Analgesic Accountability

I was always resistant towards the idea of goal-setting. I felt that not having a goal suited my propensity to go with the flow, and to just see what happens; it blended nicely with my nomadic, space-cadet-like nature, on the surface at least.

I realise now it was all just weak, self-limiting inner-dialogue; I told myself I didn’t like to set goals when in truth, I didn’t want to bear the burden of accountability that came with it. I was petrified that if I actually did apply myself, I would fail miserably. So I took the path of least resistance.

Over the years since embarking on this journey towards inner growth, it’s a relief to have been able to abolish that quite debilitating self-limiting belief, not without encouragement I should say and in a large part as a result of dipping a tentative toe into the domain of coaching.

Added to that, exploits on the page, and the articulation of this process of self-exploration that has thus led to a pretty obsessive venture into literature, have placed upon me a deeper understanding of the importance of having a meaningful goal. Not to mention, the inspirational insights of various passionate individuals of which I’ve been exposed to on the What Makes You Tick series, and so putting all of this together it’s no wonder that the nomadic space-cadet within has been enlightened to the fact, wouldn’t you say?

Credit: Kyle Johnson on Unsplash

All that aside, it was that man again who brought me to the page once more.

Goals are analgesic.

– Dr. Jordan Peterson

You may perhaps be aware of the effects both the pursuit and attainment of goals can have on the brain- that burst of dopamine upon achieving something you have worked towards; it feels good to know that you are making progress towards a goal, and then of course, to achieve it.

But for a goal to actually numb pain, that’s an interesting one, don’t you think?

And I’m sure you can think of many examples. In sport in particular there are numerous instances where athletes push beyond the pain threshold in pursuit of victory, and in many cases, despite suffering a serious injury. McGregor vs Holloway back in 2013 springs to mind; MMA fans out there might remember that the Dublin native tore his cruciate ligament in the 2nd round, but was able to continue regardless and get his hand raised.

It’s an incredible phenomenon indeed, and as Dr. Peterson went on to discuss, this analgesic effect can be extended and applied further.

Life indeed has it’s fair share of hardships; we all endure difficult moments and are faced with moments of incredible adversity, yet having a meaningful goal that resonates with our true being can help us to endure and to emerge from these difficult periods not only intact, but often stronger.

I’ve mentioned the WMYT interview series earlier, and indeed the majority of those incredible people I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing have touched on the importance of goals in their lives, in some shape or form. As 3-time GAA All-Star Stevie McDonnell put it to me, “You have to have ambition, and you have to have goals and targets to strive for, to ultimately make yourself better and to improve. If you have that, certainly you can see yourself going in the right direction.”

The wonderful Laura Sarah Dowdall, a performance artist and holistic health practitioner, described how having a clear goal helped her through a difficult period, whilst preparing for a dance project. “I was in hospital for 10 days after suffering a serious head injury: I had a fracture, and internal bleeding. It took me weeks to regain my balance and stamina to just walk up the stairs, so the project wasn’t looking likely.” Not only did she make a full recovery, but she went on to complete the project within 2 months. “I can’t emphasise enough the importance of having a goal; when something motivates you and stretches you, you will step out of your comfort zone in order to accomplish it.”

In the most recent interview, former Munster out-half Jonny Holland touched on the importance of goals in relation to success, and in particular, writing them down. “You have goals you set for yourself, and you try and achieve those goals, and that’s success in itself. That’s another thing, if you don’t write down your goals, you won’t know if you’re succeeding.” After he suffered a devastating hamstring tear, and endured 13 months of gruelling rehab, he made his return to action against the odds. “I just found an extra gear that got me back onto the pitch, when on paper I probably shouldn’t have been able to get there. The injury kind of defined me in that I came out the other side of it a better player.” Unfortunately the injury would later force Jonny into early retirement, but he continues to reframe and set goals for himself going forward, bringing his expertise into the field of health and nutrition.

So despite what that wandering space-cadet might have been content in thinking, having a goal to work towards is incredibly important, and the significance goes beyond the actual attainment of said goal. Having a clear goal- one that we actually want for ourselves- helps us to persevere in the face of adversity, in moments where all hope seems lost; when the carpet gets pulled out from underneath us, having a meaningful goal that is in line with our values, can prevent total and utter self-implosion.

Not only that, but you may even find yourself progressing forward, which is what it’s all about really. So pick up the pen, jot down some things that you want for yourself, and continue moving forward.

And have a dominant 2018.