I set many goals for myself for the summer of 2018. I wanted to spend lots of time with my family, go on some fun trips, and spend as much time as possible outside enjoying Boulder’s beauty. One goal that stands out for me, is completing the Rim to Rim hike. It’s a 24-mile hike into, across and out of the Grand Canyon – in one day.
I knew this hike would push me out of my comfort zone in several ways. I’ve never been one to set physical goals for myself outside of trying to make it to a yoga class by Friday or to go running once this week. In fact, I would say one of my lifelong goals has been to avoid exerting myself too much in any given day. So this hike was a big, hairy, audacious goal for me. It was scary, daunting and exhilarating. And I knew this was the perfect opportunity to push myself out of my physical and mental comfort zone.
There are five essential elements to effective goal setting summarized in the acronym SMART. Hiking the Rim to Rim was a SMART goal for me for several reasons:
1) It was Specific
Dropping down into the Grand Canyon and getting out before sunset is a very clear and specific goal.
2) It was Measurable
This goal was measurable for me in many ways. I knew the actual date I was doing the hike, and the amount of time I had to train. I knew how much ground I needed to cover, the elevation change and temperatures I was going to encounter. It was clear what was required of me to arrive at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon by sunset.
3) It had inherent Accountability
18 other people were committed to doing this hike with me in mid-September. We supported and motivated each other throughout our summer training hikes. I was not going to back out of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity like this. I wanted to experience this incredible adventure with my close friends. And I knew that this group would support and inspire me to keep training all summer long. We were all in this together.
Continue reading “The Gift of Goals”
Have you ever noticed that when someone compliments you, say on your nice outfit or your hairstyle, you get a boost of confidence and well-being for a while? That through the rest of that conversation and for an hour or two later, you feel better about yourself and perhaps about the world? And, as an alternative scenario, if someone were to tell you that your outfit today was really sub-par or that you really should spend some more time on your hair in the future, how that would rock your world? And probably for days, if not weeks?
Our Negativity Bias Is Highly Adaptive
As a species, we have survived for millions of years by adapting to very dangerous and threatening conditions. We are highly attuned and sensitive to danger and pain. We don’t die from a false positive so we tend to go a bit overboard to protect ourselves. Our taste buds respond more strongly to bitter tastes than to sweet ones to keep us safe. And in the past, we were much more likely to focus on the rustling in the nearby bushes that could be a lion than we were to appreciate the beautiful sunset on the horizon. The folks who focused on the latter typically didn’t survive to pass on their genes. Natural selection not only affected our physical attributes but our psychological disposition as well. Our negativity bias is highly adaptive and has served us well. We wouldn’t be here today without it.
Our Brains Are Velcro For The Bad And Teflon For The Good
The good news is our human circumstances have changed dramatically for the better. Our brains, however, have not. We tend to hold onto our negative thoughts and feelings much longer than our positive ones. As Tal Ben-Shahar, a leader in Positive Psychology, says, “Our brains are Velcro for the bad, and Teflon for the good.” We absorb negative thoughts and feelings more easily and deeply in an attempt to protect ourselves.
Luckily, there are ways that you can combat this negativity bias and turn down your “threat detector” so it’s more in line with our current living conditions.
Continue reading “The Power of Positivity”