Whether our goals are big or small, we all have them. We want to earn that promotion at work, learn how to speak a foreign language, write that novel, lose that weight. But if it were easy to reach our goals, well, they wouldn’t be goals—they’d be realities. So how can we make reaching our goals easier? Is it a matter of really setting our minds to it—a matter of willpower? Or do we need to employ a little scientific wizardry to support our success?

Psychologists believe that our brains are hard-wired to our standard routines, even if those routines aren’t exactly conducive to reaching our goals. One interesting study showed that, when given stale popcorn versus fresh popcorn at the movie theatre, participants ate the same amount—even though those who received the stale popcorn admitted it wasn’t very good. Our brains are just so used to the routine of eating popcorn at the movie theatre that the quality of the snack doesn’t matter.

This explains why reaching our goals is so hard! We try to stay late at the office, hit the gym in the morning, learn a new foreign phrase every day—but our brains just keep fighting for us to return to our old patterns or routines. And we wonder why most New Year’s Resolutions peter out so quickly…

Fortunately, there is a scientific solution. A way of tricking our brains into helping us accomplish our goals, rather than fighting us tooth and nail.

Here is some brain trickery to help us reach our goals, whatever they may be:

1. Turn goals into habits. Who knew that the brain stores our goals and habits differently? Well, it does—and understanding how to trick the brain into converting goals into habits is as simple as being consistent. If your goal is to exercise more, work out at the same time on the same five days every week. It takes the brain 21 days to form a new habit—commit to consistency and, after just a few weeks, your brain will be content with its new routine.2. A little change will do you good. Surround yourself with something new; go somewhere you’ve never been. Sure, we’d all like to jet off to some tropical island in French Polynesia. But, realistically, the new coffee shop that just opened in the center of town might be exactly what you need to unblock your creativity and start forming a new routine. Changing up our scenery makes it more likely that we’ll create new, positive habits.

3. Release the dopamine. When we receive something we want, our brains release dopamine—a chemical known as the “feel good” neurotransmitter. By setting small, achievable goals—and then achieving them—we can manipulate our brains into releasing dopamine. In time, our brains will begin to crave dopamine… and we’ll know that, all we have to do to get it, is reach a small goal. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, maybe you set a daily goal of doing 20 minutes of cardiovascular activity. When you reach your goal, your brain will release dopamine. And then the next day, craving more dopamine, your brain will actually be excited for you to start exercising. A great way to keep track of your small daily goals is by using a journal—check out my Daily Intentions Planner, which has helped me and many others track goals and notice our progress.

I’ve found that science plays a huge role in my ability to turn my goals into realities. I use emotional freedom technique (EFT tapping) to enhance my brain’s ability to form new, healthy habits. It might sound silly, but it’s not only worked wonders for me, but has also been highly effective for many of the clients at my counseling center. You know what they say: nothing changes if nothing changes. Give yourself a chance—go ahead and reach those goals!

Be the Magic of You: Tools to Transform Your Life

If you haven’t already picked up a copy of my bestselling book, Be the Magic of You: Tools to Transform Your Life, you’re missing out on a boatload of techniques that can help you trade a life of mediocrity for one that is beyond your wildest dreams. In it you’ll find EFT exercises, journaling assignments and other hands-on tools that can turn your life into the magnificent one you deserve.

About the Author

teri karjala

Teri devotes herself to being the resource people need to uncover their greatest levels of joy and fulfillment in their everyday lives. From teaching courses, keynoting powerhouse events, and being a consistent abundance advocate, onlookers cannot help but leave her presence feeling energized, equipped, and ready to live life to its greatest capacity.