You’ll find paths blocked, and have to go around obstructions, or even return to base camp, recover, and try again. But you have the goal, the path, and every time you make the effort, you learn more about yourself and the mountain.


So that’s one aspect. There are others. Time Line goal setting says that to maximize your chance to accomplish something you not only need a goal and the intervening steps to accomplish it, but you must align your beliefs, values, self-identity and positive/negative emotional anchors.

That means that if your goal is to find love, but you have the belief that “love is a snare” you’ll have an aversion to the very thing you are aiming for, and that belief will sabotage you.

If your primary value is “commitment” but you have an equal value of “freedom” then either you have to prioritize these, or develop a belief that “commitment to the right person IS freedom” or “freedom is best found within commitment” or some such.

If your self-identity is as someone unlovable, or unlucky in love, then you will take actions to attempt to validate this identity. The same as if your self-identity is as “fat”, “poor”, “unlucky”, or whatever—until you change that identity, any external reality that conflicts with it will cause chaos and stress.

And if you have a negative emotion associated with success or the activities that lead to success, again, you are asking for trouble.

So in “Time Line” work, you create visual/kinesthetic analogues for these things, such that your conscious and unconscious mind can communicate symbolically. If all is well, you see a straight line or a weaving of cords leading elegantly to the future. Clear goals, brakes off.

If on the other hand you are unclear about intervening steps, have conflicting emotions, beliefs, or values then you will “see” or “feel” a tangle in that line, and can commit to unblocking it.

This visualization and unblocking and changing of beliefs and re-prioritization of values all takes place within various states of trance or meditation. They can be done with a therapist or coach or (preferably) within your daily meditation practice.

If, for instance, you want to learn to drive a car, and you can believe you can do this (visualize yourself holding your license or driving down a coast road, sun in your hair), your values support it (independence is good), you have nothing but positive emotions connected with every step of the process and have a self-identity as someone who is capable of learning new skills and behaving responsibly… if there is more pleasure than pain associated with the entire process…

Then you have the best chance possible to martial your internal and external resources, and proceed with power and clarity toward acquiring that new skill.

I’d definitely suggest that you look into James’ work here, either for yourself or your loved ones and/or clients. Powerful stuff.

-Steve Barnes


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