It’s New Year’s Day – Happy New Year! We’ve just started a new year as well as a new decade. For many that will mean a bunch of so-called ‘resolutions’. A set of goals that they want to hit in 2020. Often the strategy for achieving those goals is to drum up willpower and ‘make it happen’.

We are not shy of ambitious aspirations. Just look at the Helpful aspirations for the next four years in our ‘Nailing the Helpful Colours to the Mast’. But, and here’s the big ‘but’, you’re unlikely to achieve those goals if you do not have a sense of where you are now before you start thinking about where you want to be tomorrow. We refer to it as ‘Here Before There’.

You are here…

Chances are you’ve used a navigation app on your phone and you’ll know that you need to orientate yourself and align with what you’re seeing on the screen to make sure you’re heading off in the right direction. If you’re anything like me, chances are you’ve walked off in the wrong direction a few times only to have to retrace your steps because you didn’t pay close enough attention to the ‘beacon’ icon on the screen.

Without understanding where you are at and what direction you are currently heading in, you won’t know in any practical sense how to adjust your trajectory and direction towards where you want to be heading. You need to familiarise yourself with the current context and get your bearings. Once you’ve mapped where you are, you can the trace the practical steps you need to take.

One of the most common factors that people trip over when attempting to make changes is to ignore or not even notice the limitations that they are currently working with. Whether you like it or not, even whether you accept it or not, you do have limitations. Unless you understand your limitations and recognise which limitations can be expanded to reach for the edges of your potential (for example strength, money or wellbeing) and which limitations are outside of your sphere of influence (for example the day has 24 hours regardless) you will never realistically achieve your goals.

Your map in 3D

A Helpful way to consider your limitations is by looking at them with a 3D approach; one that focuses on biology, psychology and social context – referred to as the BioPsychoSocial model.

Biological Dimension

So from a biological perspective you need to consider factors like how much sleep, food and water your body needs to function optimally. Anything less and you’ll be significantly hindering yourself in your pursuit of aspirations. Are you expecting yourself to be able to do more in a single day than is physically possible? The same goes for example for strength and endurance limitations you’ve got; if you’ve never run a marathon before, it’s probably unrealistic to set your sights on completing one with just a few weeks of training.

MAP points: How much sleep do you actually need? How much food do you need in real terms to have enough fuel to live your day? How much water do you need in order to function well? Do bear in mind that for all of these points there are recommended guidelines. If you’re aspiring to be able to reach your toes – how far can you bend now? If you’re aspiring to lift a certain weight – how much can you lift now? You get where this is going…

Psychological Dimension

In terms of psychology, it’s your fears, anxieties, beliefs and behavioural patterns that can inevitably limit you. For example, let’s say you want to train to become a pilot, but have a massive fear of heights. While it’s a fantastic aspiration, are you really going to achieve it given your acrophobia? Before you even consider beginning pilot training, it’ll be key to address your anxiety and you are much more likely to succeed in your ambition.

MAP points: What do you think about your goal now? How strongly on the scale of 1-10 do you believe that it’s achievable? What do your doubts sound like? Again on the scale of 1-10 how strongly do you believe your doubts? What is the reference for those doubts? What’s your evidence for their validity? If you’re aspiring to play Brahms by the end of January on the piano and you are currently playing chopsticks chances are you’re setting yourself up to fail unless you can devote the whole month to this and get expert help onboard. Notice how focus, time and expert help can address at least some of your doubts.

Social Dimension

Finally, social limitations could be certain beliefs or societal expectations that limit us. We live in an aspirational and future-focussed culture where one of the highest social values is to be ‘busy’. This paradoxical value of striving to fill our days with activities in order to be perceived as ‘successful’ versus the at times ‘martyred’ complaining we then do about just how depleting it is.

If you’ve read our blog about Feelings First Aid and the ABC you’ll know about the three scoop ice cream and that two thirds of your brain is programmed through millennia of evolution to not want to be rejected by the tribe or the pack. This is not to say that you should adhere to what the common consensus dictates, it’s about recognising the power and limitations of this and then find your way through to transcending it.

MAP points: With social constructs like FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) widely accepted as ‘part of life’, it is worth considering whether your goals are actually yours at all. Is this something that you want for yourself or something that you feel you need to do in order to please others? And if the answer is that your goal is indeed yours, how is your goal affected by external factors like money, time, support or hindrance from others?

As human beings, we are capable of extraordinary biological, psychological and societal feats. Chances are you’ve not yet got full visibility of the furthest edges of your potential or even how to start extending your current capabilities. Your goals may be more about the depth of your internal experience or they may be more focused on how you participate in the outside world but regardless of where you want to be heading, first map your sense of where you are now.

Final thought ….

When I originally set up The Helpful Clinic as a Limited company, I really struggled to accept the word ‘limited’. I had all sorts of beliefs about the word limited and felt that by including this in the company name, I was limiting the potential of the business. I remember my legal council being nonplussed when I suggested making the company ‘unlimited’ and looking at me in an extremely concerned way.

As always it’s more helpful to get curious than critical so I took a few days to get curious about these beliefs and realised that by refusing to acknowledge limitations, I was actually tripping myself up and it wasn’t just in terms of the business, I realised that I had the same prejudice with my own personal limitations. This experience turned out to be transformative not just in terms of The Helpful Clinic but also profoundly in my own life. By understanding where I was at the time before attempting to move forwards, I was able to take these -curiously enough – limiting beliefs and transform them into a strength and asset.

Like the ideas and thoughts contained in this post? Share them with your friends, family and loved ones. If someone you know has set themselves some lofty aspirations for 2020, encourage them to consider Here Before There and give them some of the reasons why this is a more Helpful Approach.